IntroductionPongal has special geo-agri-economical significance to people of Indian Sub-Continent and is celebrated in the month of January.Pongal is very auspicious for it marks the transition of Sun into Capricorn on its celestial path.Pongal is one of the most auspicious occasions for the Hindus, and is celebrated in almost all parts of the country in myriad cultural forms, with great devotion, fervour & gaiety.
It is a harvest festival and is perhaps the only Indian festival whose date always falls on the same day every year i.e. the 14th of January. This festival has been celebrated for thousands of years. Initially, this was probably a festival celebrated in the cold climate, when people prayed for the warmth of the sun. In all likelihood, the Aryans celebrated it, and continued to do so after migrating to India. To Hindus, the Sun stands for knowledge, spiritual light and wisdom.
This event is celebrated as Pongal in South India and Makar Sankranti in North and Central India.Makar Sankranti signifies that we should turn away from the darkness of delusion in which we live, and begin to enjoy a new life with bright light within us to shine brighter and brighter. We should gradually begin to grow in purity, wisdom, and knowledge, even as the Sun does from the Day of Makar Sankranti.It is a four days festival in Tamil Nadu, which is celebrated with extreme zeal and fervor throughout the state.
History & Origin of PongalThe origin of Pongal goes back to the Sangam age which is a period from 200 BC to 300 AD. Generally in South India Pongal is celebrated as Thai Niradal and the whole month of Margazhi unmarried women worship Goddess Katyayani, fast and pray for abundant rains and agricultural prosperity for the country. During this period of fasting they stay away from the consumption of milk and milk products and don't oil their hair throughout the month. The use of harsh words was strictly refrained by them.
History also tells that this day is more associated with cattle's for once Lord Shiva asked his bull, Basava, to go to the earth and ask the mortals to have an oil massage and bath every day and to eat once a month, whereas the bull Basava told the other way. So Lord Siva cursed the cattle and asked her to live on earth forever and will have to plough the fields and help people produce more food.
Legends of PongalPongal has some legends associated with it like most of the other festivals. Some of the legends associated with Pongal are:
- Legend of Mount Govardhan
- Legend of Lord Shiva
Bhogi Pongal which is the first day of celebration has a story behind it which is associated with Lord Indra and Lord Krishna. In earlier days people used to worship Lord Indira for the prosperity of the country. But soon Lord Indira became very proud considering him to be the most powerful of all Gods. So Lord Krishna who came to know about this thought of teaching a lesson to Indiran and as of first step he insisted the cowherds to worship Mt. Govardhan rather than Lord Indra.This made Lord Indira angry and he started to produce a non-stop thunder, lightning, heavy rains and flood the land. But then Lord Krishna to protect the humans, cowherds and the cattle's lifted the Mount Govardhan with his little finger and stayed like that for three days till the rain stopped.Atlast Lord Indira realized his mistake and wanted Krishna to forgive him. He promised humility and begged Krishna's forgiveness. Since then, Krishna allowed to let the Bhogi celebrations continue in honor of Indra.
The third day of Pongal known as Mattu Pongal or Kanu Pongal involves Lord Shiva and his mount, Nandi (Basava), the bull. History also tells that this day is more associated with cattle's for once Lord Shiva asked his bull, Basava, to go to the earth and ask the mortals to have an oil massage and bath every day and to eat once a month, whereas the bull Basava told the other way. So Lord Siva cursed the cattle and asked her to live on earth forever and will have to plough the fields and help people produce more food.
Celebration of PongalDuring Pongal a pooja is performed worshipping the Sun and the earth before cutting the paddy. Most of the houses in South India are cleaned and white washed as a part of the celebration.Pongal is incomplete without Rangoli's which are drawn in front of the house. This four day long festival celebrates the first day as Bhogi Pongal which is a thanksgiving occasion to Lord `Indra', the God of Heavens. Thai Pongal or the Surya Pongal is celebrated on the second day where the sun god is worshiipped.
As a mark of respect to the cattle, the farmer's best friends; the third day of Pongal festival is celebrated as `Maattu Pongal'. `Kaanum Pongal' marks the end of the four-day celebrations. Celebrations involve visiting temple on all these festival days. On Mattu Pongal are bathed, their horns polished and painted in bright colors, and garlands of flowers placed around their necks. The main highlight of the celebrations is the preparation of sweet pongal in a fresh earthen vessel, which is adorned with flowers, turmeric leaves and roots. The cattle's are also given baths and their horns polished and painted in bright colors, and garlands of flowers placed around their necks. The celebrations are not complete without witnessing the Bull-fight or the `jallikattu'.
Pongal Celebrations around the World
- Pongal in South East Asia Celebrations of Pongal in the South East Asian countries like Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar mainly includes visiting temples and the rest of the celebrations remains the same as in India where it goes on for four long days. Dance and Music specially meant for Pongal are a vital part of the celebrations here.
- Pongal in Africa Pongal here is celebrated in a traditional way. There are about 250 temples in Mauritius and Pongal is celebrated on a national level as it is declared public holiday in the country. About 120,000 Tamils celebrate this festival in Mauritius. Here, the Seychelles Hindu Kovil Sangam and Navasakthi Vinayagar temple have acted as vital forces in reuniting the Tamil community.
- Pongal In Oceania Pongal in Oceanic countries like Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, though not celebrated in a traditional way, it is still a day of zeal and fervor. The temples here celebrate the festival organized by the local official Tamil committees and organizations.
- Pongal in the Gulf In the Gulf counties like Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the Pongal celebrations are basically organized for creating fondness amongst the Hindu people living over there. In Oman and Dubai, the celebrations have reached a praiseworthy level. The recent migrations of Tamils in these places have given boost up to the existing Pongal celebrations of the place.
- Pongal in Europe Pongal celebrations are more of a community festival in countries like Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Denmark.
Pongal Traditions and CustomsPongal one of the most traditional festival of Tamilians has several customs associated with it which has become an integral part of the four days celebrations. Singing and dancing for the pongal songs is one of the customs followed during celebration.
- Bhogi Pongal The first day is known as Bhogi Pongal which is a thanksgiving occasion to Lord `Indra', the God of Heavens. Old and useless things of the house are set to fire as this symbolizes an end of old things and a beginning for new.
- Surya Pongal Thai Pongal or the Surya Pongal is celebrated on the second day where the sun god is worshiipped.The main custom of this day is that people cook new rice in a pot and it is mixed with milk and jaggery. The food is allowed to boil and fall, as this is known as Pongal.
- Maattu Pongal The third day of the Pongal festival is dedicated to the farm animals as they help to produce high yield of paddy. The animals are dressed in a beautiful way and they are taken for a round in the entire village. People bow head in front of them and touch their forehead and feet. Pongal is also offered to the animals. Jallikattu, bull fights are also arranged on this day and young men during this fight try to get the bag of money that is tied to the horns of violent bulls without using their hands.
- Kaanum Pongal 'Kaanum Pongal' marks the end of the four-day celebrations Pongal festival and people generally visit their near and dear ones on this day. Some people also leave small amount of food on the banana leaves for the birds and on any of the days after having first bite of the food, rest of the food is left for the crows.