Pongal 2016 – Enjoy the Festival of Sweet Harvest
‘Pongalo Pongal’ the sound of this chant reverberates through entire Tamil Nadu each year during the harvest festival that falls on January 15th (Not Fixed date). Pongal is quintessentially a four day festival of thanksgiving to the nature. The festival marks the harvest time of some of the major corps in Tamil Nadu including rice, sugar care, turmeric and other cereals.
The first day of the festival is celebrated in the honour Lord Indra and it is known as ‘Bhogi.’ The significance of this ritual is the throwing of old and useless items in the house into a fire that is lit with firewood and cow dung cakes. Young ladies dance around the fire and sing songs in praise of the gods. The site of the girls dancing and the cooking of Pongal is a perfect embodiment of the cultural significance of Indian festivals.
On the second day, people across the country cook Pongal, a sweet dish that is made of rice and jaggery. Traditionally, the dish is cooked in an earthen pot and over an open fire. As the rice and jaggery boils, it is left to spill over the fire. According to the culture, the spilling of the rice is considered to be auspicious and it is their way of thanking the Mother Nature for being benevolent and reaping rich harvest. If you are planning to visit the southern regions of India, you can go on a country side Tamil Nadu tour to see and experience the Pongal celebrations.
The third day is known as the Mattu Pongal, which literally translates into Pongal for the holy cow. Cows are decorated with tinkling bells and flower garlands and are worshipped. The cows are fed with Pongal and are taken around the village centers where the young men race their cattles amidst fun and revelry. If you always wanted to be a part of the celebration of festivals in Tamil Nadu, you can’t miss being a part of Matu Pongal as the local villagers engage in ‘Jhali Kattu’ a sport with the cattle. It is the Indian version of the famous bull fight of Spain.
On the last day of the festival, Kannum Pongal, the women of the house perform a pooja by placing a turmeric leaf on the ground and keeping the left overs of the Pongal, betel nuts, betel leaves and two pieces of sugarcane on it. All the young and old men of house gather in the courtyard and the women pray for the prosperity of their families.
Tamil Nadu is not the only state that rises up to Makar Celebration; the festival is celebrated across the country with different names. In Punjab it is called Lohri. The people of Uttar Pradesh call it Khichiri and in Andhra Pradesh the day is celebrated as Pedda Panduga. Among the string of festivals in Odisha, Makar is celebrated in a grand way among general people. The people of Odisha begin their celebrations by lighting a bonfire and people gather with their families and perform the traditional tribal dance around the bonfire. The day also sees the families flocking the various temples to offer their prayers and food offerings from the new harvest to please the god and thank the god for rich harvest.