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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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