Pongal- the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu is renowned for the fervor with which it is celebrated and also the due importance Tamilians give to nature and the farming community. Almost all Indian states have some or the other festival to celebrate the harvest season, but none can compare with the vibrant Pongal festival which is a four day festival commencing on the first day of the Tamil month of Thai.
Tamil Nadu has one of the richest heritages among Indian states and even to this day, they preserve this heritage and culture with much pride. Agriculture and other agrarian activities have always been a vital part in the life of Tamilians, and Pongal gives them the perfect opportunity to celebrate it with much pomp and vigour.
Tamilians worldwide believe that the Thai month brings along with it peace, prosperity and harmony in the life of everyone. Pongal is celebrated to honor the Sun God, as a thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest. The Sun deity is offered ‘Pongal’, which literally translates into boiling over of rice and milk.
Pongal is celebrated with much fervor by coconut farmers across Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Moreover, coconut forms a major ingredient in all the offerings made to different deities during the four day festival. Most of these coconut farmers offer poojas in specially erected pandals and serve food for the poor during this festival.
First day- Bhogi Pongal
People clean their houses and surroundings on this day and visit their relatives and neighbours to exchange sweets and pleasantries. Everyone wear new clothes and decorate their houses. Kolams are drawn in front of each house. This day is celebrated to offer thanks to the Lord of Clouds, Indra.
Second day- Perum Pongal / Surya Pongal
This is the most important day of the celebrations when people offer prayers to the Sun god, thanking Him for a year of abundant blessings. This is the day when they offer Pongal to the gods and then distribute it among friends and neighbours.
Third day- Mattu Pongal
Cows are often considered divine in Hinduism and the third day of Pongal is entirely devoted to worshipping these gentle animals. Mattu means cow or bull in Tamil. Cattle play a crucial role in the lives of many farmers and hence they are bathed in sandalwood and turmeric, tilaks are applied on their foreheads and given sumptuous offerings. Their horns are painted in various colours and flower garlands worn around their necks. As an attestation to their importance, the Pongal is first fed to the cows and only then it is consumed by humans.
Fourth day- Kaanum Pongal
This day is dedicated to the divine love of sisters and brothers. Sisters pray for their brothers and offer the leftover Pongal as a token of their love and care for their brothers. This has striking similarities with the Raksha Bhandhan festival that is celebrated in North India.
The fact that Pongal is celebrated lavishly by Tamilians across the globe attests to
the huge importance they place on culture and tradition.