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Pongal

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Introduction

Pongal is regarded as a harvest festival of South India. It is one of the most important and popular Hindu festivals. The four-day long harvest festival of Tamil Nadu, Pongal is all about thanksgiving to nature and takes its name from the Tamil word meaning "to boil" and is held in the month of Thai (January-February). 'Ponga' literally means overflowing and is named so because of the tradition of cooking the new rice in pots until they overflow, which is symbolic of abundance and prosperity.

 

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History of Pongal

Pongal is the festival of Tamil Nadu which is celebrated from the ancient times. The history of this festival can be marked from the Sangam Age (200 B.C. to 300 A.D.). However, this festival started as the'Dravidian Harvest Festival'. At that time, young girls worshipped God for prosperity and rain. They avoided taking milk and milk products. They also used to worship the idol of Goddess Katyayani, which they used to make from wet sand. There is one another story related with the festival of Pongal. It is said that once Lord Shiva told his bull 'Basava' to visit the earth and to meet human beings. He asked him to tell the human beings to take oil massage and bath daily like they consume food every day. The bull forgot the message and instead told them to eat daily and to take oil massage and bath once in a month. When Lord Shiva heard this, he became angry on Basava. He punished him to live on the earth and asked him to help them to plough the fields to harvest more grain. These traditions and rituals of ancient time gave rise to the celebration of Pongal.

 

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How to celebrate Pongal

It is one of the most important festivals of Tamil Nadu. This festival is full of enthusiasm and fun. Everyone actively participates in its preparations. People start the celebration from 13th January. The festival starts with 'Bhogi' and ends with 'Kannum'. This festival means a lot for the farmers. On the very first day of the celebration which is known as 'Bhogi', people clean their houses and make lovely Kolam at the entrance of their houses. They worship Lord Indra and in the evening they burn the unwanted things in bonfire and, sing and dance around that bonfire. This is the indication of the end of old things and beginning of new and good things.

Second day is dedicated to Sun and is called 'Surya Pongal'. People worship Sun and a sweet dish is prepared with new rice, milk and jaggery, which is known as 'Sakkarai Pongal'. It is cooked in an earthen pot and when it gets completely cooked, people will say 'Pongalo Pongal'. 'Mattu Pongal' is the third day of the celebration. On this day people wash their cattle's like cows and bulls and decorate them by painting their horns and putting bells around their neck. After doing this they worship them and thank them to help in harvesting and ploughing. The last day of this festival is 'Kannum Pongal'. This day people enjoy to the fullest. They meet their relatives and friends and exchange gifts and wish each other 'Happy Pongal'.

 

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Significant of Pongal

Pongal can also be said as the harvest festival because it is celebrated to express the gratitude towards nature for giving good crops. Pongal is celebrated every year in the month of January. While Pongal celebrations are primarily held in South India, it is celebrated in other parts of India but in different names. For instance, in Gujarat and Rajasthan it is called as 'Uttarayana', in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh it is known as 'Lohri' and in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh it is popular as 'Makar Sankranti'. Interestingly, Pongal is not just celebrated in India but also in other countries like Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

 

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