The Festival Series

Festival Series

By Ahana

January- Celebrating Pongal

What is Pongal?

Pongal is a four-day festival and is celebrated on January 14th. It is known as the “Harvest Festival” in South India, particularly in Tamil Nadu.

Why is Pongal celebrated?

India is a very agricultural-based society, and since this is a harvest festival, it is highly valued by farmers and working-class people. The money brought from the harvest is used to celebrate weddings and solving family problems. Many people believe that it will bring prosperity, so they ring in this holiday with great joy and pomp.

How is Pongal celebrated?

The first day of the festival is celebrated by worshipping Lord Indra (who gives rains), and they pay homage to him to give thanks for the prosperous harvest. The ritual known as “Bhogi Mantalu” is recognized today, where many household items that are of no use are thrown into a fire. The second day is called “Perum Pongal” (this varies throughout parts of India). On this day, people perform puja and boil rice in milk outside. This is a symbolic offering to the Sun God, and all of the people wear traditional garments. A turmeric plant is tied around the pot where the rice is being boiled, and many offer sugarcane, coconut, and bananas in the dish. A “Kolam” is also created during this time. It is a design traced with white lime powder and is also made of rice flour. The third day of the festival is known as “Mattu Pongal.” On this day, people worship their cattle by tying bells, beads, flower garlands, and sheaves of corn around the cattle’s neck. The cattle are given Pongal to eat, and aarti is performed on the cattle to ward off the evil eye. The fourth and final day of Pongal is called “Kannum Pongal.” During the festival, a turmeric leaf is placed on the ground, where leftovers of sweet Pongal, rice, betel leaves and nuts, two pieces of sugarcane, and plantains are kept. Then, the aarti is performed, and water is sprinkled on the Kolam.


How is Pongal celebrated throughout India?

In Tamil Nadu, people create rangolis, make Pongal, and offer prayers to God. Pongal also marks the last day of the Tamil month known as Marghazi. In Mumbai, people decorate their homes and temples and cook special dishes for the celebration. In Andhra, the four days of celebration are known as Bhogi Festival, Surya Pongal, Mattu Pongal, and Kannum Pongal. Cows that are decorated in ornaments and garlands are taken out for processions, and entrances to each home are decorated with colorful Kolam designs. The festival is referred to as Makara Sankranthi here. The traditional dance, ‘Kolattam,” is also performed.

In Karnataka, Pongal and lemon rice, vada, payasam, and vegetable gravies are prepared. In villages, women cook Pongal in the fields, while everyone sits together to eat it. In Orissa (now known as Odisha), Radha and Krishna’s love is celebrated via dandiya programs, and the festival is three days long. This festival marks the end of Gobbi, a month-long festival that the women celebrate.

In Assam, the festival is known as the Magh Bihu and is four days long. The traditional folk song for this festival is known as “Bihugeet”. The festival is centered on eating and since this festival denotes the end of the harvesting season for many residents of Assam, many people feast and enjoy on this day.

Courtesy: Google Images

In Punjab, this festival is known as Lohri. It is associated with both celebrating the decline of winter and celebrating the harvest of the Rabi crops. This is a one day-long festival and is celebrated on the 13th or 14th of each January. Fires are lit at night and people sing and dance, wishing each other health, happiness, and prosperity. Lohri is dedicated to the Sun and Fire God, and people offer peanuts, and sweets to the fire god.

Overall, Pongal is celebrated differently everywhere, but its purpose of showing gratitude to the gods will always be aligned, no matter where one is in India!

Fun Fact: Did you know that in 2017, a Democratic senator in the United States of America signed a bill announcing that January 14th should be known as Pongal Day?

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Ahana, 12 years

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