We Wish all our members of SouthDreamz.com, Wish you a HAPPY PONGAL.
Pongal is here, an occasion that marks joy and cheer, and brings along everything that’s best. May the festival of the harvest season, be one that brings along with it, all that’s best and everything you’re so deserving of. Have a memorable Pongal.
The Harvest Festival
Pongal is a harvest festival – the Tamil equivalent of Thanksgiving. In an agriculture based civilization the harvest plays an important part. The farmer cultivating his land depends on cattle, timely rain and the Sun. Once a year, he expresses his gratitude to these during the harvest festival. With the end of the wet month of Margazhi (mid December to mid January) the new Tamil month of Thai heralds a series of festivals. The first day of this month is a festival day known as “Pongal Day”. Pongal means the “boiling over” of milk and rice during the month of Thai.
According to the calendar based on the solar system the year is divided into two halves following the apparent movement of the Sun northwards and Southwards. The farmer is termed Uttarayanam and the latter is Dakshinayanam. On the first day of the Thai, the Sun leaves the zodiac sign of Sagittarius and enters that of capricorn, the latter is known as Makaram. The event thus is celebrated as Pongal.
The four day celebration of Pongal Marks a period of plenty, peace and happiness. There is a Tamil saying that “Thai peranthal Vali Perakum”. That paraphrased means with the dawn of the month of Thai, there will be peace, happiness, prosperity, brightness and harmony in the life of everyone. It is held to honor the Sun, for a bountiful harvest. Families gather to rejoice and share their joy and their harvests with others. The Sun is offered a “Pongal” of rice and milk.
Preparations for this festival start early and the first thing that is always found in Hindu homes before the start of Pongal is the ‘kolam’. This is a form of decoration for the Hindus’ homes. This decorative pattern is made with rice flour & is usually drawn on the floor outside the door. The kolams serve as a symbol of welcoming guests to the entrance of the house. At the center of the Kolam is a lump of cow-dung, which holds a five-petaled pumpkin flower-a symbol of fertility and an offering of love to the presiding deity.
The houses are cleaned and decorated to prepare for Pongal. For the festival, the Hindus buy new clothes and the ladies of the households would prepare sweetmeats. There is also a belief in the Hindus that the harvest festival will bring great wealth and goodness to their homes. All the four days of Pongal have their own significance as separate deities are worshiped each day.
The first day is celebrated as the Bhogi Pongal and is usually meant for domestic activities and of being together with the family members. This first day is celebrated in honor of Lord Indra, the supreme ruler of clouds that give rains. The second day is known as ‘Pongal’ the most important day of the entire festival, where prayers are offered to the Sun. On this day, the Sun is given great importance and hence the day is called Surya Pongal.
The third day is known as Mattu Pongal, the day of Pongal for cows. The cattle are washed, their horns are painted and covered with shining metal caps. Kanu Pongal, which falls on the same day as Maatu Pongal, is celebrated by sisters for the welfare of their brothers. This festival is reminiscent of Raksha Bandhan and Bhai Dooj of North India.
Pongal is a four-days-long harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu, a southern state of India. For as long as people have been planting and gathering food, there has been some form of harvest festival. Pongal, one of the most important popular Hindu festivals of the year. This four-day festival of thanksgiving to nature takes its name from the Tamil word meaning “to boil” and is held in the month of Thai (January-February) during the season when rice and other cereals, sugar-cane, and turmeric (an essential ingredient in Tamil cooking) are harvested.
Mid-January is an important time in the Tamil calendar. The harvest festival, Pongal, falls typically on the 14th or the 15th of January and is the quintessential ‘Tamil Festival’. Pongal is a harvest festival, a traditional occasion for giving thanks to nature, for celebrating the life cycles that give us grain. Tamilians say ‘Thai pirandhaal vazhi pirakkum’, and believe that knotty family problems will be solved with the advent of the Tamil month Thai that begins on Pongal day. This is traditionally the month of weddings. This is not a surprise in a largely agricultural community – the riches gained from a good harvest form the economic basis for expensive family occasions like weddings.
The First Day
This first day is celebrated as Bhogi festival in honor of Lord Indra, the supreme ruler of clouds that give rains. Homage is paid to Lord Indra for the abundance of harvest, thereby bringing plenty and prosperity to the land. Another ritual observed on this day is Bhogi Mantalu, when useless household articles are thrown into a fire made of wood and cow-dung cakes. Girls dance around the bonfire, singing songs in praise of the gods, the spring and the harvest. The significance of the bonfire, in which is burnt the agricultural wastes and firewood is to keep warm during the last lap of winter.
The Second Day
On the second day of Pongal, the puja or act of ceremonial worship is performed when rice is boiled in milk outdoors in a earthenware pot and is then symbolically offered to the sun-god along with other oblations. All people wear traditional dress and markings, and their is an interesting ritual where husband and wife dispose off elegant ritual utensils specially used for the puja. In the village, the Pongal ceremony is carried out more simply but with the same devotion. In accordance with the appointed ritual a turmeric plant is tied around the pot in which the rice will be boiled. The offerings include the two sticks of sugar-cane in background and coconut and bananas in the dish. A common feature of the puja, in addition to the offerings, is the kolam, the auspicious design which is traditionally traced in white lime powder before the house in the early morning after bathing.
