INDIA INFO: India - Pongal Festival

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Pongal Festival

India is a large country which harbors people of many cultures, castes and religions. The Indians celebrate their festivals together, irrespective of their religious beliefs. Like all other festivals, Pongal is also celebrated with family and friends. Pongal literally means “boiling over”. In this harvest festival, farmers offer thanks to the Sun God for granting good crop and bringing prosperity to their homes.

Pongal, also known as Tamizhar Thirunal is celebrated by the people of Tamil Nadu, a South Indian state. Though Pongal is basically a Tamil festival, other Indian states also celebrate the arrival of harvest during this period. The harvest festival of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka is called Sankranti whereas it is called Makar Sankranti in northern India. North India states of Punjab and Haryana celebrate Lohri as their harvest festival. In Western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, it is celebrated as Uttarayan.

Pongal is usually celebrated for four days, starting from the last of the Tamil month Maargazhi to the third day of Thai. It falls in the month of January. On the first day of Pongal, Tamilians set fire to old clothes and materials to mark the emergence of new after the end of old.

The second day is the main festival day. Pongal according to the English calendar falls on January 14th or 15th. On the morning of this day, rice is boiled with jaggery and fresh milk. It is allowed to boil over, to celebrate abundance and prosperity in the household. This preparation is offered to the Sun God as thanksgiving. Sweets and greetings are exchanged among friends and relatives.

On the third day of Pongal, thanks are offered to cattle for ploughing their fields and giving milk. The bull taming contest, Jallikattu, is conducted. Everyone decorates their house with ‘kolam’.

Pongal or Makara Sankranti is astronomically significant also. It marks the beginning of Uttarayan, northward movement of Sun for the coming 6 months.

Festivals are a very healthy way of spending quality time with family and friends. During festivals, people celebrate with their close ones; have fun and exchange sweets and gifts with friends. The whole atmosphere is that of pleasure and enjoyment.

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