Pongal is a four-day-long harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu, a southern state of India. For as long as people have been planting and gathering food, there has been some form of harvest festival. Pongal, one of the most important popular Hindu festivals of the year.
This four-day festival of thanksgiving to nature takes its name from the Tamil word meaning "to boil" and is held in the month of Thai (January-February) during the season when rice and other cereals, sugar-cane, and turmeric (an essential ingredient in Tamil cooking) are harvested.
The First Day – Bhogi
This first day is celebrated in honor of Lord Indra, the supreme ruler of clouds that give rains. Homage is paid to Lord Indra for the abundance of harvest, thereby bringing plenty and prosperity to the land. Another ritual observed on this day is Bhogi Mantalu, when useless household articles are thrown into a fire made of wood and cow-dung cakes. The significance of the bonfire, in which is burnt the agricultural wastes and firewood is to keep warm during the last lap of winter.
The Second Day - Pongal
This second day is celebrated in honor of Sun God.On this day, the puja or act of ceremonial worship is performed when rice is boiled in milk outdoors in a earthenware pot and is then symbolically offered to the sun god along with other oblations. In accordance with the appointed ritual a turmeric plant is tied around the pot in which the rice will be boiled. The offerings include the two sticks of sugar-cane in background and coconut and bananas in the dish.
A common feature of the puja, in addition to the offerings, is the kolam, the auspicious design which is traditionally traced in white lime powder before the house in the early morning after bathing.
See more Pongal Kolam designs here
The Third Day – Mattu Pongal
The third day is known as Mattu Pongal, the day of Pongal for cows. Multi-colored beads, tinkling bells, sheaves of corn and flower garlands are tied around the neck of the cattle and then are worshiped. They are fed with Pongal and taken to the village centers. Another key highlight of the day is the jallikattu, cattle taming festival, held in most interior parts of Tamil Nadu.
The Fourth Day - Kannum Pongal
The Fourth day is known as Knau or Kannum Pongal day. On a turmeric leaf, the left overs of sweet Pongal and Venn Pongal is offered to crows and other birds. This festival fraternal significance when the womenfolk pray for the well being of their brothers.
Legends of Pongal
Some legendary stories are also associated with Pongal festival celebrations. The two most popular legends of Pongal are stories related to Lord Shiva and Lord Indra.
According to a legend, once Shiva asked his bull, Basava, to go to the earth and ask the mortals to have an oil massage and bath every day and to eat once a month. Inadvertently, Basava announced that everyone should eat daily and have an oil bath once a month. This mistake enraged Shiva who then cursed Basava, banishing him to live on the earth forever. He would have to plough the fields and help people produce more food. Thus the association of this day with cattle.
Another legend of Lord Indra and Lord Krishna also led to Pongal celebrations. It is said when Lord Krishna were in his childhood, he decided to teach a lesson to Lord Indra who became arrogant after becoming the king of all deities. Lord Krishna asked all the cowherds to stop worshiping Lord Indra. This angered Lord Indra and sent forth his clouds for thunder-storms and 3 days continuous rains. Lord Krishna lifted Mount Govardhan to save all the humans. Later, Lord Indra realized his mistake and divine power of Krishna.
Other names of pongal
In the south, people have the festival of Pongal, which is celebrated over four days. The newly harvested rice is cooked and this preparation goes by the name Pongal.
In the North Indian states of India, people celebrate this day as Makar Sankranti. The most exciting thing about this festival is the kite flying. People believe that the direction of the wind changes on that day, and so they all come out into the streets to fly colorful kites and capture as many as possible.
On Kaanum Pongal, elaborate powdered chalk designs of the sun god, Surya are drawn. As soon as the auspicious month of Thai is underway, Surya is worshiped.
In Punjab, people celebrate Lohri in January on what they believe is the coldest day of the year. With the cold winds blowing they celebrate by dancing the bhangra around a fire, which is fed with sugarcane, rice and sesame seeds. People sing folk songs that tell of a good harvest, which is a blessing from the gods.
Bihu / Bohaggiyo Bhishu
This is the greatest festival of the Assamese people, who observe three Bihus. The three Bihus, constitute a festival complex and are celebrated at various stages of the cultivation of paddy, the principal crop of Assam.
Pongal SMS / Lohri SMS/ Bihu SMS
• "Warm thoughts reach out, to all those who are held dear, as the auspicious festival that marks the beginning of the harvest season, draws near. As the festival of Pongal is here, hoping it ushers in good days, that are filled with happiness and cheer, and the fervor it symbolizes, stays with you throughout the year. With best wishes."
• "As you celebrate the festival of Pongal, with a lot of fervor and cheer, this warm greeting comes your way, with a world of good wishes for every joy and happiness."
• "Hope this festival marks the beginning of a harvest season, that is happy and cheerful and one which brings with it good luck and prosperity for always. Greetings on Pongal"
• "Sending your way, warm greetings on the auspicious occasion of Pongal and wishing you life's best now and in all the days to come. As you joyfully celebrate the festival of Pongal and welcome the harvest season, this greeting is being sent your way, to wish you everything, that the occasion is meant to bring. Have a happy Pongal"
• "Wishing that this festival is one, which brings good luck and prosperity and hoping that it is joyous, and fills your days ahead with happiness. Have a wonderful Pongal."
• "Wishing you a prosperous and joy, to last forever. Hope this special day marks, the start of a harvest season, that a happy and successful in every way and brings with it prosperity, good luck and moments to cherish."
• "Pongal is here, an occasion that marks joy and cheer, and brings along everything that's best. May the festival of the harvest season, be one that brings along with it, all that's best and everything you're so deserving of. Have a memorable Pongal."