The Third Day
The third day is known as Mattu Pongal, the day of Pongal for cows. Multi-colored beads, tinkling bells, sheaves of corn and flower garlands are tied around the neck of the cattle and then are worshiped. They are fed with Pongal and taken to the village centers. The resounding of their bells attract the villagers as the young men race each other’s cattle. The entire atmosphere becomes festive and full of fun and revelry. Arati is performed on them, so as to ward off the evil eye. According to a legend, once Shiva asked his bull, Basava, to go to the earth and ask the mortals to have an oil massage and bath every day and to eat once a month. Inadvertently, Basava announced that everyone should eat daily and have an oil bath once a month. This mistake enraged Shiva who then cursed Basava, banishing him to live on the earth forever. He would have to plough the fields and help people produce more food. Thus the association of this day with cattle.
The Fourth Day
The Fourth day is known as Knau or Kannum Pongal day. On this day, a turmeric leaf is washed and is then placed on the ground. On this leaf are placed, the left overs of sweet Pongal and Venn Pongal, ordinary rice as well as rice colored red and yellow, betel leaves, betel nuts, two pieces of sugarcane, turmeric leaves, and plantains. In Tamil Nadu women perform this ritual before bathing in the morning. All the women, young and old, of the house assemble in the courtyard. The rice is placed in the centre of the leaf, while the women ask that the house and family of their brothers should prosper. Arati is performed for the brothers with turmeric water, limestone and rice, and this water is sprinkled on the kolam in front of the house.
What is Pongal?
Pongal is the only festival of Hindu that follows a solar calendar and is celebrated on the fourteenth of January every year. Pongal has astronomical significance: it marks the beginning of Uttarayana, the Sun’s movement northward for a six month period. In Hinduism, Uttarayana is considered auspicious, as opposed to Dakshinaayana, or the southern movement of the sun. All important events are scheduled during this period. Makara Sankranthi refers to the event of the Sun entering the zodiac sign of Makara or Capricorn.
In Hindu temples bells, drums, clarinets and conch shells herald the joyous occasion of Pongal. To symbolize a bountiful harvest, rice is cooked in new pots until they boil over. Some of the rituals performed in the temple include the preparation of rice, the chanting of prayers and the offering of vegetables, sugar cane and spices to the gods. Devotees then consume the offerings to exonerate themselves of past sins.
Pongal signals the end of the traditional farming season, giving farmers a break from their monotonous routine. Farmers also perform puja to some crops, signaling the end of the traditional farming season. It also sets the pace for a series of festivals to follow in a calendar year. In fact, four festivals are celebrated in Tamil Nadu for four consecutive days in that week. ‘Bogi’ is celebrated on January 13, ‘Pongal’ on Jan 14, ‘Maattuppongal’ on Jan 15, and ‘Thiruvalluvar Day’ on Jan 16.
The festival is celebrated for four days. On, the first day, Bhogi, the old clothes and materials are thrown away and fired, marking the beginning of a new life. The second day, the Pongal day, is celebrated by boiling fresh milk early in the morning and allowing it to boil over the vessel – a tradition that is the literal translation for Pongal. People also prepare savories and sweets, visit each other’s homes, and exchange greetings. The third day, Mattu Pongal, is meant to offer thanks to the cows and buffaloes, as they are used to plough the lands. On the last day, Kanum Pongal, people go out to picnic.
A festival called Jalli kathu is held in Madurai, Tiruchirapalli and Tanjavur,all in Tamil Nadu, on this day. Bundles of money are tied to the horns of Pongal ferocious bulls which the villagers try to retrieve. Everyone joins in the community meal, at which the food is made of the freshly harvested grain. This day is named and celebrated as Tamilian Tirunal in a fitting manner through out Tamil Nadu.
Thus, the harvest festival of Pongal symbolizes the veneration of the first fruit. The crop is harvested only after a certain time of the year, and cutting the crop before that time is strictly prohibited. Even though Pongal was originally a festival for the farming community, today it is celebrated by all. In south India, all three days of Pongal are considered important. However, those south Indians who have settled in the north usually celebrate only the second day. Coinciding with Makara Sankranti and Lohri of the north, it is also called Pongal Sankranti.
When is Pongal?
Celebrate Pongal on January 14, 2011, Thursday
Pongal is celebrated in the month of January after the winter solstice. The date of Pongal usually remains same as it is reckoned according to the solar calendar that is more accurate than the lunar calendar. For Hindus the date of Pongal is extremely auspicious as it marks the sun’s entry into Makaram Rashi or the Tropic of Capricorn from the Tropic of Cancer. On this day sun begins its journey northwards (Uttarayan) for a period of six months as opposed to southwards (Dakshinayan) movement. It is this fascinating and auspicious astronomical event that is celebrated as Pongal in South India and Makar Sankranti in North and Central India.
Pongal festival is celebrated for four continuous days beginning from the last day of Tamil month of Maargazhi (December-January) and lasting upto the third day of Thai. The second and the main day of Pongal called Surya Pongal marks the beginning of Tamil month of Thai that corresponds to the month of January – February according to the Gregorian calendar.
Pongal brings respite to the people as it marks the end of cold winter and the advent of spring. From this time onwards the length of the day increases and that of the night shortens in the Northern Hemisphere.
Following are the date on which the four days of Pongal will be celebrated in 2011:
- Bhogi Festival: 14th January.
- Surya Pongal: 15th January
- Maatu Pongal: 16th January
- Kaanum Pongal: 17th January