Pongal which falls on the month of Thai derived its name from the delicacy which is prepared during the festival. Celebrated as a harvest festival or a thanksgiving ceremony, Pongal is also the occasion when the farmers express their thanks to the spirits of nature including sun and animals for bestowing a good harvest. The festival is celebrated in four days - Bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal, Mattu Pongal and Kanum Pongal in which each day has its own cultural and religious significance. This makes the festival a powerhouse of various traditions and customs. Be it making a beautiful Kolam, discarding the useless clothes and utensils into the bonfire, preparing the delicious Pongal, eating and exhibiting sugarcane or smearing the cattle with turmeric, all of them contribute to the beauty of the festival. A perfect occasion for family get-togethers, Pongal is also synonymous with gift exchanges. Read further to know more about the various customs associated with Pongal.
A Pongal is not complete without Kolam. An important element of the festival, Kolam is which made of rice powder, decorates every household. Made in beautiful designs and patterns, you can find this Kolam inside the house and Puja room too.
Exchange of Gifts
Gift exchange is another custom of Pongal. Gifts are exchanged between the family members, relatives and friends. There are popular Pongal gift items like Pongal Padi and Pongal parisu which are generally the term used for those gifts that are presented to the labourers. Organisations gift the employees during this auspicious occasion.
Discard the Old
A day prior to the Pongal, people discard clothes and other useless household utensils into a bonfire which they created in front of their house. The fire burns the whole night and young boys dance around it, merrymaking and enjoying.
Cleaning Household and Preparing Pongal
The most common ritual of Pongal is to clean the entire household. The men and women of the family wearing traditional attire, prepare a delicacy known as Pongal on the second day which is the main day of the festival, family members. They cook this delicious dish in the front garden of the house where flat square pitch is prepared and decorated with Kolam. On a fire-hearth which is made of three bricks, Pongal is cooked in a clay pot which is filled with water. The elder member of the family initiates the cooking while the rest of the family members assist him. Once the water boils, rice is put into the pot with each family member contributes with his or her handfuls of rice. The main ingredients of the rice are brown cane sugar, sugar candy, cow's milk or coconut milk, roasted green gram, raisins, cashew nuts and pods of cardamom. Pongal is served on a banana leaf to the family members who offer prayers to nature sprit, the sun and farmers.
Eating sugarcane is one of the important customs of Pongal. As Pongal is also a harvest festival and sugarcane is the product of the harvest, it is exhibited in front of the houses or is tied to the doorpost.
Festival of Thanksgiving
Pongal is a festival of thanksgiving when the whole day of Mattu Pongal is dedicated to expressing thanks to the cattle of the household. On the day, farmers bathe their cattle, paint their horns with red, blue, yellow and green. Their foreheads are smeared with turmeric and the necks are decorated using garlands. Following this, offerings are given to them and are fed with Pongal.
There are various customs associated with the festival of Pongal. Here are some of the Pongal Customs.