Word Pongal literally means the boiling over of the rice in the cooking pot. It is considered to be an auspicious activity in the southern parts of India. Though there is not much known about the history and origin of Pongal, it is assumed that it is a Dravidian harvest festival that is being celebrated from hundreds of years. It is a four days festival in Tamil Nadu, which is celebrated with extreme zeal and fervor throughout the state. Feasting and celebrations form a vital part of the Pongal celebrations. The celebrations of Pongal festival have now also become global with lots of Tamilians residing in various part of the world.
Pongal is celebrated in the month of Thai according to the Tamil calendar. It marks the end of winter and the beginning of the harvest season or spring. The date of the Pongal festival remains the same as it is considered according to the solar calendar compared to the other Hindu festivals which are decided according to the lunar calendar. According to the Solar calendar, when the sun enters the Makaram Rashi or the Tropic of Capricorn from the Tropic of Cancer, it marks the beginning of a very auspicious phase in the Hindu culture. It is the phase when sun begins its journey northwards (Uttarayan) for a period of six months as opposed to southwards (Dakshinayan) movement.
According to the Gregorian calendar, the Pongal festival has a fixed date of beginning i.e. 14th January. As per Tamil calendar, it celebrated for four continuous days beginning from the last day of Tamil month of Maargazhi (December-January) and lasting up to the third day of Thai. The second of Pongal celebrations is treated as the main Pongal day of Surya Pongal, which marks the beginning of Tamil month of Thai. Apart from socio-geographical significance, the festival also holds scientific as well as eternal significance to it. Scientifically, the festival brings respite to the people as this day onwards the warmth and length of the day increases and that of the night shortens in the Northern Hemisphere. Eternally, as the festival is related to Sun God, this festival has divinity and wisdom attached to it.
On the first day, i.e 14th of Januray, the festival starts with the Bhogi Pongal. On this day, the celebrations are limited to the house. On this day, basically the evil spirits are driven out of the home and the entire home is cleaned and whitewashed. All the dirt and waste materials collected from home is burnt into bonfire. On the second day, Surya Pongal, there is commemoration of the Sun god. This is the main day of the celebrations when people wear new clothes and cook food with newly harvested cereals in new pots on new stoves. The third day is Maattu Pongal, which is meant to honor cattle. Pets like cows, buffalo, ox and bullocks are bathed with clean water and worshipped for their contribution in farming and related activities. The festival ends with the fourth day celebrations of Kaanum Pongal.
Bhogi Pongal: 14th January.
Surya Pongal: 15th January
Maatu Pongal: 16th January
Kaanum Pongal: 17th January