What Is Pongal Festival? Dates, History & More

What Is Pongal Festival? Dates, History & More

The harvest festival of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and some other parts of India, Pongal is a popular harvest festival celebrated typically in mid-January, marking the beginning of the Tamil calendar year. The festival is dedicated to the Sun God, Surya, and is a time for expressing gratitude for the harvest.

When Is Pongal

Celebrated over four days, Pongal Festival also marks the beginning of the Tamil month called Thai, which is considered an auspicious month. Pongal is also the name of the dish made and eaten during this festival – a mixture of boiled sweet rice. It is derived from the Tamil word pongu, which means “to boil over”. Each day of this four day festival has its own significance. This year, it falls on January 15th.

Day 1 – Bhogi Pongal: This day is dedicated to the ritual of discarding old and unused items, symbolizing a new beginning. People clean and decorate their homes, and a bonfire is lit using the discarded items.

Day 2 – Thai Pongal: The main day of the festival, Thai Pongal is when people cook the special dish called Pongal. It is a dish made of newly harvested rice, lentils, and milk, cooked in a traditional earthen pot. The dish is then offered to the Sun God as a symbol of gratitude.

Day 3 – Mattu Pongal: This day is dedicated to cattle, as they play a crucial role in agriculture. Cattle are bathed, decorated, and worshiped as a way of expressing gratitude for their contribution to farming.

Day 4 – Kaanum Pongal: The final day involves family outings and social gatherings. People visit friends and relatives, and in some regions, they also worship the Sun God and seek blessings for prosperity.

Where Is Pongal Celebrated

Pongal is a time for joy, feasting, and celebration. It brings together families and communities, fostering a sense of unity and gratitude for the bounties of the harvest. The colorful kolams (rangoli), traditional clothing, and various cultural activities make Pongal a vibrant and festive occasion.

Pongal is primarily celebrated in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where it holds great cultural and traditional significance. However, it is also celebrated with enthusiasm in other parts of India, especially in the southern states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and in some regions of Maharashtra. As the festival is closely associated with agriculture, and its celebration extends to areas where farming is a major occupation.

Why Do We Celebrate Pongal

The historical and cultural roots of Pongal Festival can be traced back to ancient Tamil society and agrarian practices. The festival has its origins in Dravidian culture and is associated with the farming community’s reverence for nature and the elements. It is also considered the ‘Dravidian Harvest festival’. But some historians claim that this festival dates back at least 2,000 years old and was celebrated as Thai Niradal.

According to the legends, during this festive season, unmarried girls prayed for the agricultural prosperity of the country, and for this purpose, they observed penance during the Tamil month of Margazhi. They abstained from the consumption of milk and milk products and didn’t oil their hair throughout the month. The use of harsh words is strictly refrained by them. A ceremonial bath in the early morning is part of the ritual of penance. According to the Hindu mythology, there is a popular legend associated with Pongal that revolves around Lord Shiva and his bull, Nandi. It is believed that on this day, Lord Shiva sent Nandi to Earth to deliver a message to people, asking them to take an oil bath every day and eat once a month. However, Nandi mistakenly advised people to eat daily and take an oil bath once a month. Shiva was pleased with Nandi’s efforts and declared that day as a day of celebration, which is now known as Pongal.

The festival also marks the end of winter, hence Pongal is celebrated around the time of the winter solstice when the Sun starts its journey northward. The festival is a way of honoring the Sun God (Surya) for providing energy and warmth necessary for agricultural activities.


What To Wear To The Festival

Traditional attire is commonly worn during Pongal celebrations. The choice of clothing often depends on personal preferences, cultural traditions, and regional variations. Usually, women opt for sarees and salwar kameez in cotton and silk. The color scheme preferred is white or bright colors.

Some Lashkaraa picks for Pongal would be styles like the Dusty Olive Kurta Set, a timeless shade in the form of embroidered suit that unfolds heritage and sophistication – the perfect outfit for Pongal 2024. For a grand function or event, one can even go for a lehenga set like the White Embroidered lehengathat features stunning embroidery. The White Embroidered Brocade Lehenga is another gorgeous option. For the contemporary woman who likes to prioritize comfort over everything yet look stylish and classy, the White and Gold Hand Embroidered Straight Suit would be fabulous. 

Some color-rich options would be

Women may accessorize their outfits with traditional jewelry such as earrings, bangles, and necklaces. Women may also choose to wear a bindi, a decorative dot worn on the forehead.

Men's Attire for the occasion ranges from a simple dhoti kurta, preferably in silk or cotton, to pancha and kurta, similar style to dhoti and kurta. Children also wear traditional Indian outfits similar to those worn by adults. This can include miniaturized versions of sarees, salwar kameez, dhoti-kurta, or pancha-kurta. It’s important to note that specific clothing choices may vary based on regional customs and personal preferences. Vibrant and colorful attire is generally favored during Pongal to reflect the festive spirit of the celebration. Additionally, wearing new clothes is considered auspicious during this time.

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