Pongal a four day festival is celebrated in South India in the month of January. It all starts with Bhogi and ends with the Thiruvalluvar day. Sankranti is a day when the sun passes from one sign of the Zodiac to another. Pongal is a multi-day Hindu harvest festival of South India particularly of Tamil Nadu. The festival is celebrated to thank the sun god for his blessings. Pongal signifies the overflowing of prosperity. It also shows the love between nature and the human race for each other.
For Tamilians, the first day is Bhogi, the beginning of Pongal of joy. On this day, people exchange sweets, light a fire and dispose off the old items and look for a new year with a new beginning. The second day is Surya Pongal that is dedicated to the Sun God. People wake up early in the morning and have bath just like another Tamilian festival day. The married women have their chores to complete. They put rice to the boiled milk, ideally in a pot on fire and as soon as it begins to simmer and they all shout together Pongalo Pongal in a traditional way. The sweet thus prepared is then offered to Lord Ganesha and to the Sun God. A portion of it is also offered to the cows. Again sweets are exchanged. On meeting each other, they have rice boiled in a typical Tamilian style. To which they invariably answer, “Yes it is boiled.” That is why this festival is called Pongal. Pongal means to boil.
The third day is Mattu Pongal or the Pongal for the cows. On this day, cows and oxen are worshipped and circumambulated. Their horns are painted in various colours and cows and oxen are given good wash and garlanded with leaves and flowers hung around their necks. On this day, the cows are allowed to graze anywhere they like without any restriction. Pongal also marks the change of season, and is primarily a harvest festival. India is an agricultural country and cows and oxen play a vital role in agriculture. That is why cows and oxen are worshipped and venerated so much. The new reaped harvest is shared with friends, relatives, beasts and birds. They all partake in the cooked food and sweets. In Chennai, the streets bear a festival look for the whole week. And on the fourth day (i.e.) Thiruvalluvar Day (remembrance of noted Tamil Poet) people go round for picnic to a Trade Fair or Museum or Water Parks or to see films that released during Pongal by carrying eatables along with them. Notably, we can see yellow rice, white coconut rice and Pongal are being carried by picnickers. Finally, Pongalo Pongal brings unity amongst residents of Tamil Nadu.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)