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The Pongal or The Harvest Festival

Updated on January 14, 2009
Shops and Hotel Lounges are decorated like this!
Shops and Hotel Lounges are decorated like this!

The Pongal festival,is a four day Thanksgiving festival like the Harvest Festival and is celebrated by Tamils, that is, the people of a state called Tamil Nadu in South India. Pongal also symbolizes the departure of the Southeast monsoons as well as the reaping of the harvest ! Before the IT industry hit the country, the majority of the population of India depended on agriculture and hence, there are many agriculture related festivals in India . Pongal is one of them and basically it is a rural festival,nonetheless everyone in the city celebrate it as well,though not as elaborate as in rural areas.



The Bonfire!
The Bonfire!

This four day festival starts on January 13th and ends on Jan 16th. The first day is called 'Bhogi', where all the unwanted and old stuff are burnt in a huge Bonfire. The houses are then painted and the doors smeared with vermilion and sandal paste! Colourful garlands of leaves and flowers don the doorways of almost every home. On this day 'Bhogi' day, the Rain God is worshipped.



Traditional Food served on Banana Leaf
Traditional Food served on Banana Leaf

Milk and Rice cooked in open fire!

The 2nd Day is called Pongal which means "boiling over or spill over." Milk is allowed to boil over in a clay pot ,which signifies future prosperity for the family and this festival is dedicated to the worship of ‘Surya’, or the Sun God. A Sweet Rice Pudding which is a concoction of Rice, Moong dhal, Molaasis , Ghee, milk with dried fruits is cooked in an open fire and offered to God first, on a new banana leaf,along with certain other traditional specialties. Beside these foods, sugarcane and grain are also served! Moreover,community meals are also cooked from the freshly gathered harvest and enjoyed by the entire village!

The Colorful Cows

The third day of Pongal, "Maattu Pongal", is for the worship of the cattle. ‘Maattu’ means cow in Tamil and thus the cattle are pampered with a bath, their horns painted in bright colours and garlands of flowers are placed around their necks and many times even balloons adorn their horns!This festival is also called "Kanuum Pongal" in cities and towns where majority do not have cows at home. During this festival women pray for the welfare of their brothers !

The fourth day is called 'Thiruvalluvar Day' dedicated to a famous Tamil poet! Whereas in villages this day is known as the ‘Meat Day’ where each household has to cook meat!



The Bull Taming

The high light of these festivals is the ‘Bull Taming’ or ‘Jallikattu’ where bundles of money are tied to the horns of bulls and the villagers try to wrest the money from the horns. Of course, each year there are many deaths and many are gravely injured .The Tamil Nadu government tries to ban the sport but then, they are always pressurized to allow it to be continued as it is has been a tradition! Whereas from last year,the court has ordered that the horns of the bulls be blunted and the presence of Animal Activist mandatory!

The other highlight of the occasion is making designs with colored powders called ‘Kollam’ .These deigns are drawn outside the door of each house,with a lump of clay cradling a hibiscus flower perched in the center of the design. This is considered as a symbol of fertility.

The people greet each other with a “Happy Pongal” whereas the villagers shout “Pongallo Pongal.” That's about all in a nutshell regarding a tradition from Tamil Nadu in South India!








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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice photos sir.......

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      the pictures are awesome but information is little less.

    • Laila Rajaratnam profile imageAUTHOR

      Laila Rajaratnam 

      9 years ago from India

      Thanks Tony, for the appreciation!:)

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      9 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks for a very interesting Hub - I really enjoyed reading it.

      Love that design with the coloured powders - wish I could do that! So very beautiful. Reminded me of the sand mandalas of the Tibetan monks and the sand paintings of the indigenous American people.

      Love and peace,


    • hubber-2009 profile image


      9 years ago from India

      Pongal / Makara Sankranthi is a harvest festival -the Indian equivalent of Thanksgiving

    • Anamika S profile image

      Anamika S Jain 

      9 years ago from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India

      How I love the feast of Pongal. You have not left anything out of the Topic. Excellent Job!

