One of the biggest festivals celebrated by Tamil Hindus of Tamil Nadu is Pongal. Stretching to four days of festivity, Pongal is essentially a harvest festival. Thai Pongal day, the main celebration day occurs on the second day and many people refer to this day as Sankranti as well. The day is very auspicious in North India as well. It is known as Makar Sankranti and on this day people in large numbers gather at the River Ganga to purify themselves by taking a dip in the holy waters.
The day prior to the main Thai Pongal is celebrated as Bogi Pongal. This day focuses on cleansing and purification of their homely abode. Homes are given a fresh look and unwanted items are thrown out or donated. This day coincides with the Punjabi Lohri day.
People who celebrate Pongal festival prepare a sweet concoction called Pongal made from rice, jaggery and milk in a brand new pot of clay. This is prepared early at sunrise on the main Thai Pongal Day. This preparation can overflow out of the pot as a symbol of abundance of food. Once cooked, the Pongal is topped up with seasoning of cashew and raisins fried in clarified butter called ghee along with a dash of cardamom powder. The freshly-prepared Pongal is first offered to Sun God as neivedyam to mark the respect and feeling of gratitude towards God for bestowing a healthy harvest and crop.
Thai Pongal marks the beginning of the Thai month in the state of Tamil Nadu whereas in other states the Thai month is referred to as Makar as per Hindu Calendar. The next two days of Pongal are referred to as Mattu Pongal and Kaanum Pongal. For Maatu Pongal which is the third day of Pongal, cattle are dressed up in cattle finery and worshipped while Kaanum Pongal which is the fourth day of Pongal sees family, friends and relatives meeting up and rejoicing.