Pongal is a four-day-long harvest festival celebrated mostly in the states of South India, especially in Tamil Nadu. It’s celebrated in the winter when the sun reaches the extremes of the southern hemisphere and starts returning to the northern hemisphere (as per the Hindu calendar). Pongal will begin on the 15th of January and will continue until the 18th of January.

The most common variations include Lohri, Makar Sankranti, Poki, Bihu, and Hadaga. The festivities of Pongal vary slightly in celebration. The common symbols associated with the festival include the sun, the chariot, wheat grains, and the sickle. Employees may make a restricted number of restricted holidays, but government offices and most businesses remain open.

How do the celebrations of Pongal take place?

The word “Pongal” is associated with rice and means “to boil”. Celebrations take place on this day as a gesture of appreciation toward the Sun God for a successful harvest. It is for this reason that people boil rice in milk and offer it to the sun before the commencement of the festival.

Since it’s a four-day festival, each day has its significance. The first day is called the Bhogi festival and is observed to honor Lord Indra. A popular custom on this day is to burn all the useless items in a household by throwing them in a bonfire made of wood, cakes, and cow dung.

The second day of the festival is known as Thai Pongal. This is the day when people offer rice and milk boiled together to the Sun God. People also decorate their house entrances with Kolam. It’s usually done early in the morning after taking a bath.

The third day is celebrated as Mattu Pongal where people indulge in worshipping cows. As per the myth, Lord Shiva sent his bull—Basava to earth to send the message that Shiva wants the mortals to take oil massage, and bathe daily and eat once a month. Basava got confused and conveyed just the opposite message. Shiva, as punishment, asked Basava to return to the earth forever and help people produce more food by plowing the fields.

The fourth and final day is celebrated as Kaanum Pongal. On this day, the leftovers (food) are placed on a washed turmeric leaf along with sugarcane and betel leaves. The women then perform a ritual praying for the prosperity of their brothers.

A huge festival down south, Pongal is also known for its special traditional dishes. Witness this festival if you are in South India in January.