Pongal – Harvest festival is dedicated to Sun God. It is a four-day festival which according to the Tamil calendar is usually celebrated from January 14 to January 17.
The pongal – harvest festival is celebrated as a thanksgiving ceremony for the year’s harvest. Pongal, one of the important Hindu festivals, falls around the same time as Lohri every year, which is around mid-January.
In the Tamil language the word Pongal means “overflowing,” signifying abundance and prosperity.
Thai Pongal corresponds to the harvest festival celebrated throughout India.
Pongal – Significance :
The Thai Pongal day marks the start of the sun’s six-month-long journey northwards (the Uttaraayanam). This also corresponds to the Indic solstice when the sun purportedly enters the 10th house of the Indian zodiac Makara or Capricorn.
Pongal – harvest festival is mainly celebrated to convey appreciation to the Sun God for a successful harvest. Part of the celebration is the boiling of the first rice of the season dedicated to the Sun – the Surya.
Pongal – History :
The origins of the Thai Pongal festival may date to more than 1000 years ago. Epigraphic evidence suggests the celebration of the Puthiyeedu during the Neduevak Choka Empire days. Puthiyeedu is believed to represent the first harvest of the year.
Tamil people refer to Pongal as “Tamizhar Thirunaal,” the festival of Tamizhs. Thai Pongal, also referred to as Makara Sankranti, is referred to in the classic work of Hindu astrology, the Sruya Siddhanta.
Pongal – Dish :
Pongal dish is made with rice, jiggery and milk the main ingredients. This sweet dish includes cardamom, raisings, green gram, and cashew nuts along with ghee. The cooking is done in sunlight, usually in a porch or courtyard, as the dish is dedicated to the Sun god, Surya.
The cooking is done in a clay pot of a copper panai that is decorated with colored patterns called Kolam. Cooking pongal is a traditional practice at Hindu temples during any part of the Temple Festival.
Other names to Pongal festival :
Maghi (preceded by Lohri) by North Indian Hindus and Sikhs
Makara Sankranti (Pedda Pandaga) in Andrhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telengana
Sukarat in Central India
Magh Bihu in Assamese
Pongal in Tamil.
Pongal or Sankranti in Karnataka :
On this festive day, girls wear new clothes to visit relatives and friends with a Sankranti offering in a plate and exchange the same with other families. This ritual is called “Ellu Birodhu.”
Here the plate would contain “Ellu” (white sesame seeds) mixed with fried groundnuts, neatly cut dry coconut and fine cut bella (jaggery). The mixture is called “Ellu-Bella”. The plate contains shaped sugar candy moulds (Sakkare Acchu) with a piece of sugarcane.
There is a saying in Kannada “ellu bella thindu olle maathadi” that translates to ‘eat the mixture of sesame seeds and jaggery and speak only good.’ This festival signifies the harvest of the season, since sugarcane is predominant in these parts.
Ellu Bella, Ellu Unde, bananas, sugarcane, red berries, haldi and kumkum and small gift items useful in everyday lives are often exchanged among women in Karnataka.