Pongal is a unique harvest festival celebrated for four days in Tamil Nadu. This important festival is celebrated in the middle of January and is observed as a way of thanking nature for all the wonderful gifts of harvest season. The word 'Pongal' means 'to boil' in the Tamil language and this makes sense, as during this occasion, people cook rice in new pots until the contents boil over. Preparation of rice is one of the main rituals performed as part of the celebration as it represents the bountiful harvest. Chanting of prayers and offering of fruits, vegetables, sugar cane and various spices to the Gods, are some of the other traditions of Pongal. Avoiding milk and milk products, abstaining from oiling the hair and refraining from swearing are also customs followed by the people who celebrate this ancient festival. Like many Indian festival celebrations, Pongal too is associated with several legends. These legends signify the importance of this popular harvest festival. There are two most popular legends related to the Pongal festival. Read this article to learn about the fascinating legends that gave rise to the Pongal celebrations in India.
Legends of Pongal
The Legend of Mount Govardhan
According to this legend, Lord Indra, the 'God of Rain and Clouds', became proud and arrogant after he became the king of all the deities. When the people honored him with their offerings, he became more proud. To teach him a lesson, young Lord Krishna convinced his cowherd friends and the people in the village to worship the Govardhan Mountain instead of Lord Indra. He convinced them saying that the mountain provided food for cattle and so the mountain should be worshipped. So, from then on, the entire village began to offer their prayers and worshipped the mountain.
This infuriated Lord Indra and he punished the people with never-ending heavy rains, blizzards, thunder and lightning to create havoc in the village. Lord Krishna then lifted the enormous Govardhan Mountain in his little finger to protect the people and cattle for three days. Lord Indra realized his mistake and the divine power of Lord Krishna, which made him to ask young Lord Krishna for his forgiveness. Lord Krishna forgave Lord Indra for his acts and celebrations were organized for Lord Indra as per Lord Krishna's wishes. Thus, 'Bhogi' became the first day of Pongal celebrations.
The Legend of Nandi
This legend revolves around Lord Shiva and his bull, 'Nandi'. One day, Lord Shiva asked his bull to deliver a message to the people in Earth, to have an oil massage and a bath every day and to eat food only once a month. At that point of time, Nandi was very sleepy and he did not remember the exact message told by Lord Shiva. So, Nandi instead announced to the people living in Earth, to have oil massage and bath only once a month and to consume food everyday. Lord Shiva on realizing Nandi's mistake, became furious at Nandi and told that because of this, there would be no grains left on Earth. Lord Shiva then banished Nandi to live on earth forever and help the people in ploughing the fields. 'Mattu Pongal', the third day of the Pongal celebrations originated with this legend.
Pongal is a popular and ancient festival celebrated religiously in Tamil Nadu, with great fun and fervor. It is believed that this festival originated due to several legends. Many of the functions and rituals performed during the Pongal celebrations is in fact based on these legends.
There are various legends associated with the festival of Pongal. Here are few of those Pongal legends.