We have all heard the phrase that India is a country with a diverse culture. We also know that different civilizations have various festivals distributed over the calendar. One celebration ends just as another one is about to begin.

Pongal has also come just as we are getting through Lohri. However, some of us in North India might not be aware of this holiday, surrounded by a few beautiful customs.

Here is everything you need to understand about Pongal festivities, which are now taking place throughout India, notably in Tamil Nadu in southern India.

About Pongal

Pongal is a holiday of thanksgiving observed throughout Southern India. It essentially celebrates the harvest and is the only holiday that uses the solar calendar. The word “pongal” comes from Tamil literature & means “to boil” in its literal sense. A meal made with rice and named Pongal is also cooked for this holiday.

Every year on January 14th, this celebration is held. Pongal signifies the beginning of the sun’s six-month journey toward the north. It is said to be exceedingly lucky compared to the sun’s Southern travel. The term Makar Sankranti refers to the occasion when the sun reaches the Capricorn zodiac sign (Makar).

Pongal is also the name of a meal made during this holiday season that consists of sweetened rice and lentils.

On the first day of Pongal – The Bhogi festival

Lord Indra, the rain god and lord of lords, is honored at the Bhogi festival. This day is also dedicated to the Bhogi Mantalu rite, which involves burning off unnecessary household objects over a bonfire composed of wood and cow dung cakes.

The second day – Thai Pongal

On this particular day, a specific ceremony is carried out in which rice & milk are combined and then cooked outdoors in an earthen pot with a turmeric plant attached to it as a gift to the sun deity. In addition, bananas, coconuts, and sugarcane sticks are provided.

The kolam, a traditional pattern hand-drawn with lime powder at home entrances, is a significant component of this day. This lucky drawing must be completed first thing in the morning and only after a bath.

The third day – Mattu Pongal

The day known as Mattu Pongal is dedicated to honoring cows. The cows are revered and ornamented with bells, grain sheaves, and garlands. According to legend, Lord Shiva once sent his bull, Basava, to Earth with a greeting for humans, advising them to take a bath, give themselves an oil massage every day, and eat once a month. Basava, however, wrongly reported Shiva had urged people to eat every day & have an oil bath after one month.

Shiva was furious and condemned Basava to the dirt for all time, lamenting that he would have to work in the fields to increase human food production. Hence, this day is associated with cattle.

The fourth day – Kaanum Pongal

The final day of Pongal is known as Kaanum (or Kanu) Pongal. On this day, a ceremony entails setting out the remaining sweet Pongal and other food in the courtyard on a turmeric leaf that has been cleaned, together with betel leaves, betel nuts, and sugar cane. The women of the home do this rite in the name of their brothers, requesting prosperity for them.

Pongal history

According to legend, the festival of Pongal dates back to the Sangam period (200 BC–200 AD) and is mentioned in the Puranas. One of the myths surrounding Pongal is that Lord Shiva had a bull named Basava that he brought to Earth with the message that people should have oil baths and massages each day & eat once a month.

Basava, who was punished by Lord Shiva, was assigned to Earth to assist humanity by preparing their daily meals and ploughing their fields. Instead, Basava advised people to eat regularly and take oil baths once a month. Cattle became connected with Pongal because of this.

The Pongal legends

Every festival in India has a narrative, significance, or myth associated with it. Several tales are associated with Pongal, but the two below are the most well-known. Initial legend This story claims that Lord Shiva once instructed his bull, Basava, to descend to Earth and command the populace to take a bath each day, receive an oil massage once a month, and refrain from eating. Basava mistakenly suggested that everyone take an oil bath once per day and eat every single day. Basava was exiled to the soil for all time by Lord Shiva because of his extreme fury. He would have to assist the populace here on Earth in increasing food production to aid them. This may be the cause of the ongoing relationship with cattle.

Another legend

The characters in this myth are Lord Krishna and Lord Indra. Legend has it that as a young kid, Lord Krishna decided to discipline Lord Indra, who had grown haughty since becoming the ruler of the gods. When he commanded all the cow herders to stop worshiping Lord Indra, Lord Krishna enraged God. After having his false pride crushed, Lord Indra repented to Lord Krishna. Then he launched his clouds of destruction, bringing forth storms and floods. Then Lord Krishna created Mount Govardhan, offering protection to all creatures and revealing Lord Indra’s divinity.

How is Pongal celebrated?

This festival is considered a particularly fortunate day in Hindu mythology & astrology because it commemorates the day God awakens after a six-month-long slumber. Three days are dedicated to this festival’s celebration. A particular pooja is performed by slicing on the paddy on the first day to commemorate it. By applying sandalwood paste to their sickles and ploughs, farmers revere the sun and the ground.

Every one of the three days is celebrated differently. The first day, often called Bhogi Pongal, is a day to spend with your family. The second day is devoted to Surya, the Sun God, and is also referred to as Surya Pongal. On this day, the Sun God receives an offering of boiling milk with jaggery. The third day, Mattu Pongal is when cows, also known as Mattu, are worshiped. Cattle are cleansed and given a bath; their horns are painted in vivid colors; and decorated with floral garlands. After being sacrificed to the gods, the animals and birds get the Pongal.