Every year, the month of January rings the bells for grandest celebration of the Tamil culture, and that is - Pongal. It’s a sweet and fun filled occasion that is celebrated to thank the Gods for a bountiful harvest. Pongal traditionally means ‘overflow’ or ‘spill over’.
Like every other festival, this celebration also has certain traditions and rituals to follow. In this post we are going to go over those rituals and how to celebrate Pongal in the grandest and the most enriching way possible for anyone, anywhere in the world.
For the uninitiated, Pongal is a four-day celebration starting with Bhogi, then comes the most important day i.e. Thai Pongal and next comes the Mattu Pongal finally concluding with the last day that is Kannum Pongal.
Significance: Its celebrated in honor of Lord Indra who is the supreme ruler of the gods and clouds that gives rain.
The bon-fire that is lit on this day is in knowledge of ‘Rudra’ (fire) where along with all old, worn-out objects, people discard their vices, bad habits and sacrifice their attachments to material things.
Things to do:
The night before Bhogi:
1. Gather all old, run down, broken items, clothes and broken furniture lying around in your home and that can be discarded.
On the day of Bhogi:
- Get up at dawn.
- Light a bon-fire in your backyard or an open space with firewood or unused wooden furniture.
- Burn up all discarded objects in that fire.
This festival dates back to more than 1000 years ago. In Tamil culture Pongal is also known as “Tamizhar Thirunaal” i.e. the Festival of Tamizhs (pronounced as Tamilar and Tamils).
The main attraction of this day is the cooking of the Pongal dish in the morning. This is an offering to the Sun god, Surya
Things to do:
- Get up in the Morning – The celebrations start in the early morning
- Get a sizable Clay pot that would be used to cook the Pongal
- Decorate the pot with colored patterns i.e. Kollam
- When the Sun is bright and shining, set up the wood fire stove and place the pot with milk in it to start the cooking process
- When the Milk is overflowing after boiling over, put in freshly harvested rice and continue boiling.
- Its customary to blow a conch, popularly known as sanggu during this time
- Shout “Pongalo Pongal” and do it with full energy to get the feeling of the celebrations soak into you!
- You can also recite Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum ('the commencement of Thai paves the way for new opportunities')
- Repeat the above two chants frequently for a few times.
- Add sugar, cashew other items as needed and serve the cooked Pongal on a Banana Leaf.
In Tamil culture, the cattle are treated with the highest regards and are considered as a part of family. This is why Mattu (meaning Cow) Pongal is celebrated in Tamil culture with such significance. Here are the things you can do on Mattu Pongal day:
Things to do:
- Feed the birds: You can place a feast of colored rice, cooked vegetables, banana and sweet Pongal on ginger or turmeric leaves for birds like crows or Seagulls to share and enjoy.
- Visit a beach or a theme park and have a get-together
- Visit a Ganesh Temple in the evening to offer your Prayers to Lord Ganesh
The fourth day of celebrations mark the end of the Pongal festivities for the year. The word Kannum means, “To visit”. These are things to do on Kannum Pongal:
Things to Do:
- Organize a reunion of family and friends. An intimate party of close family is generally the norm.
- Gifting: This day is known for gifting, where brothers gift their married sisters with generous gifts. Friends and family also exchange gifts on this day
- Chew some sugarcane, as it’s the most delicious thing to do on this day.
- Decorate your house with Kollam
Once the celebrations are completed then the wait begins for the next year when the festivities, get-togethers and gifts return to unite families and have a celebration that connects us with the nature and its bounties in such a beautiful way!
Have fun this festive season and Pongalo Pongal!! Pongalo Pongal!!