Hindu Festivals: The Festival of Pongal

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The Pongal festival is primarily celebrated by the Tamil speaking people.It is a reflection of their culture, religion and tradition.Tamil people call it as Thai Pongal’ which falls on the first day of the Tamil month Thai’, that usually falls on January 14 th.or 15 th, every year.

Pongal festival is a week long celebration, the first day being called as Bogi Pongal or Pandigai’, the second day as Perum Pongal’, the main festival day, the third day as Mattu Pongal’ and the fourth day as Kanum Pongal’ or Kari Nal’.

Pongal festival being a harvest festival, it is mainly intended and celebrated by the Tamil people as a thanksgiving giving ceremony’, for those Gods, peoples and animals, who have been helpful in their agricultural ventures and in harvesting throughout the year. Therefore, the festival is designed in such a way that in the week long celebrations each day is allocated for thanksgiving to specifically some one else.

The festival is celebrated with a rational approach and logical reasoning and there is neither scope for mysticism nor any mythological reason. On all days of the Pongal festival, there are only meaningful practices that are being carried away from one generation to another.

The Pongal festival being a harvest festival, its celebration is enchanting and interesting only at the villages.

The first day is the Bogi Pandigai or festival. Prior to Bogi Pandigai, people used to clean their houses, whitewash it and even carry out any repairing works in their houses.On the day of Bogi, old things which have become obsolete or outdated like old clothes, mats, papers, old worn out earthernwares etc which have fallen into disuse were either thrown out or dismantled. It is also customary that all those old and unwanted things are heaped together and burn out, which is called as Bogi Moottam’.In other words on Bogi Pandigai, people get ready by giving up old things and welcoming the new things by celebrating the Pongal festival. Bogi Pandigai normally falls on the last day of the Tamil month Margazi.

The second day of the Pongal festival is the main festival day known Thai Pongal’ or Perum Pongal’.Mainly intended as a thanksgiving day, people prepare dishes like sweet pongal using the rice obtained from the newly harvested paddy from their own field.Apart from that turmeric plants is used to decorate the earthernware that is used to prepare pongal. During the preparation of pongal, people used to say slogans like Pongalo Pongal’signifying that the entire family is bubbling with happiness.Apart from the pongal prepared by them, people also offer oblations like sugarcane, banana fruits etc to the Sun God who was instrumental for their agricultural products. People wear new clothes and the entire house is in a happy festival mood.

The Third day of the Pongal festival is known as Mattu Pongal’.People

use this occasion virtually to thank their cattle like bulls, cows etc which have been helpful for their agricultural activities.Cattles like Oxen or bulls and cows are bathed,their horns are even beautified by using colourful paints. The pongal prepared by the people are offered to these cattles and they are virtually worshipped as a mark of respect and thanksgiving. People also used to have a trial run in their bullock carts using their cattle and they are vociferous with their slogans Pongalo Pongal, Mattu Pongal’

The Fourth Day of the Pongal festival is known as Kanum Pongal’ or Kari Nal’.During this day youngsters used to pay their respects to elders by way of obeisance and it is customary for the elders to offer them some cash so as to make them happy.In the villages, people used to greet each other asking them whether they celebrated a happy pongal.Youngsters used to celebrate this day happily using their money by purchasing any thing of their choice or by going to a new movie. Expecting a heavy rush to the cinema houses during these pongal festival holidays, every year new movies of popular stars are released, in the nearby town theatres. Though, the cine field is having other threats like video piracy etc, the theatre owners are still eagerly awaiting for the onset of pongal holidays and they are always ready to welcome the innocent village people to their theatres.

Sending and receiving Pongal greeting cards during the Pongal festival is a common feature.

Apart from that during Pongal holidays especially on the Kanum Pongal day, in some villages like Alanganallur in Tamil Nadu, a very unique game involving bull fighting known as Jallikattu’ is being conducted, in which young and brave men participate to show their valour.In the process sometimes they even lose their life.This game Jallikattu’ has been in practice traditionally and it is one of the special attractions of Pongal festival in Tamil Nadu. Fearless young men lured by money and fame still embark upon their favourite venture.

Thus Pongal festival is being celebrated among the Tamil people so meaningfully and no wonder recently the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has announced that Thai Pongal’ or the first day of the Tamil month Thai’ should be the first day of the Tamil New year, virtually heralding a new beginning in their life every year.

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