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Pongal – The Festival Celebrating Prosperity

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In India, the primary occupation of farmers is agriculture that depends on different seasons. Thus, any change in season causes an important role for them. Lifestyle of farmer and celebrations are interwoven. They are related to all the seasonal landmarks in a year. Many Indian festivals are celebrated. Lifestyles of farmers are dependent on seasonal variations in a year. ‘Pongal’, a harvest festival, of southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu is one of them.

When is ‘Pongal’ Celebrated?
‘Pongal’ marks the end of winter season. This time corresponds to the time when sun moves to ‘Uttarayanam’ [north] from ‘Dakshinayanam’ [south]. This ‘Uttarayan Punyakalam’ is extremely auspicious. ‘Pongal’ Festival is celebrated for four days. Festival is from last day of Tamil month, ‘Margazhi’, to third day of Tamil month, ‘Thai’. According to Tamil calendar, ‘Margazhi’ is December to January while ‘Thai’ is January to February. ‘Pongal’ festival is always celebrated from 12th to 15th January. ‘Pongal’ day or first day of ‘Thai’ usually falls on 14 January.

Common Traditions and Customs:
Important rituals of Pongal are cleaning, decorating the house with ‘Kolams’ made of rice paste. Thus, colour of Kolam is normally white but ‘Kolams’ are available in different colours too. Other rituals include wearing brand new clothes. Young girls wear lehangas, women wear half saris and men wear lungis and angavastrams. During ‘Pongal’ season, people eat lots of sugarcane.

Very important and popular tradition is exchanging of gifts on ‘Pongal’. In villages, farm labourers are given ‘Pongal Padi’ or ‘Pongal Parisu’ as ‘Pongal’ gifts. This custom of offering gifts is observed by people who are into other occupations too. Employers offer gifts to their employees on the occasion of ‘Pongal’. Pogal is an auspicious time so people give gifts to family members and friends. Appropriate gifts include Lord Sun sculptures for Surya ‘Pongal’, decorative items for Bhogi ‘Pongal’. Other gift items include new kitchen vessels, wooden handicrafts and household goods.Pongal Festival

The Festivities:
‘Pongal’ is a festival that goes on for four days. The first day of festival is known as ‘Bogi Pongal’. People throw all their old unwanted items into a bonfire. They take oil massage and bath and wear new clothes. People worship Lord Indra and nature and earth on this day. The ‘Pongal’ dish is by boiling milk over and boiling first paddy harvested rice over. Second day of festival, known as ‘Surya Pongal’ or ‘Perum Pongal’, is the most important day. On this day, people worship ‘Surya’, the Sun God, and his consorts, ‘Chaya’ and ‘Samgnya’. The third day of the festival is known as ‘Mattu Pongal’. On this day, cattle are worshipped. They are bathed, dressed well and served ‘Pongal’. Fourth day is ‘Thiruvalluvar’ day or ‘Kaanum Pongal’ when people visit family, friends and relatives. Women of the house pray for prosperity of their brothers. Many leave cooked rice on banana leaves for birds to feed on this last day.Sankranti Festival

The Tamil Festival:
On ‘Pongal’ occasion farmers pay their respects to rain, sun and cattle. These are essential requirements for a good, abundant harvest. Paddy and other crops require good amount of water. In Tamil Nadu there are not many lasting water sources. Hence, farmers have to depend on sufficient normal rain. During ‘Pongal’ they worship both rain and sun Gods.
‘Pongal’ is also known as ‘Tamizhar Thirunal’ meaning festival of Tamils. ‘Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum’ is also birth of ‘Thai’ month when new opportunities surface. This is commonly referred to as ‘Pongal’.

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