In Tamil, the word Pongal means “overflowing”, signifying abundance and prosperity. The Tamils in Tamilnadu, Puducherry, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia, celebrate the festival called Pongal (பொங்கல்) or Thai Pongal (தைப்பொங்கல்). This festival marks the end of the harvest season. The farmers thank the Sun, the principal energizer that helps to reap a bountiful harvest.
In Tamilnadu and Puducherry, Pongal is a four-day festival. It begins on the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi (மார்கழி ) and culminates on the third day of the Tamil month Thai ((தை ) – January 13 to January 16 in the Gregorian calendar.
In Tamil, the phrase “Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum” meaning “the birth of Thai heralds new prospects” is an oft-quoted popular saying among the Tamils.
The four days of Pongal are Bhogi Pandigai, Thai Pongal, Maattu Pongal, and Kaanum Pongal.
Of the four-days Harvest festival, the second day is the principal day of the festival. This day is known as Thai Pongal by the Tamils and they celebrate it on January 14, the first day of the month of (தை).
All the states in India celebrate this day which coincides with Makara Sankranthi, a winter harvest festival. On this day the Sun begins its six-month-long journey northwards or the Uttarayanam. This also represents the Indic solstice when the sun enters Makara (Capricorn), the 10th house of the Indian zodiac.
In Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Sri Lanka and Malaysia it is celebrated as Thai Pongal.
In Andhra Pradesh, Bengal, Bihar, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa, and Uttar Pradesh, this day is is celebrated as Makara Sankranthi.
Gujarathis and Rajasthanis celebrate it as Uttarayana.
In Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab it is celebrated as Lohri.
Assamese celebrated it as Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu.
Nepaesel celebrate it as Maghe Sankranti or Makar Sankranti.
In Tamilnadu, it is a tradition for the housewives to boil milk at dawn in a new clay pot. When the milk boils and spills over the vessel, the folk blow the (a conch) yell “Pongalo Pongal!“ The Tamils consider watching the milk boil and spill over as auspicious as it connotes “good luck and prosperity.“
Later, the women prepare Pongal by boiling rice with fresh milk and jaggery in new clay pots. When the rice is half-cooked, sugar, ghee, cashew nuts and raisins are added to the pot. This traditional preparation of sweet rice or Chakkarai Pongal derives its name from the festival.
Newly cooked rice is first offered to the Sun at sunrise as gratitude for a bountiful harvest. Women prepare savouries and sweets such as vadai, murukku, payasam, etc., which they share with their neighbours.
- Thai Pongal (en.wikipedia.org)
- Makar Sankranti (en.wikipedia.org)
- Images: Tamil Nadu Celebrates Pongal (firstpost.com)
- Thai Pongal: The Harvest Festival of South India (tvaraj.com)
- Mattu Pongal, the Third Day of the Four-day Harvest Festival of South India. (tvaraj.com)