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South India Holiday Tours   Periyar Wildlife Reserve in Kerala, Periyar Wildlife Reserves Tour to Kerala Tamilnadu Tours Periyar Wildlife Reserve in Kerala, Periyar Wildlife Reserves Tour to KeralaFestivals in Tamil Nadu Periyar Wildlife Reserve in Kerala, Periyar Wildlife Reserves Tour to KeralaPongal FestivalTamilnadu, Pongal Festival in Tamil Nadu

Pongal FestivalTamilnadu | Pongal Festival in Tamil Nadu

Pongal is the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu. On this day, people thank God for a bountiful harvest. They prepare a special dish called 'Sarkkarai Pongal' and pray for the blessings of Sun God. One of the most popular Tamil festivals, it is celebrated on January 14th every year, when it coincides with Makar Sankranti celebrations in entire North India, Lohri in Punjab, Bhogali Bihu in Assam and Bhogi in Andhra Pradesh. It is one of the very few Dravidian festivals that have survived the Indo-Aryan influences. Pongal also finds little reference in Puranas.

Falling just after the winter solstice and a bountiful harvest, Pongal marks the season of celebration and joyous activities and it is celebrated continuously for four days. On the first day, Bhogi Pongal, celebrations are confined to the house. Evil spirits are driven out of the home and burnt in bonfires, and the house is whitewashed. tamilnadu pongal festival in tamil nadu, pongal festivals in tamilnadu, pongal festival tour, pongal cultural festival, Pongal Festival The second day, Surya Pongal, honors the Sun god. Members of the family wear new clothes and cook - on a new stove and in new pots - a dish with the newly harvested rice, jaggery and moong dal.

The third day is Maattu Pongal, honoring cattle. Cows and bullocks are washed, decorated and worshipped, for their role in ensuring a good harvest. Pongal also marks the beginning of a New Year and is the day to praise and thank God with full devotion, faith and sincerity of heart. The festival covers all living beings including humans, cattle and birds and crops. Even the insects are not overlooked and offered rice and flour, in the form of 'Kollam', on the entrance way of the houses. Thus, Pongal is a day for peace and happiness for all.

India is bestowed with the bliss of festivity. A major segment of the population here depends on agriculture.tamilnadu pongal festival in tamil nadu, pongal festivals in tamilnadu, pongal festival tour, pongal cultural festival, Pongal Festival As a result, most of the festivals are also related to the agricultural activities of the people. These festivals are celebrated with different names and rituals in almost all the parts of India. Pongal is one of such highly revered festivals celebrated in Tamil Nadu to mark the harvesting of crops by farmers. Held in the middle of January, it is the time when the people get ready to thank God, Earth and their Cattle for the wonderful harvest and celebrate the occasion with joyous festivities and rituals.

The four-day Harvest festival is celebrated all over the state in January. The festival begins on the last day of the Tamil month with Bhogi Pongal followed by Surya

Pongal on the next day. It is on this day that Chakkara Pongal, a delicacy of harvest rice cooked with jaggery, ghee and cashew nuts is offered to the Sun God. tamilnadu pongal festival in tamil nadu, pongal festivals in tamilnadu, pongal festival tour, pongal cultural festival, Pongal Festival The third day, Mattu Pongal is dedicated to the Cattle when cows are bathed and adomed with colorful beads and flowers. Jallikattu, the bullfight is held on the last day known as Kannum Pongal.

Pongal festival falls on the same day each year, on 13th January, coinciding with the festivals of Lohri in Punjab and Goop in Andhra Pradesh.

¤ The Pongal Celebration

The actual festivities of Pongal begin on 14th January and last for four days. From an astrological standpoint, this is a propitious period because this is the time when the sun enters the Northern Hemisphere. The sun traverses from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Tropic of Cancer via the Equator (from 14th January to 14th July), and this auspicious movement is termed as uttarayan (summer solstice). The sanctity of the uttarayan period is borne out by an interesting tale from the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. The doyen of the Kaurava clan, Bhishma Pitama, lay on a bed of arrows in the battlefield of Kurukshetra (see Haryana). Though he was blessed with the boon of being the sole arbiter of his own time of death and inspite of being in terrible pain, he waited for the period of uttarayan to breathe his last.

¤ The Festive Preparations

The months preceding Pongal are spent sowing seeds, cultivating short-term crops and so on, keeping the farmers continuously on their toes. So Pongal is the time when the farmers rejoice in the fruits of their labour and nobody grudges them a few days of rest and recreation.

South Indian households are spring cleaned a few days prior to the festival, much in the same manner as north Indian households are before Diwali. Damaged utensils, frayed furniture and tapestry are replaced with spanking new ones, in anticipation of the coming festivities. Though south Indian homes are kept spic and span, dust and dirt do manage to sneak in regularly. Consequently the homemakers in the south have to put in a lot of hard work before the day of the festival. New clothes are a temptation that few can resist, especially during the festival season. Women buy exquisite saris and young girls add new langhas and dhavnis (half sari) to their wardrobes. Men do not lag far behind, resplendently dressed in brand new lungis and angavastrams (a cotton or silk shawl, white or off-white with zari border, thrown over the shoulder). The colourful attires of the people echo the exuberance and gaiety of the occasion.

