Pongal 2022: Pongal, the four-day harvest festival celebrated in South India, especially Tamil Nadu, will be celebrated with great enthusiasm from January 14-17 this year. Celebrated in mid-January every year, 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.
Pongal significance and celebrations
The celebrations begin on the first day with Bhogi Pongal as fresh harvest of rice, sugarcane, turmeric is brought from the fields. Old and useless domestic articles are discarded and are burnt along with cow dungs as part of the ritual of Bhogi Mantalu which also signifies new beginnings.
The second day of the festival, also known as Surya Pongal or Thai Pongal, is dedicated to the Sun God and is also the first day of the Tamil month Thai. On this day women wake up early in the morning, clean their houses and decorate homes with beautiful kolam designs. On this day, the freshly harvested rice is boiled in pots along with milk and jaggery till they overflow and spill. The ceremony captures the essence of the word Pongal which means to boil or overflow. The Sun God is offered this dessert before it’s served to the family members on banana leaves.
The third day of Pongal is called Mattu Pongal where Lord Ganesha and Parvati are worshipped and Pongal is offered to them. The word mattu means bull and on this day, cattle are bathed, their horns are painted and covered with shining metal caps. They are also decorated with flower garlands and bells.
The fourth and final day of Pongal is called Kaanum Pongal which is also considered an auspicious day to start new bonds and relationships.
Legends say that Pongal celebration date back to Sangam age (200BC-200AD) and has found mention in puranas. According to one of the legends associated with Pongal, Lord Shiva had a bull called Basava who he sent on earth to spread the message that humans should have oil massage and bath every day and eat once a month. Basava instead told humans to do the opposite – eat every day and take an oil bath once a month. Punished by Lord Shiva, Basava was sent to earth to help humans by ploughing their field and meet their daily food requirements. This is how cattle came to be associated with Pongal.