Four Days of Pongal
Falls in the month of Thai, Pongal is the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu. The literal meaning of the word, ‘Pongal’ means, ‘boiling over’ and is the only Hindu festival which follows a solar calendar. The festival which is celebrated for four days witness huge celebrations including making ‘Kolams’ decorating cattle and preparing Pongal – a sweet porridge. . Special offerings are made to the sun god, Indra to bestow good harvest. People also regard Pongal as highly auspicious as it marks the beginning of Uttarayan – the journey of sun towards northwards. It is also an occasion when people intend to have a new beginning by discarding the old clothes and useless household utensils into a bonfire. The festival is also the occasion for family get together with gift exchanges becoming its essential aspect. Read further to know more about Pongal and the celebrations which marks the four days of Pongal.
First Day – Bhogi Pongal
The first day of Pongal, Bhogi Pongal is celebrated to worship Lord Indra who bestows good harvest. On this day, it is customary for people to discard or destroy old clothes into a bonfire. This custom is symbolic of a new ‘Thai’ (January) when people draw kolams (floral designs made of rice) in front of their houses. Moreover, fresh harvest of rice, sugarcane and turmeric is brought into the house for the next day. People also perform special offerings before they cut the paddy and smear their tools with sandalwood paste and worship the earth and sun. On this day, people throw useless materials into a bonfire made of wood and cow-dung cakes. Girls perform dances and sing songs in praise of gods, spring and harvest.
Second Day – Thai Pongal
The second day of the Pongal festival, ‘Thai Pongal’ is also known by the name ‘Surya Pongal’. This day is dedicated to honouring the sun god, Surya. On this day, fresh rice is collected and cooked in pots till the water in the rice overflow. Then, the pots are decorated with sugarcane pieces, flowers and turmeric plants. The first handful of rice is offered to the sun with people singing, ‘Pongal-o-Pongal’. The sun god is also offered jaggery and boiled milk and the image of sun god is drawn with Kolam around it. Following this, a puja is offered to the sun god to seek his blessings. Worshippers also prepare a dish called venpongal which is a combination of rice, dhal and sugar. There is also a dish prepared with dal and jaggery, known as sarkarai Pongal.
Third Day – Maatu Pongal
The third day of Pongal, Maatu Pongal witness prayers being offered to the bulls, cows and other farm animals that are used for agriculture. Farmers bath the cattle, paint the horns, cover them with metal caps and decorate them with multi-colored beads, tinkling beads, flower garlands and bunch of corn around the necks. Then, the cattle are worshipped with people touching their feet and forehead and feed them with Pongal. The striking feature of Maatu Pongal is a festival by the name, Jallikattu or taming the wild bull. Though these kinds of events are held throughout Tamil Nadu, the most popular of them are the ones that are held at Alanganallur, near Madurai.
Fourth Day – Kaanum Pongal
The fourth day of the Pongal, Kaanum Pongal is the final day of Pongal. The day is also celebrated as Thiruvalluvar day. ‘Kaanum’ means, to view and as the day indicates, it is the occasion for the family members to visit each other’s families and exchange gifts. While younger members play respect and homage to the elder members, the elders show their love and compassion by giving money to the younger members. In some places, people feed the crows with cooked rice.