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Pongal Festival in Tamil Nadu


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Pongal Festival in Tamil Nadu

Owing to its rich historical background and being the cultural hot seat of South India, Tamil Nadu is a land of a lot of festivals. Almost all international, national and regional festivals in the southern state of are celebrated with pomp and gaiety. The state starts every year with a spectacular celebration of Pongal festival that lasts for a good four days!

Pongal Festival Greetings

To be precise, the glorious harvest festival, Thai Pongal is (beyond any doubt) the most important festival of Tamil Nadu. In the regional language of Tamil, the term Pongal signifies 'overflowing' which stands for copiousness and successfulness. Usually, Pongal celebrations start from January 13th of every year and ends by January 16, where each festival day is singular in their own way. Let's get to know more about the four colorful Pongal days in an elaborate manner.

Did you know?
Pongal festival is called by several names in Tamil Nadu and some of the widely used names are
  • Thai Pongal (marks the Pongal festival that is celebrated on the Tamil month of 'Thai')
  • Thamizhar Thiru Naal (Carnival of Tamilians)
  • Thai Thiru Naal (Carnival that comes in the Tamil month of 'Thai')
  • Uzhavar Thirunal (Carnival of farmers)
  • Aruvadai Thirunal (Carnival of harvesting)

Bhogi Pandigai

The first day of the Pongal festivity, Bhogi pandigai is celebrated on the last day of the Tamil month of Margazhi. It is believed that the actual name of this specific celebration is pokki. Over the years, the actual term 'pokki' got converted as 'bhogi'.

Bhogi pandigai is all about throwing out the unnecessary things, cleaning the house by removing begrimes and creating a tidy atmosphere at home. The day before the main day of Pongal festivities marks the celebration of Bhogi pandigai. In villages, people gather at daybreak to light an outdoor fire to put away unnecessary possessions.

Bhogi Pandigai Celebrations in Tamil Nadu

The act of creating a tidy atmosphere at home actually signifies that the even the minds of people should be tidy, that is to say - Tidy home, tidy mind! Many even paint their houses for Bhogi pandigai and get into the festive mood in a grand manner. Seeing newly painted houses across the villages during the Pongal season is a usual sight in Tamil Nadu.

Pongal Kolam

Houses are beautified with 'Kolam' (Rangoli) drawn using arisi maavu (a paste made of rice and water) an gorgeous outlines are drawn using red mud paste. As adding yet another enviable feather to the hat, beautiful pumpkin flowers are set on top of the cow-dung balls and are placed among the kolam. Also, tying mango leaves at the entrance door during the Pongal is an important part of the festivities.

After performing poojas by dedicating festive dishes to the Almighty, people sit and enjoy a delicious homemade festive food together with their family and friends. Some of the common Bhogi pandigai special dishes include poli, vadai payasam virundhu and so on.

Did you know?
Bhogi pandigai is celebrated in
  • Andhra Pradesh as Bhogi Pallu
  • Punjab as Lohri
  • Assam as Mahg Bihu or Bhogali Bihu

Bhogi Pandigai - Quick Facts

  • Celebrated on last day of the Tamil month of Marghazi
  • This year, Bhogi Pandigai falls on 14.01.2015

Pongal Pandigai

Pongal Celebrations

The most important day among the four days of Pongal festivities, Thai Pongal is celebrated on the first day of the Tamil month of 'Thai'.

"Thai piranthal, vazhi pirakkum"

A famous saying in Tamil Nadu, which means that the birth of the Tamil month Thai paves way for new opportunities! An officially declared Government holiday, Thai Pongal is primarily celebrated as a thanksgiving to Lord Surya (Sun God). The main day of Thai Pongal is also referred as 'Thamizhar' Thirunaal which means a special day of Tamilians. Also, the day is popularly called as 'Uzhavar Thirunaal' which means that a carnival of Tamil farmers.
Pongal Clay Pots

Farmers and other people who are involved in agribusiness celebrate the day of Thai Pongal with absolute zeal and fervor. After putting hard work for almost a year on the farm fields, under the hot sun, farmers gather and thank the Sun God for good harvest. In villages, farmers and landlords gather on the agricultural fields, celebrate the day by boiling milk using a log fire stove set up in decorated clay pots. Clay pots are decorated as well with vibhoodhi pattai and a fresh turmeric plant and flowers are tied around its neck.
Pongalo Pongal Moment

When the milk rises, people gathered there literally shout 'Pongalo Pongal’ with inexpressible joy and usually an elder among the people come forward and add rice to the boiling milk. Tamil people regard it a good sign to catch the moment of milk boiling over as it implies good fortune and prosperity. What is more, brown cane sugar, roasted green gram, dried grapes, cashew nuts and cardamom are further added. Once the special dish is ready, people offer prayers and dedicate the festive food to the almighty and have a sumptuous feast seated together right on the fields, irrespective of social and economic class.

