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Pongal Festival 2020

Pongal Festival 2020

The Festival of Pongal

Pongal is a major festival of Tamil Hindus. It is predominantly celebrated in South India. Pongal is celebrated every year. The literal meaning of Pongal is to boil. On the other hand, it also means New Year. This day is celebrated in North India as Makar Sankranti, Makar Sakranti is called Uttarayan in Gujarat and Maharashtra and is celebrated as Sankranti in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka (all three states are associated with Tamil Nadu). In Punjab, it is celebrated as Lohri.

This year Pongal will be celebrated from 15th January to 18th January.

History of Pongal Festival

Pongal is an ancient festival of the people of South India in particular Tamil Nadu. Pongal was first celebrated around 200 BCE also referred to as Sangam Age. However, Pongal is celebrated as a Dravidian harvest festival, and is also mentioned in Sanskrit Puranas. Historians identified the festival with the United Nations Thailand who believed that the festival was celebrated during the Sangam age. Some mythological stories are also associated with the Pongal festival. Two such stories of Pongal are being told here which are related to Lord Shiva, Lord Indra and Krishna.

Why is Pongal Celebrated?

The festival of Pongal lasts for four days. Thus, there are 4 kinds of Pongal. Pongal is counted as one of the most important festivals of the year in Hinduism. It is implied by the fact of its importance, that it is celebrated to pay gratitude to God who is the creator of nature, for the flourishing season of the harvest. Its name is derived from the Pongal Tamil word meaning "to boil". This festival is organized between the Thai months i.e. January to February.

During this season, various crops such as rice, sugarcane, turmeric and many other cooking crops of Tamil Nadu are harvested. The significance of this festival can be gauged from the fact that it lasts for four days. Every day Pongal has its own name. The four types of Pongal—bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal, Mattu Pongal and Kanya Pongal.


  • Bhogi Pongal:Bhogi Pongal is dedicated to Lord Indra--the deity that rules the rain. Farmers worship Lord Indra for good rainfall which would lead to good harvest. On this day in the evening, people bring old clothes and garbage from their homes and gather them in one place and burn it. It shows respect for God and is symbolic of destroying the evil. Around this fire, youngsters play Bhogi Kottam throughout the night, which is a type of drum made of buffalo horn.

  • Surya Pongal (Thai Pongal): The second day of Pongal is known as the surya Pongal which is dedicated to Sun God. The actual celebration of Pongal begins on this day. The second day of Pongal is also the first day of the Tamil Month-Thai. On this day, a special type of Kheer called Pongal is made, which is cooked newly prepared rice, pulses and sweet in an earthen pot. After Pongal is ready, Sun God is worshiped and he is offered this Pongal and sugarcane in the form of prasadam and gratitude is expressed for the good harvest of the crop.

  • Mattoo Pongal:Mattu Pongal is the 3rd day of the Pongal celebrations and is celebrated on the 2nd day of the Thai month. The term 'Mattu' means a bull; hence, this 3rd day of Pongal is dedicated to cattle. The lore behind this is Mattu was the name of the Nandi, bull of Lord Shiva whom Lord Shiva sent to earth to provide food for humans. Since then, it is believed Mattoo is living on the Earth to help humans with agricultural work. On this day, farmers bathe their bulls, apply oil in their horns and decorate the bulls in various ways. They are worshiped after decorating the hair. Along with the bull, cow and calves are also worshiped on this day.

  • Kanum Pongal: The 4th day of the Pongal is known as Kanum Pongal or Thiruvalluvar Day. It is devoted to the Sun God. This day has its roots in the ancient Brahminical tradition. Since pongal is a festival that celebrates the agriculture or the agrarian society. Only women participate on the 4th day of the Pongal. On this day the house is decorated. Toran is made at the door with mango pulp and coconut leaves. On this day women make kolam i.e. rangoli at the doorstep of the house.

In ancient times, this festival was celebrated as Dravida Shasya Utsav. The inscription found in the temple at Tiruvallur suggests that Kilutunga who was the king during the ancient times; used to donate land and temples to the poor on the occasion of Kanum Pongal. On this occasion, it was customary to fight daring wars with dance ceremony and bull. The women who were the most powerful at that time used to choose a husband by putting a garland on this day.

Pongal Dishes

Apart from rice and milk, the ingredients of this dessert include cardamom, raisins, green gram (separated) and cashew nuts. The process of preparing this dish is done in front of the Sun God. It is usually made in the courtyard.

Pongal Festival Story

  • Story 1:
    According to a legend, once Lord Shiva asked his bull (Basava in Tamil) to go to the earth from heaven to give a message to the humans - that they should bathe with oil every day and eat food once a month. But the bull went to the Earth and gave the reverse advice to humans. He told humans that - They should bathe with oil and eat food every day. Lord Shiva became very angry with this mistake and cursed his bull, saying that - it has been expelled from here to live on earth permanently and it will have to plow to help humans in producing more food. In this way, the festival of Pongal is related to cattle.

  • Story 2:
    There is another mythological story related to Lord Krishna and Lord Indra. It is said that once Lord Krishna decided to teach a lesson to Lord Indra, who became arrogant after becoming the King of the Gods. Lord Krishna asked the cowherds of his village to stop worshiping Indra. Due to which Lord Indra was very angry and he sent clouds to bring storm and rain for 3 days continuously, due to which the whole of Dwarka was destroyed. Then Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhan Mountains on his little finger to protect everyone, and then Lord Indra realized his mistake and understood the power of Lord Krishna. Then Lord Krishna asked Vishwakarma to rebuild it and the cowherds re-cultivated the crop with their cows.

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