Pongal: A tamilian festival to pay gratitude to the Sun and the cattle
India is known for its different traditions and cultures. Here, each festival holds special mythological and traditional significance to Indian people. January is a month that brings along a string of Indian festivals and Pongal occupies a significant place in the list. It is a harvest festival of Kerala and is celebrated in the mid-month of January for four days, every year. This festive is also synonymously known as a thanksgiving occasion; where the farmers pray and pay veneration to the Sun god, nature, and cattle. They do this to show their respect to them and for their important contribution to agriculture. Pongal is also celebrated to mark the sun’s journey towards the north, which is called Summer Solstice or Uttarayan. Falling in pausha month of hindu calendar, Pongal in 2023 will commence from 15th January and will end on 18th January.
Pongal is a collective term used to collaborate the celebrations of Bhogi Pongal, Thai Pongal, Mattu Pongal, and Kannum Pongal. Each one of them holds specific importance and follows different rituals for their respective celebration. People celebrate this festive time by cleaning their houses, then buying and wearing brand new clothes and decorating houses with beautiful rangoli or “kolam” made by ladies. These colorful patterns are drawn in front of the house, at the main entrance as a welcoming token. Many different Indian cuisines are arranged for feasts to celebrate it.
The very first day of Pongal also known as Bhogi Pongal is celebrated to pay respect to Lord Indra, the “god of clouds and rain”. He is venerated for the blessings he showers by providing an abundance of harvest, and bringing prosperity to the people and their land. People clean their houses and lit fires to the collection of unwanted goods from their houses. They use cow-dung cakes and wood to blaze the fire, and this is the ritual they have named Bhogi Mantalu. The second day of the festival is addressed as Surya Pongal, which is the most important of all, as on this day the Sun God is worshipped. This marks the actual beginning of the main festival. People gather outside their abodes and prepare Pongal together in earthen pots. When the rice begins overflowing the pot, they all shout “Pongal o Pongal”, thanking the sun god for his blessing. The overflowing rice is taken to be symbolic of a fruitful farming season. Also, this is the first day of the Tamilian month thai.
The third day of Pongal festivity is known as Mattu Pongal and is completely dedicated to cattle. People worship them and offer prayers to cows, bulls, and other farm animals for their contribution to farms. The cattle are bathed and decorated in shiny metal caps and their horns are painted colorful. Flower garlands along with corn sheaves and tinkling bells are tied around their necks. The Kannum Pongal is the last day of this celebration time. It is on this day that people visit their family and friends to exchange gifts, sweets, and greetings. People decorate their houses and entrance with kolam as an inviting sign for prosperity in the house and family.
Pongal is a vibrant festival of Kerala that is celebrated with pomp and enthusiasm. Among the other festivals, Pongal is celebrated with beautiful decorations and is enjoyed on a big scale throughout India.