Meaning & Significance
People celebrating Pongal should be aware of the meaning & significance of the important rituals associated with this harvest festival. Pongal or Thai Pongal is also called Makara Sankaranthi, since it is celebrated on the first day of Thai when the Sun enters the Makara Rasi (Capricornus). This signals the end of winter and the onset of spring throughout the northern hemisphere. For the next six months, the days are longer and warmer.
The period is referred to as Uttarayan Punyakalam and is considered auspicious. Legend has it that the Devas wake up after a six-month long slumber during this period. And so it is believed that those pass away during Uttarayana attain salvation. In fact, Bheeshma is believed to have waited for the dawn of Uttarayana before he gave up his life.
Pongal is a four-day affair. The first day, Bhogi, is celebrated on the last day of the month of Margazhi. On this day, people decorate their homes. New vessels are bought and old and unwanted things burnt. Scholars have often compared Bhogi to the Indra Vizha celebrated by the Chola kings at Kaveripattinam, also known as Poompuhar. Indra Vizha was celebrated in honour of Lord Indra, also called Bhogi, the God of thunder and rain.
The second day is Perum Pongal, the most important. It is also called Surya Pongal because people worship Surya, the Sun God and his consorts, Chaya and Samgnya. Women decorate the central courtyard of their homes with beautiful kolams, done with rice flour and bordered with red clay. The Pongal dish is cooked exactly at the moment when the new month is born.
There are several legends associated with Perum Pongal. A sage named Hema prayed to Lord Vishnu on the banks of the Pottramarai tank in Kumbakonam. On Perum Pongal day, the lord is believed to have taken the form of Sarangapani and blessed the sage. Yet another legend has it that Lord Shiva performed a miracle where a stone image of an elephant ate a piece of sugarcane.
The third day is Mattu Pongal, celebrated to glorify cattle that help farmers in a myriad ways. On this day, the cows are bathed and decorated with vermilion and garlands and fed. In certain villages in southern Tamil Nadu, a bullfight called manji-virattu is held in the evening. Bags of coins are tied to the sharpened horns of ferocious bulls that are let loose in an open ground. The young men of the village vie with each other to subdue the bull and grab the bags tied to the horns.
In fact, in ancient Tamil literature, men had to subdue the bull in order to win the hand of a fair maiden and even Lord Krishna is believed to have defeated seven bulls before marrying Nappinnai. Unlike in the Spanish bullfights, in manji-virattu, the bull is never killed. Mattu Pongal has little significance to city folks. In most urban homes, the day is celebrated as Kannu Pongal. Special prayers are offered by women for the well-being of their brothers.
The Tamils also remember the poet Tiruvalluvar, who was born on this. The last day is Kaanum Pongal. It is that part of the festival when families used to gather on the riverbanks and have a sumptuous meal (kootanchoru). It is also time for some traditional dances such as kummi and kolattam. In recent years, that day is celebrated as Uzhavar Tirunal in honor of farmers.
For the dish, see Pongal (dish).
Thai Pongal (Tamil: தைப்பொங்கல், )is a harvest festival dedicated to the Sun. It is a four-day festival which according to the Tamil calendar is usually celebrated from January 14 to January 17..
Thai Pongal is one of the most important festivals celebrated by Tamil people in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the Indian Union Territory of Puducherry, and the country of Sri Lanka, as well as Tamils worldwide, including those in Malaysia,Mauritius, South Africa, United States, Singapore, Canada and UK.
The day marks the start of the sun's six-month-long journey northwards (the Uttaraayanam). This also corresponds to the Indic solstice when the sun purportedly enters the 10th house of the Indian zodiac Makara or Capricorn. Thai Pongal is mainly celebrated to convey appreciation to the Sun for a successful harvest. Part of the celebration is the boiling of the first rice of the season consecrated to the Sun.
The origins of the Thai Pongal festival may date to more than 1000 years ago.Epigraphic evidence suggests the celebration of the Puthiyeedu during the Medieval Cholaempire days. Puthiyeedu is believed to represent the first harvest of the year. Tamil people refer to Pongal as "Tamizhar Thirunaal," the festival of Tamizhs.
Thai refers to the name of the tenth month in the Tamil calendar, Thai (தை). Pongal usually means festivity or celebration; more specifically Pongal is translated as "boiling over" or "overflow." Pongal is also the name of a sweetened dish of rice boiled with lentils that is ritually consumed on this day. Symbolically, pongal signifies the gradual heating of the earth as the Sun travels northward toward the equinox.
