Thai Pongal (தை பொங்கல்) or Pongal (பொங்கல்) is one of the most popular harvest festival of South India, mainly celebrated by the Tamilians in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the Indian Union Territory of Pondicherry and Sri Lanka.
It is a four day festival generally celebrated from 13th to 16th January in the Gregorian calendar which coincides with last day of Tamil month Maargazhi (மார்கழி) and continues till the third day of Tamil month Thai (தை) with the main day being the second day of the festival which is known as Pongal or Thai Pongal.
As the days of Pongal celebration are decided according to the solar calendar, the Pongal date usually remains the same every year.
Pongal is traditionally dedicated to the Sun God Surya, and it marks the beginning of the northward journey of the Sun from its southernmost-limit, a movement traditionally referred to as uttarayana.
The festival coincides with the festival of Makar Sankranthi celebrated throughout India.
On this day sun enters the 10th house of the Indian zodiac i.e. Makar or Capricorn.
Four Days of Pongal :
The four days of Pongal are as follows –
- Bhogi Festival on 13th January
- Pongal on 14th January
- Maathu Pongal on 15th January
- Kaanum Pongal on 16th January
Bhogi Pongal is a day for the family, Pongal is dedicated to the worship of Surya (Sun God), the third day, Maathu Pongal is for worship of the cattle while the last day i.e., Kaanum Pongal is a time for family reunions.
Pongal Customs & Celebrations :
As told you earlier, Pongal is traditionally dedicated to the Sun God Surya. During this festival Tamils thank the Sun god (Surya) for the good harvest and offer the first grain of cooked rice to him on this day.
The festival is celebrated by boiling rice with fresh milk and jaggery in new clay pots. The rice is later topped with sugar, ghee, cashew nuts and raisins. This tradition gives Pongal its name.
The moment the milk boils over and bubbles out of the vessel, the tradition is to shout of “Pongalo Pongal!”, introduce freshly harvested rice grains in the pot and blow the sanggu (a conch). Tamils consider it a good sign to watch the milk boil over as it connotes good luck and prosperity. After offering this newly cooked rice to the Sun God at sunrise, it is served to the people present in the house for the ceremony.
During Pongal people also prepare sweets such as vadai, murukku, paayasam, etc visit each other and exchange greetings.
Another popular custom related to Pongal is decorating the front of the house with beautiful kolam decorations.
The saying “Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum” meaning “the commencement of Thai paves the way for new opportunities” is often quoted regarding the Pongal festival.