Saturday, January 14, 2017

Pongal 2017: Tamil Harvest Festival, Customs, Traditions, Significance, and Dates

This year the four-day festival of pongal will begin on January 14. (Indian Express archive)
In the mid of January-February pongal is celebrated as a four-day long auspicious harvest festival. In Tamil Nadu its significance is huge. They celebrate their harvest of rice and other cereals, sugar-cane, and turmeric in the past year and pray for good harvest in the coming years.
This year pongal will be celebrated on January 14 onwards. Mid January is significant in the Tamil calendar and in this festival people thank the nature for its virtues. The month of pongal is called Thai in Tamil. According to popular belief people also have faith that pongal will solve their family issues and hence people choose to get married during this month in Tamil Nadu.
The first day of pongal is the Bhogi festival which falls on January 13 this year. A bonfire is lit in the name of Lord Krishna. Old and useless household articles are thrown into the fire which is made of wood and cow dung cakes. People dance and sing around the bonfire praising the Lord Indra for good harvest.

Second day is devoted to the Sun god and is called Surya Pongal. Rice is boiled in milk in an earthenware and offered to the diety’s idol. Women wake up early to make the kolam, like the rangoli it is designed in every household’s veranda with white lime powder. People wake up early morning for Surya Pongal in villages, they tie a turmeric plant with the bowl of rice that they have boiled. The rice is prepared with dal and sugar and prepared as a dish called Pongal. In many households, husband and wife dispose the ritual utensils together as a customary practice. This is the day when the festival actually begins.

Third day is recognised as Mattu Pongal, the pongal for cows. People tie colourful garlands, beads and bells around the neck of the cow and perform puja. Racing with each others cattle is a common tradition and is one of the most awaited ceremonies in the festival of pongal. Aarti is performed in the temples. The significance of the day goes back to a legend in Hindu mythology when Shiva asked his bull Basava to go to earth and declare that mortals should from then on take an oil massage every day and eat once a month. But Basava told the mortals that they should eat daily and take a massage once a month. This angered Shiva and he sent Basava to earth where he was to plough fields for the rest of life and live as a mortal. Hence this day is dedicated to cattle.
The fourth day is called Kannum Pongal. As a custom, women wake up early morning and pray for their husbands. In a turmeric leaf, rice is put in the centre and aarti is performed.

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