Though TAMIL THAI PONGAL does not have any connection with Makara Sankranthi, Pongal day coincides with Makara Sankranthi which is celebrated throughout India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
|Thai Pongal||Tamil Nadu|
|Makara Sankranthi||Andhra Pradesh, Bengal, Bihar, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Telangana Uttar Pradesh|
|Uttarayana||Gujarat and Rajasthan|
|Maghi||Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab|
|Magh Bihu/Bhogali Bihu||Assam|
|Maghe SankrantiorMakar Sankranti||Nepal|
Main article: Pongal (dish)
Besides rice and milk the ingredients of this sweet dish include cardamom, raisins, Green gram (split), and cashew nuts. Cooking is done in sunlight, usually in a porch or courtyard, as the dish is dedicated to the Sun god, Surya. The cooking is done in a clay pot that is decorated with coloured patterns called kolam. Pongal has two variants, one sweet and one savoury. The dish is served on banana leaves.
Cooking pongal is a traditional practice at Hindu temples during any part of the Temple Festival in Tamil Nadu.
Days of the festival
The day preceding Pongal is called Bhogi. On this day people discard old belongings and celebrate new possessions. The disposal of worn-out items is similar to the traditions of Holika in North India. The people assemble at dawn in Tamil Nadu to light a bonfire in order to burn the discards. Houses are cleaned, painted and decorated to give a festive look. The horns of oxen and buffaloes are painted in villages. In Tamil Nadu farmers keep medicinal herb (neem, avram, sankranti) in northeast corner of each fields, to prevent crops from diseases and pests.
Bhogi is also observed on the same day in Andhra Pradesh. In the ceremony called Bhogi Pallu, fruits of the harvest such as regi pallu and sugar cane are collected along with flowers of the season. Money is often placed into a mixture of treats and is poured over children. The children then separate and collect the money and sweet fruits.
This day is celebrated in Punjab as Lohri and in Assam as Magh Bihu / Bhogali Bihu.
The main event, also known as Thai Pongal, takes place on the second of the four days. This day coincides with Makara Sankranthi, a winter harvest festival celebrated throughout India. The day marks the start of the Uttarayana, the day of the Indic solstice when the sun purportedly enters the 10th house of the Indian zodiac i.e. Makara or Capricorn.
In the Tamil language the word Pongu means "overflowing," signifying abundance and prosperity.
During the festival, milk is cooked in a vessel. When it starts to bubble and overflows out of the vessel, freshly harvested rice grains are added to the pot. At the same time other participants blow a conch called the sanggu and shout "Pongalo Pongal!" They also recite "Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum" ("the commencement of Thai paves the way for new opportunities"). This is repeated frequently during the Pongal festival. The Pongal is then served to everyone in the house along with savories and sweets such as vadai, murukku, paayasam.
Tamilians decorate their homes with banana and mango leaves and embellish the floor with decorative patterns drawn using rice flour.kolams/rangolis are drawn on doorsteps. Family elders present gifts to the young.
The Sun stands for "IYENGAR BRAHMAN" - the manifest God, who symbolizes the one, non-dual, self-effulgent, glorious divinity blessing one and all tirelessly. The Sun is the one who transcends time and also the one who rotates the proverbial wheel of time.
Maattu Pongal is celebrated the day after Thai Pongal. Tamils regard cattle as sources of wealth for providing dairy products, fertilizer, and labor for plowing and transportation. On Maattu Pongal, cattle are recognized and afforded affectionately. Features of the day include games such as the Jallikkattu and taming bull.
Kanu Pidi is a tradition for women and young girls. During Kanu Pidi women feed birds and pray for their brothers' well being. As part of the "Kaka pidi, Kanu pidi" feast women and girls place a feast of colored rice, cooked vegetables, banana and sweet pongal on ginger or turmeric leaves for crows to share and enjoy. During this time women offer prayers in the hope that brother-sister ties remain forever strong as they do in a crow family.
On this day celebrants bathe and decorate their cattle with garlands. Cows are decorated with manjalthanni (turmeric water) and oil. Shikakai apply kungumam (kumkum) to their foreheads, paint their horns, and feed them a mixture of venn pongal, jaggery, honey, banana and other fruits. In the evening people pray to Lord Ganesh. One ritual is to light a torch of coconut leaves and carry it around cattle three times and then run to the border of the village to drop it. This is believed to remove the evil influences caused by the jealousy of other people over the cattle.
Kaanum Pongal (Kanni Pongal)
Kaanum Pongal, the fourth day of the festival, marks the end of Pongal festivities for the year. The word kaanum in this context means "to visit." Many families hold reunions on this day. Brothers pay special tribute to their married sisters by giving gifts as affirmation of their filial love. Landlords present gifts of food, clothes and money to their tenants. Villagers visit relatives and friends while in the cities people flock to beaches and theme parks with their families. Celebrants chew sugar cane and again decorate their houses with kolam. Relatives and friends receive thanks for their assistance supporting the harvest.
In Andhra Pradesh, Mukkanuma, the final day of Sankranthi festival, is celebrated by worshiping cattle. Mukkanuma is famous among non-vegetarians. People do not eat non-vegetarian dishes during the first three days of the festival, saving them for the day of Mukkanuma.
In 2017, Delegate David Bulova introduced a joint resolution HJ573 in the Virginia House of Delegates to designate January 14 of each year as Pongal Day.
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Kolam drawn in front of houses