Pongal 2020 date: Pongal is one of the most popular harvest festivals, associated with southern parts of the Indian subcontinent and celebrated by the diaspora around the globe. It marks the auspicious beginning of Uttarayan, which is the beginning of the sun’s journey northwards. This four-day festival is generally celebrated in mid-January during the month of ‘thai’ when staple crops like rice are harvested and to show gratitude to mother nature.
This year, the harvest festival will commence on January 15 and last till January 18. Pongal literally means “spilling over” and it has been named after the tradition of boiling rice in a pot until it starts overflowing. This also signifies the gradual heating of Earth by the sun.
Customs and traditions
Festivities begin with people boiling the harvested rice and making an offering to the sun god. Other traditions include drawing kolam (drawing or rangoli made from rice flour, chalk and chalk powder), playing on a swing and cooking traditional delicacies.
The kolam is drawn to welcome the goddess Laxmi, who is believed to bring wealth, prosperity and happiness in the household. For customary celebrations, various types of dishes using rice, jaggery and lentils are prepared.
The festival can be traced back to the Sangam age (200 B.C.E -300 C.E). Pongal originated as a Dravidian festival and is mentioned in the Hindu religious texts of Sanskrit Puranas.
Each of the three days are marked by different festivities.
Bhogi Pongal (the first day)
The first day of the festival is dedicated to god Indra. A huge bonfire is lit and kept burning throughout the night. Offerings are prepared for the lord and buffalo-skin drums are beaten as people revel in traditional folk songs and dances.
Surya Pongal (the second day)
The second day is dedicated to the worship of Surya, the Sun God. Boiled milk and jaggery is offered to the Sun god. A special harvest dish made of rice, jaggery, turmeric and lentils is made and brought to boil till it spills over in mud pots. This special dish, with sugarcane sticks, is called Sakkarai Pongal. Legend goes that Lord Sundareshwar breathed life into a stone elephant in the temple of Madurai on this day.
Mattu Pongal (the third day)
The third day of the festival is to honour and show gratitude towards cattle stock. Elaborate and colourful garlands and bells are tied around the necks of cows before performing the rituals. The popular cattle race Jallikattu takes place on this day.
Kaanum Pongal (the fourth day)
On the fourth and the last day known as Kaanum, which means ‘to visit’, people come together and hold a grand reunion. The festival is celebrated with family and other close acquaintances.
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