¤ The Mythological Stories

Known as the bhogi pandigai, the first day is an ode to Lord Indra, the bestower of the much-needed rain. Because of his penchant for worldly pleasures, Lord Indra has been nicknamed bhogi, or one who enjoys the good things of life. Indeed a description of this day is incomplete without the intriguing and delightfully human mythological legend accompanying it. According to the story, an irate Lord Krishna (the blue god and an incarnation of Vishnu, the Preserver) directed the earthlings to worship Narayan (another incarnation of Vishnu) instead of Indra, for the latter lead a decadent life. The insulted and humiliated Indra gave vent to his fury by lashing the earth with torrential rain. But Indra’s prowess proved to be unequal to that of Lord Krishna for the latter nonchalantly picked up the mighty Govardhan Mountain on his little finger to protect the people from the deluge. After a heartfelt plea for pardon, a deeply repentant Indra was finally reinstated as a god worthy of reverence.

¤ The Pongal Day

PongalLet’s leave the celestial peccadilloes of gods behind, and take a peek into a Tamil household. Tumbling out of bed at the first blush of the morning sun, a ritual til (sesame seed) oil massage followed by an invigorating bath with shikakai or any other homemade preparation to enrich the skin, is the first task of the day.

A feeling of anticipation and excitement is palpable in the air. The highlight of the day is the bonfire in which old rugs, mats, papers, clothes, etc. are burnt – an age-old ritual to bid adieu to the old and joyously ring in the new. As always, children are in their element as nothing pleases them more than making a ruckus. On this day, they have a blast (literally speaking!) by beating drums especially made for this occasion and dancing around flames – an effective antidote to the nip in the air. If one is to believe in legends, this month of maargazhi (ninth month of the lunar calendar) is sacred because Lord Krishna, the blue deity of the Hindus, is said to mostly manifest himself during this time.

¤ Festive Delicacies

Food plays an important role in any Indian festival. Lunch on the first day of Pongal is an elaborate family affair with delicacies like poli (sweets), vadai (salty dish) and an assortment of rice preparations. The women of the house are supposed to keep sandalwood paste, kumkum (vermilion), mango leaves, coconut fronds, sugarcane leaves, banana leaves, ginger pieces, white flour, new brass vessels, haldi (turmeric) powder and a metal plate ready in advance.

The celebration of makar sankranti in other parts of India coincides with the second day of Pongal, which is also the first day of the new month of thai or magh (10th month of the lunar calendar). Each Tamil home has enchanting green chains made of mango leaves decorating doorways and pillars. Banana and sugarcane plants along with coconut fronds are strategically placed at the gateways, forming a leafy archway. Strings of marigold add a dash of colour enhancing the freshness of the lush foliage. Women, young and old, decorate the floors with kolam (patterns made by coloured powders). Countless masterpieces are created in the form of kolams, and the craftsmanship would probably put even the most accomplished artist to shame.

¤ The Festive Activities Throughout The Day

There is a constant hum of activities throughout the day with people visiting to admire the exquisitely decorated houses and newly bought articles. Women have to take time out amongst all the fun and frolic to prepare a feast fit for a king. Cooking vessels are adorned with mango leaves, turmeric leaves, ginger saplings, dots of vermilion, turmeric and various other things, and placed on the fire only by the lady of the house. Specialties of the day include the venpongal (salty dish) and chakkaraipongal (dish made with jaggery) that are then taken out in the sun along with coconuts and other fruits. Amidst chanting of mantras that mean ‘I give to you what you had given to me’ and Sanskrit shlokas glorifying the Sun or the ‘sustainer of life’, aarti (prayer with lamps) is performed. The ceremonial surya namaskar (worship of the Sun God) is performed keeping in mind the solemnity of the occasion. It is considered sacred to observe the sun either through fingers intertwined in a particular way so the rays do not directly impact the eye, or on a thaali (plate) full of water mixed with vermilion and turmeric. The festivities of the day are rounded off with a sumptuous lunch of idli (rice dumpling), dosa (paper-thin pancakes made of lentils) and rice cooked in different styles.

¤ Maatu Pongal Celebrations

In keeping with India’s reputation as the land of the sacred cow, the third day is known as maatu pongal. Maatu in Tamil means cow or bull. Cattle represents prosperity and is worshipped. Cows and bulls are bedecked with tinkling bells, and turmeric mixed with vermilion is smeared on the horns. A cattle procession is taken out and people offer fruits and other goodies to the animals. However, the main attraction of this day is the bullfight in which young men participate with more enthusiasm than skill. Though chances of an injury are high, the young Romeos do not mind taking the risk, especially as that entails a hero’s welcome from the comely village belles. Gambling and betting are part of the game. The revelry carries on till very late with people dancing and singing to the beat of the mridungam and dhol (drums of different kinds).

¤ Kaanum pongal
Kaanum pongal is the final day of the festival. After so many days of merrymaking, people take things easy on this day. No new venture is undertaken today because it is considered a karinaal (inauspicious) day. The spirit of sharing bounty with all – animals and human alike – is embodied in the rituals associated with kanyapongal (another name of the last day). A variety of rice preparations along with curd are served on banana or turmeric leaves and left outside so that all kinds of creatures like birds, ants, squirrels and the like can partake of the fare and the good fortune.

Resembling the north Indian festival of Raksha Bandhan when the sister ties a rakhi on the wrist of her brother as a token of love and in return for protection, this day celebrates the bond between siblings in the south as well. The parents or brothers invite their married daughters and sisters along with their families for a grand luncheon whereby the women pray for the long life and prosperity of their parents, brothers and children. A token gift in cash or kind is a must (according to the sister) from the brother or mother.

Thus ends the festival of Pongal with a reaffirmation of traditional values such as family and sharing. Today there is an increase in the number of households celebrating Pongal, as north Indians too are eager to join in the festivities, ever ready to dig into the dishes prepared at this time.



Festivals in Tamil Nadu
The Harvest Festival 'Pongal' Chithirai Festival at Madurai
The Mahamagam Festival Karthigai Deepam
Velankanni Festivals Jallikatu Bull Fight


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