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Pongal Festival - the Harvest Festival of Tamil Nadu - Festivals of India

Updated on January 27, 2020
rajan jolly profile image

Rajan is a botany and chemistry major. He has worked as a poultry breeder for 23 years, breeding layer and broiler parents.

Pongal Dates For 2020

The dates for the four days of Pongal celebration are from 15 to 18 January 2020

Community Pongal

pongal being celebrated by the community
pongal being celebrated by the community | Source

About Pongal Festival

Pongal is the traditional Hindu harvest festival of South India, especially the Tamil people of Tamil Nadu state of India. It is one of the most popular and important of the South Indian festivals.

Celebrated as a four day long thanksgiving festival its origin dates over 1000 years back. This day is also celebrated by various names as Makar Sankranti, Bihu, Hadaya, Poki among others.

The celebrations are two fold:
For one, it celebrates and gives thanks for the bountiful harvest and second, it celebrates the change of season and marking the end of monsoon season for the year.

Pongal means "to boil" in Tamil and it represents the overflowing harvest. Pongal is also marked as the wedding month as the abundance of food makes it easier to go in for a large wedding.

Pongal is not a government holiday across the nation but a religious holiday in South & Central India. School & colleges remain closed on all 4 days as well as agricultural businesses.

Pongal Celebrations

the traditional pongal celebration with pots, sugarcane & leaves and flowers in an office
the traditional pongal celebration with pots, sugarcane & leaves and flowers in an office | Source

Legend (History) Of Pongal Festival

Though several legends are associated with the Pongal festival, the most popular is one of Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhan mountain on his little finger to protect the cattle and people from the Rain God, Lord Indra's wrath. It was on the first day called Bhogi Pongal that Lord Krishna lifeted the mountain.

As the legend goes, on the third day, that is; Mattu Pongal day, Lord Shiva sent his uffalow Nandi to tell the people to have oil massage and bath daily but eat once a day. Nandi became confused and mistakenly related the order the other way around.

This angered Lord Shiva who then made Nandi stay back on earth to help people with growing more food and this then became a harvest festival.

Sweet Pongal

sweet pongal being prepared
sweet pongal being prepared | Source

Preparation For Celebrating Pongal

Called Marghazi Kolam, this traditiona is followed in many villages.

The preparations start several days to almost a month before the actual festivities arrive as these are very elaborate and this is the most waited of all festivals.

Homes are whitewashed and decorated, new clothes bought, old household items collected for disposal and new ones bought in their place as also gifts for family and friends.

Cattle sheds are likewise cleaned and cattle bathed.

Pongal Kolam

Kolam drawn in front of the house
Kolam drawn in front of the house | Source

The Four Days Of Pongal Festival Celebrations

As mentioned earlier, the Pongal festival celebrations are spread over four days. The days are are:

  • Bhogi (Bogi) Pongal - 14 January 2016
  • Surya (Thai) Pongal - 15 January 2016
  • Mattu Pongal - 16 January 2016
  • Kannum (Katya) Pongal - 17 January 2016

women making pongal at a temple
women making pongal at a temple | Source

The Four Days Of Pongal Festival Celebrations

Day 1 - Bhogi Pongal:

This day, a day before the main Pongal day is celebrated to honour the Rain God, Lord Indra for the plentiful rains that provided the bumper harvest.. It also celebrates the end of winter.

People discard old and worn out things and buy new, burn these in the bonfire at dawn, lighted with wood and cow dung. The houses are cleaned and painted afresh, decorated traditionally with even oxen and buffaloes getting their horns painted.

Rice, sugarcane & turmeric are kept ready for use for the day two rituals.

Day 2 - Surya or Thai Pongal:

This day is celebrated by worshipping the Sun God, Lord Surya. Rice is boiled in milk and jaggery, in an earthen vessel, and the pot of rice is allowed to overflow, signifying abundance.

This concoction is called Pongal. Turmeric is tied to the pot of rice before offering it to the deity. Some more offerings like sugarcane, coconut and bananas are also given. Later on this is served to the gathering of people at home.

Pongal is cooked at sunrise. Kolam designs with rice flour and clay are drawn on the floor or wooden planks. People wear new clothes and greet one another 'Happy Pongal'.

