Importance of Pongal
Pongal is one of the ancient Hindu festivals that is celebrated with great fervor by the people belonging to the Tamil ethnicity across the country but this festival is specially celebrated in the state of Tamil Nadu. Pongal is also known as Thai Pongal or Tai Pongal, is sometimes also spelled as Ponkal by people of different Tamil sects. The term ‘Pongal’ means ‘to boil’ according to the Tamil literature. Pongal celebrates the yield of the crops grown which means it is a festival of harvest. The festivities of Pongal are celebrated for four days and each of the four days holds significance.
Importance of Pongal
Pongal is based upon the solar calendar and is not determined by the various moon phases. Every year the festival of Pongal falls on the 14th of January and is celebrated to honor and revere the Sun God. On the 14th of January along with Pongal, the festival of Makar Sankranti falls. The festival of Pongal marks the transition of winter season to summer season. It is the period of ‘Uttarayana’ which means the movement of the sun up to the north from the south. It is a time when the Sun enters the Capricorn (Makar) zodiac. Just as mentioned above that the meaning of the word ‘Pongal’ is ‘to boil’ and it also means to ‘overflow’ hence on this day in South India the people of Tamil ethnicity revere the Sun God and give thanks to the Lord for making the crop they had planted grow healthy and in abundance. This festival is also celebrated as a thanks offering ceremony to the Lord for blessing them with a good farm yield. On this day, people prepare a sweet delicacy from the newly harvested farm yields. One of the most prominent delicacies that are cooked on this day is the freshly harvested rice grains. These rice grains are boiled in milk and jaggery is added to it and this mixture is first offered to the deities and then consumed by all the family members and friends. People also offer freshly harvested yields of their farm to the deities be it sugarcane, rice grains, turmeric, and like.
Highlights of the Pongal festival
- Pongal is also known as “Uttarayan Punyakalam” which holds immense significance in the history of Hinduism.
- It is believed to be listed as one of the most auspicious days in our ancient Hindu Scriptures.
- On the day of Pongal before cutting the paddy, a specific puja is done asking the deities for giving a good yield
- Unmarried women during the olden times prayed to the deities to give good agricultural produce and to make India prosperous through agriculture.
- In the Southern part of the country during ancient times, women did not consume milk during this auspicious month and also avoided speaking harsh and foul words.
- Even today as a part of the ritual, cows are bathed and decorated. A holy procession is carried out and artwork made of rice powder known as ‘Kolam artwork’ is drawn at entrance of the homes, in front of puja altars and also at temples
- This is the perfect time of the year to strengthen the bond of love, affection, friendship, and togetherness between people
As mentioned Pongal is celebrated for four days and each day holds tremendous importance. Let us learn about the four days of the festival along with their respective significance.
Days of Pongal Festival
- 1st Day Bhogi Pongal
On the day of Bhogi which is the first day of Pongal, people collect all their old belongings which they no longer use and burn them in a bonfire. On this day people wear new clothes and worship Lord Indra, the God of thunder and rain.
- 2nd Day Surya Pongal
The second day is addressed as Suryan Pongal or Perum Pongal. This day is considered as one of the most important days among the four-day celebrations. It is the day when Lord Surya is worshipped. According to the Tamil calendar, this is the first day of Tai month. It is the same day when the festival of Makar Sankranti falls and when the Sun enters the Capricorn zodiac in the 10th house. On this day, sweet delicacy is prepared in a typical age-old style in a pot made of clay in the outdoors so that the sunlight falls on to it. The earthen pot in which the sweet is prepared is decorated by tying a flower garland and a turmeric plant around it. and besides the pot which two sugarcane stalks are placed. When the sweet delicacy comprising of Freshly harvested rice, milk, and Jaggery comes to a boil and overflows out of the pot, a conch shell is blown by the person preparing the delicacy and he/ she shouts ‘sanggu’ while others shout in rejoicing by saying ‘Pongalo Pongal’. This activity denotes abundance and good fortune.
● 3rd Day Mattu Pongal
This day is celebrated as the Mattu Pongal where ‘Mattu’ refers to the cattle like cows, buffalos, and like. On this day the cattle are decorated and are also worshipped as they plough the fields. These cattle are then offered special meals and banana fruit.
● 4th Day Kaanum Pongal
The fourth day is called the Kaanum Pongal, Social events are organized in order to bring everyone under one roof and to strengthen the bond of togetherness. People exchange gifts with each other and the younger generation takes blessings of the elderly and the senior citizens in exchange either places their hand on the youths head as a sign of blessing and also offer some cash as a gift.