What is the Pongal Festival: Significance of Customs and Traditions

By Remitbee - Jan 14, 2021

Pongal is a very popular, multi-day major festival for many Hindus. The festival, according to tradition, marks the end of the winter solstice, and the beginning of the six-month journey northward of the sun as when the sun enters the Makara zodiac (Capricorn). It is considered one of the most auspicious days and is celebrated throughout the country, but with different names. It is called Pongal in South India, Makar Sankranti in the North, East, and West, Lohri in Punjab, and Bihu in Assam.

The word Pongal means “to boil over” or “overflow”, and the symbolism of the harvest so it also called a harvest festival. People believe this celebration, brings them peace, happiness, prosperity, brightness, and harmony in life. On these four days, families gather and share their joy.

All four days of Pongal embody a noble message for humankind. The four days of Pongal celebrations are named as:

Bhogi Pongal: The houses are cleaned getting rid of old things and decorations take place

Surya Pongal: This is the first day of Tamil Month – Thai. This day is also known as Thai Pongal. People offer Pongal to the Sun God.

Maattu Pongal: the word "Mattu" means bull and this day of Pongal is for the celebration of cattle, particularly bulls that play a vital role by working hard to help the farmers to raise crops on their fields

Kaanum Pongal: The word Kaanum means 'viewing and seeing'. Kaanum Pongal is the day of relaxation and enjoyment and it implies that people spend their time arranging family trips, picnics, visiting neighbors, and relative’s houses.

While this harvest festival is known by many names, the spirit and fervor with which it is celebrated across the country remain the same. The Pongal sweet dish is prepared to mark the festival, first offered to the gods and goddesses, often accompanied by an offering to cows, and then shared by the family.

Festive celebrations include cows and their horns being decorated, ceremonial bathing, and processions. Traditionally, it is an occasion for decorating kolam artworks based on rice-powder, offering home prayers, temples, gathering with family and friends, and exchanging gifts to renew social bonds of solidarity.

A Festival or holiday presents a great opportunity to reach out to loved ones that you may not see all that often but would likely connect with during the holidays.

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Happy Pongal!

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