A quarterly specialized journal
The Message Of Folklore from Bahrain To The World

Pongal Celebration in Tamil Nadu, India

Issue 58
Pongal Celebration in Tamil Nadu, India

Dr Nashad Ali al-Wafi's

Assistant Professor, Research and MA Department of Arabic Language and Its Literature

Jamal Muhammad College, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, India.

Pongal is one of the most important festivals celebrated by Tamil people in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Puducherry in India. It is also a major Tamil festival in Sri Lanka. It is observed by the Tamil diaspora worldwide, including those in Malaysia, Mauritius, South Africa, Singapore, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

It is known in some places in the world as Makar Sankranti, Magu Bihu, Uttarayana, Magi, Maghe Sankranti, and Shakrain.

Pongal is mentioned in the inscriptions of the Viraghava temple, where God Vishnu is worshiped, in Tiruvallur- Chennai. It was founded by King Kolottungal, (CE 1122-1070). According to those inscriptions, the Pongal festival was celebrated in the temple courtyard. As mentioned in the texts of the Shiva bhakti known as Tiruvembavai.

Andrea Gutierreza, a Sanskrit and Tamil researcher, says, "Documents have come down to us highlighting the antiquity of the beginning of the Pongal festival from the Chola era. It was referred to in some ancient texts, such as Ponakam and Ponkal, and at other times as Tiruponakam.

The texts indicate that the nature of the festival and what it includes today are different from what it was in the ancient era. Some researchers believe that what was described as "Ponkal" or "Pongal" in ancient texts is the festival itself, known as "Prasadam."

As an expression of gratitude and appreciation to the Sun God for allowing the peasants to harvest crops from the fields, all the people of Tamil Nadu gather in specialised places according to the Tamil calendar, beginning on the last day of the month Markazi (the last month in the Tamil calendar), which always corresponds to January 13th, and ending on the third day of the month Tai, which corresponds to January 17th of every year. And the festivities of this festival last three days for most people and four days for others, and those days are known as Bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal, Mattu Pongal, and Kanum Pongal, respectively.

The winter solstice festival, according to beliefs, celebrates the end of the winter solstice and the start of the sun's northward journey, notably its arrival in the Makara zodiac (i.e. Capricorn). Pongal was given its name because the term meant "to boil and overflow (rice)" in the native tongue.

Because they cook a traditional meal from the first rice grown in the new harvest season, mixed with milk and raw sugar and presented to the god or goddess, sometimes they present it to cows and then share it among family members, and they decorate the cows and their horns and bathe them. To prepare for worship inside the home or temple, adorn the courtyards of homes with rice powder, and gather friends and family together are all traditional functions of this event. 

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