Photograph courtesy: Rathikasitsabaiesan/Creative Commons
Pongal, the first harvest festival of the year, is a sacred one for Tamilians all over the world and the best celebrations take place in the state of Tamil Nadu. It falls on January 14 this year and the date pretty much remains constant over the years, sometimes it falls on January 15 as well. Pongal is also called Thai Pongal as the festival marks the beginning of the Tamil month Thai. This is considered to be an auspicious one and people celebrate it with much enthusiasm. Thai month is believed to bring good luck by vanishing one’s problems away and therefore people look forward to celebrating Pongal. The harvest festival is celebrated over four days with each day having a different ritual. Here is how Pongal is celebrated in Tamil Nadu.
Pongal is a harvest festival and since rice is one of the main crops grown here, it is given due importance during the rituals. Even turmeric and sugarcane are grown in Tamil Nadu. The harvest festival is in the month of Thai which is considered auspicious for weddings as well. Here’s what the rituals are for each of the four days of Pongal. ALSO SEE History and significance of Pongal
The first day of Pongal is celebrated by paying respect to the rain gods who are responsible in ensuring a good crop year. People offer their prayers by thanking Indra for this blessings and ask for a good year again. People also light up a bonfire and throw the items they want to discard in it. In the evening, women sing and dance around the bonfire which helps keep warm as well as the night gets chilly.
The next day of the harvest festival has more elaborate rituals where the women of the house decorate the area outside the house using white powder in the morning. Then, rice is boiled in milk in an earthen pot outside the house. Sugarcane sticks are used for decoration along with banana leaves and turmeric plant. This rice is offered to the sun god who again is responsible for a good harvest. The word Pongal translates to boil over and boiling rice signifies its name. On this day, people also wear new, ethnic wear for the celebrations. ALSO SEE Pongal holidays are no longer compulsory
The third day of Pongal is reserved for offering prayers to cows who is considered a sacred animal for Hindus. The cows are adorned with bells and flowers around their neck. Women then perform aarti to get rid of any evil eye and seek the animal’s blessings. Cows are then paraded in the village and the tiny bells reverberate their arrival. There is a cheer in the atmosphere and villagers also organize cattle races on this day.
The last day of Thai Pongal celebrations end with a pooja right outside the home. Women wake up in the morning and before bathing, they place a washed turmeric leaf on the ground. Different kinds of rice are placed on it along with sugarcane sticks, betel nuts and more. The pooja performed is essentially for their brothers, to ensure they prosper in life. This marks the end of the harvest festival celebration in Tamil Nadu. ALSO SEE Pongal celebration photos
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