Pongal Celebrations in Urban Areas

In urban parts, people wake up early in the morning, (some) wear new clothes and decorate their cooking stove with flowers and apply 'vibhoodhi' (sacred ash) at the four corners. Then, they celebrate the fete by boiling milk in stainless steel pots.

Pongal dishes

Typically, three types of Pongal are made on the big day, a sweet pongal (chakkarai pongal), milk pongal (paal pongal) and ven pongal. A special pongal sambar/pongal kuzhambhu is prepared to go with the ven pongal.
Sugar Cane Shops in Tamil Nadu for Pongal

Last but not least, Pongal celebrations in the state are incomplete with sugarcane. Yes, sugarcane is the x-factor of Pongal festivities as after the heavy meal, people together with their little ones share a light-hearted time while chewing the sweet-sweet sugar cane!

Thai Pongal - Quick Facts

  • Celebrated on the first day of Tamil month of 'Thai'
  • This year, Thai Pongal Pandigai falls on 15.01.2015

Maatu Pongal

The 3rd day of the Pongal festivities (2nd day of the Tamil month of Thai) is all about thanksgiving to cattle. Cattle are an integral part of agriculture in the state as they play a crucial role at various levels. Starting from the supply of dairy products, cattle are involved in agribusiness in different stages including ploughing and transport. Furthermore, cow dung is widely used in the agricultural fields as a natural fertilizer across the villages in Tamil Nadu.
Tamil Nadu Maatu Pongal

To show the feeling a thankfulness and appreciation for their priceless service, the cattle are bathed; their solid horns are painted in green, yellow, blue and red. They are attractively decorated, in the sense, they will be given a beautiful look by colorful garlands and their foreheads are beautified by turmeric and kungumam (kumkum). People gather and poojas are offered to cattle and a special festive food, that is, a sweet mixture of ven pongal, various fruits, jaggery, and honey and so on is offered.

Jallikattu during Pongal

Across the rural parts of Tamil Nadu, Tamil veera vilayatukkal (adventurous games) like jallikkattu, manju virattu are organized. Also, in the evening, in order to feature their beautifully decorated cattle to everyone, people go for a jolly ride along with their cattle from one end to the other end of the streets. Children all over cheer this jolly ride with excitement.

Maatu Pongal - Quick Facts

  • Celebrated on the second day of Tamil month of 'Thai'
  • This year, Maatu Pongal falls on 16.01.2015

Kaanum Pongal

The fourth and the final day of the Pongal festivities (thrid day of the Tamil month of Thai), is observed as Kaanum Pongal. The word 'Kaanum' can literally be translated as 'to see or to visit' in English. As the name goes, Kaanum Pongal is all about family reunions and get togethers. Particularly, brothers in Tamil families visit their married sisters and greet them with special gifts as a sign of their love. Others visit their friends and relatives and exchange gifts and spend quality time together.

Marine Beach during Kaanum Pongal

In rural parts of Tamil Nadu, witnessing agricultural property owners gifting their field workers with special gifts like dhoti, saree, sugar cane and money is a usual sight. Kaanum Pongal is a day to give thanks to friends and relatives for their support in the harvesting. While in urban parts, people visit beaches and other picnic spots along with their friends and family and spend time. Though the festival originated as a rural festival, today Kaanum Pongal has become a statewide celebration for Tamil people regardless of their religious beliefs and economic class. Kaanum Pongal also labels the conclusion of the Pongal celebrations of the year.

Kaanum Pongal - Quick Facts

  • Celebrated on the third day of Tamil month of 'Thai'
  • This year, Kaanum Pongal falls on 17.01.2015
  • Kaanum Pongal is also celebrated as Thiruvalluvar Day in Tamil Nadu commemorating the greatness of the Tamil philosopher and poet Thiruvalluvar
  • The Tamil Nadu state government organizes several government events to remember the great poet and schools in the state conduct Thirukural competitions
Tout ensemble, Pongal is a festival that is celebrated by Tamils like no other festivals in the state.

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