Pongal is 4 day long harvest festival of South India. The word “Pongal” means boiling water and it refers to prosperity. The date of Pongal celebration is decided on solar calendar and thus it falls on the same day every year.
Celebration of Pongal
Pongal is celebrated on four days-Bhogi Pongal, Thai Pongal, Maathu Pongal and Kannum Pongal. On Bhogi Pongal, Lord Indra is worshipped. On this day, people wake up early, clean their homes and worship Lord Indra, the rain god. On Bhogi Pongal(second day), Lord Surya is worshipped. On Maathu pongal, lord Ganesha and Goddess Parvati are worshipped. This day symbolizes the importance of cattles and thus cattle fights are also organized on this day. On Kanuum Pongal(fourth day), people enjoy by visiting friends or relatives. This is the final day and thus families thank each other for support in farming.
History of Pongal
There are various stories behind the origin of Pongal. It is believed that Pongal is celebrated from the Sangam Era. At that time, the festival was celebrated as “Pavai Nonbu”. During this festival, girls used to pray for the prosperity of the country. There were various restrictions on girls during this period like they could not use milk products during this period and oil their hair. It was believed that these prayers will bring rainfall and thus result in more crops. There is a religious story associated with Pongal as well. Once lord Indra got overconfident of his capabilities. Lord Krishna thought to teach him a lesson. Thus, he started worshipping Mount Govardhan. Lord Indra got angry with this and started heavy lightning and rain on people. Lord Krishna then lifted mount Govardhan to save people. Then, Indra asked Krishna for forgiveness. Krishna forgave him and thereafter, Lord Indra is worshipped on Bhogi Pongal.
Significance of Pongal
Different days of Pongal have their own significance. On Bhogi Pongal or the first day of Pongal, people paint their houses and purchase new vessels. This is believed to bring prosperity to the family. On Perum Pongal (second day), people pray to Sun god for good harvest. The women decorate their homes with kollams on this auspicious day. On Mattu Pongal, bullfight is organized and traditional dances are performed. Pongal dish is also an important part of this festival. It is prepared in every household and also exchanged between families on the last day of Pongal.
Religious Importance of Pongal
The religious significance of Pongal is different for different states in India. It is celebrated with great enthusiasm at Tamil Nadu. Pongal refers to the pudding made with rice, milk and jaggery. In Tamil Nadu, the Sun god is worshipped during Pongal. In Karnataka, the festival of Pongal is celebrated as Sankranti. On this day, fresh pudding is prepared and fed to cows and bullocks. Families visit each other with desserts and thank each other for their support. In Assam, the festival is celebrated as Bhogi Bahu which marks the beginning of new festive season and end of the harvest season. In Uttar Pradesh, people take bath in holy rivers on this day.