Incidentally this day coincides with Makar Sankranti festival.

Day 3 - Mattu Pongal:

On this day people decorate and worship their cattle. the painted cattle horns are decorated with bells, beads, flowers etc. They are fed the Pongal offered to the Gods. Bull races and fights (Jallikattu) are also held.

The cattle are providers of dairy, fertilizer, labour and transportation for the farmer and his fields. They are also taken to tour the entire village.

This day is also called Kanu Pongal.

Day 4 - Kannum (Katya) Pongal

The fourth and last day of Pongal festival is also know as Karinaal in some areas of Tamil Nadu.

On this day people place a turmeric leaf on the ground after washing. The remains of the sweet Pongal are placed on this as well as pieces of sugarcane, betel nuts & leaves and bananas.

Feeding cows is consider auspicious and colored rice balls are fed to them. Women perform aarti (worship) for the well being of the brothers.

It is the time for family get togethers and reunions. Pongal songs are sung and folk dances performed.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
cow with painted horns for the pongal festivaltwigs being taken for the pongal bonfire
cow with painted horns for the pongal festival
cow with painted horns for the pongal festival | Source
twigs being taken for the pongal bonfire
twigs being taken for the pongal bonfire | Source

Pongal Symbols

The most commonly associated symbols with Pongal are related to agriculture and the Sun viz

  • The Sun
  • Wheatgrains
  • Sickle
  • The Chariot
  • Kolam

Pongal Recipes

Click thumbnail to view full-size
pongalisweet pongal riceven pongal
pongali | Source
sweet pongal rice
sweet pongal rice | Source
ven pongal
ven pongal | Source

Pongal Recipes

Some of the dishes made during Pongal are:

  1. Sakkarai (Pongal) made with rice, arhar dal, jaggery, milk almonds and cashews or raisins
  2. Avial made with vegetables, chana and urad dal
  3. Coconut Rice made with coconut, chana and urad dal
  4. Puli Pongal made with rice, green gram, tamarind, peanuts and black gram
  5. Salt Pongal made with rice, moong dal and cashewnuts

Avial Recipe

Sakkarai Pongal Recipe

© 2016 Rajan Singh Jolly


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    • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Flourish, with A multitude of traditions and rituals even within the broad Hindu religion umbrella these festivals are like a whiff of fresh air for everyone, joyful and invigorating.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      I like the idea of painting the horns of the oxen. This festival seems invigorating and joyful, especially after the monsoons.

    • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      @Vellur, thanks for reading & appreciating this write up.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      4 years ago from Dubai

      Pongal is a grand festival of South India. Great hub and pictures. Thank you for sharing.

    • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      @ billybuc, thanks Bill and I personally too love learning about other cultures.

      @ manatita, agriculture is the backbone of our existence and a bountiful harvest does call for a great celebration anywhere. Appreciate that you like the information on theis festival. Thanks brother.

      @ Venkatachari M, thanks for stopping by even though you are well aware of all these rituals.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      4 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Good description of the celebrations. The images are great. I described it in my own traditional way on my blog titled (Lifestyle Tips).

    • manatita44 profile image


      4 years ago from london

      Very beautiful and colourful, Rajan. I rather love the way they sit and the uniformity of the pots or cooking ware. Right up your street, I guess, all these food and recipes.

      Another beautiful Hub on Indian customs and their meanings. 'Harvest' is such a beautiful word! An overflowing Harvest is just awesome! A great harvest nourishes and replenishes in abundance. In the same way, a Soul truly harvested, flows gracefully in and through the body, shedding ecstatic tears of Joy and Delight. A great Hub, my Friend. Much Love.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Another wonderful cultural gift for us all...thank you for sharing it all with us...I, for one, am very grateful.

    • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      It is no doubt amazing how India keeps up with its multitude of different traditions and celebrates each one with the same zeal. Thanks Devika.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Wow! Incredible celebrations. I have learned about the tradition from this hub. Interesting of how Indians in India keep up the tradition so well.

    • rajan jolly profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      swalia, glad you found this hub informative. Thanks for reading & commenting.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 

      4 years ago from India

      Thanks for this informative hub! Though I have friends from Tamil Nadu, still I didn't know of all these details about Pongal.


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