    • Anamika S profile image

      Anamika S Jain 

      9 years ago from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India

      How I love the feast of Pongal. You have not left anything out of the Topic. Excellent Job!

    • Laila Rajaratnam profile imageAUTHOR

      Laila Rajaratnam 

      9 years ago from India

      Thanks Cris for the appreciation! Indeed,reading about cultures are so very interesting!:)Thanks for stopping by!:)

    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 

      9 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      It's nice to read hubs of other cultures - it's fascinating to note how similar we are in our beliefs yet very different in our execution. This is very entertaining and educational, too! Thanks for sharing :D

    • Laila Rajaratnam profile imageAUTHOR

      Laila Rajaratnam 

      9 years ago from India

      Muthusamy,thanks! Wish you a Happy Pongal too!:)

    • Laila Rajaratnam profile imageAUTHOR

      Laila Rajaratnam 

      9 years ago from India

      G-Ma, Thanks for your comment.. and this bull taming is not about letting a bull run through the town and people running away! Yes, this is about wresting the money taped to the horn, and of course a huge amount of money is involved .It is also supposedly to be about valour and courage. G-Ma the experience is soooo very frightening. Once,a few of us friends went to a village to watch.. My God ! I knew real terror that day! I never thought I’ll return home alive..thought I’ll be killed by stampede. Now I don’t watch it on TV also!

    • Laila Rajaratnam profile imageAUTHOR

      Laila Rajaratnam 

      9 years ago from India

      AEvans..I’m glad I was able to enlighten you about Pongal and I really do hope that one day you are able to experience it in person! Thanks..I enjoyed writing this hub too!

      Anjali..Yes.. Pongal Rice is the yummiest sweet! It is so simple , that I’m sure you can make it yourself..:)Thanks!

      VioletSun..Thanks! That was a wonderful way of putting it! I never thought of it in those lines, but after you have mentioned it..Yes..I feel it must be true! Thanks!

    • Muthusamy R profile image

      Muthusamy R 

      9 years ago from CHENNAI India

      Madam, WISH YOU A HAPPY PONGAL AND SEASONS GREETINGS. You have brought out the wonderful hub 'Pongal or the Harvest Festival' The pictures are excellent.

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 

      9 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      I have never been able to understand the bull not the same as when the bull runs through town and people run away?? These bulls have money taped to their horns in India? Lot's of money? I guess enough to risk one's life to get??? Very interesting hub thank you...G-Ma :o) Hugs & Peace

    • VioletSun profile image


      9 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

      A very fascinating glimpse into a culture that is rich with traditions. My thoughts as I read your hub is that all that combined positive and festive focus and energy from thousands of people during the festivals,  is bound to do some good.

      Enjoyed your hub!

    • anjalichugh profile image


      9 years ago from New York

      Hi Laila! You reminded me of the sweet fragrance of that special rice which is made on this day. I had a friend from South and courtesy her, I got a chance to eat from her packed lunch, almost ten years ago. It was delicious. Thx for bringing back that aroma.

    • AEvans profile image


      9 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

      Laila, I thank you for writing this as it sounds like a lot of fun and is very fesitive I hope that one day I can expereience Pongal I enjoy learning about others festivities and this is exciting!!!:)

    • Laila Rajaratnam profile imageAUTHOR

      Laila Rajaratnam 

      9 years ago from India

      CW,Happy Pongal to you too!:)Yes,festival times are the times when the heart yearns for home!:)Hope you are able to come home to eat your mom's food soon!:)

    • countrywomen profile image


      9 years ago from Washington, USA

      Happy Pongal. Great pictures. You did a fantastic job. The traditional food on a banana leaf makes me remember my mom so much during these festival times. I am just making sweet pongal and offering it. I will go to the local temple in the evening. Hope you are having a great time enjoying the festivities.

    • Lgali profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice photos and info


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