Pongal is one of the fascinating festivals celebrated with great enthusiasm in India and other parts of the world among people belonging to Southern part of India. This is an ancient harvest festival celebrated from mid-January to mid-February.
It also marks the beginning of Uttarayan- sun's journey towards north and end of winter season. Pongal is celebrated around the same time as other harvest festivals of India like Makar Sankranti, Lohri and Magh Bihu.
Representing the veneration of the first fruits of the harvest season, the festival marks the end of the farming period. It marks the beginning of 'Uttarayana', the sun's movement towards the north for the next six months. That is why this festival is considered as an auspicious and perfect occasion for all events.
One of the major reason to celebrate this festival is to thank God and nature for blessing Earth with all the divine gifts in life. Pongal is celebrated for four days and each day is celebrated in a unique manner.
First Day of Pongal
Called as ‘Bhogi’ festival, the first day of the Pongal celebrations is observed in honour of Lord Indra, the 'God of Rains and Clouds'. People offer their prayers to Lord Indra for the richness of harvest, which will bring prosperity and joy.
Second Day of Pongal
On the second day, a sacred ceremony is conducted to please the Sun-God and other deities. This day is celebrated by cooking rice in milk in a new earthen pot in the outdoors. Two sticks of sugar canes, coconuts and bananas are offered on a plate in addition to the boiling of the rice ceremony. People dress in their finest traditional attire during the rituals.
Third Day of Pongal
'Mattu Pongal' forms the third day of the Pongal festival celebrations and is entirely dedicated to cows. The tinkling bells, flower garlands, sheaves of corn and multi-colored gems are tied around the cattle and are worshipped with all sincerity on this day. The 'pongal' dish, which is prepared as part of the festivities, is fed to the cattle and then they are taken to the village centres.
Fourth Day of Pongal
Known as ‘Kannum Pongal’, the fourth day of Pongal celebrations marks the end of the Pongal celebrations. One of the rituals performed on this day includes the washing of the turmeric leaf and placing it on the ground by women during the early hours of the morning. All the women in the house assemble in the courtyard when this ritual is performed, and they will pray for the prosperity of the house and family.