“PONGAL” – A Hindu festival that marks the beginning of UTTARAYAN. Uttarayan is the sun’s movement northward for a period of six months. All auspicious festivals are held during this period. Pongal is a four day long harvest festival that is celebrated with grandeur in Tamil Nadu.”THAI PONGAL” is celebrated with a sense of thanksgiving to nature which typically falls in the month of January. Pongal is celebrated from January 13th to 16th with all four days showcasing the customs and traditions of Tamil Nadu.
There is a famous Tamil saying “THAI PIRANDAL VAZHI PIRAKUM” which means the month of Thai brings hope and puts an end to all hardships in life. Pongal marks the beginning of goodwill in times to come. It spreads a feeling of positivity all around, where people rejoice with heads bent down in gratitude. Pongal symbolizes the end of farming season. It signifies a break given to farmers toiling on land with their monotonous routine. People offer prayers in temples on this day. They give away vegetables, sugarcanes and spices as a ritual. A series of festivals are triggered off, as per the Hindu calendar, after the commencement of Pongal.
First day is celebrated as ‘BOGI’ in honour of Lord Indra, Supreme God of Rains. Rain brings prosperity to land and helps yield bountiful harvest. First and foremost paying homage to the rain God is of traditional importance. On this day, an auspicious ritual is held wherein old household articles and clothes are thrown into fire. It symbolizes end of past and welcoming the new with high spirits.
Second day is ‘PONGAL’. Rice is boiled in earthen pots with turmeric plants tied to it which is offered to the Sun God. Sugarcane sticks, fruits, flowers are a part of the ritual. Aarti is performed after offering prayers. Wearing traditional dress men and women pray for family prosperity and well being. ‘Kolam’- colorful designs drawn on floor with white lime powder adds to the charm of PONGAL.
‘MATTU PONGAL’ marks the third day of celebration wherein we offer our respect to the cattle. On this day, cows are given a fresh look with their horns decorated in vibrant hues. According to a Hindu legend, Lord Shiva once asked his bull ‘BASAVA’ to tell mortals on earth to take bath daily and eat only once a month. Basava wrongly passed on a message to eat daily and bath only once a month. This angered Lord Shiva who banished Basava to live on earth, plough fields and produce food. Thus cattles came to be associated with this day.
‘KAANUM PONGAL’ is observed as the fourth day. Remains of sweet pongal (a dish made from jaggery and boiled rice) and other food items are placed on a turmeric leaf. Prayers are offered while performing this ritual. Women whole heartedly pray to God for conferring peace upon their family. ’PONGAL PODI’ or pongal gifts are given to dear ones as a sign of affection.
Another celebration associated with Pongal is ‘JALLIKATTU’ or taming bulls. This is a show of power for men who tame wild angry bulls by holding on to its hump. Though it is fun, unforeseen dangers are pretty much neglected by people.
World is witnessing rapid changes in civilization. Upholding customs and traditions that our forefathers believed in, helps us to sustain our identity. Pongal even today is celebrated with immense happiness all over Tamil Nadu. No matter what, the glitter of this festival will live on and will definitely be carried over to the next generation . PONGAL will always be known as a festival that gives bliss to people of all ages.