Pongal festival is the harvest festival of Tamilnadu-a state in South India. Pongal is like a thanksgiving Occasions on which the farmers' fraternity owe their respect and honour to the nature and the farm cattle for being helpful during the harvest. The Pongal festival also marks the onset of Tamil New Year with the first month called 'Thai' and is considered an important and auspicious Occasions for the farmers as they thank the nature for making the harvesting season so wonderful and pray for well-being and prosperity in future as well. Pongal festival has derived its name from a Tamil word that means 'boiling' or 'spill over', in this festival boiling of rice mixed in fresh milk with jaggery in earthen pots are considered auspicious a symbol of good luck.
Pongal is a four days long festivity that starts in the month of January every year usually from 14th or 15th day. Each day of Pongal Festival celebrations holds much significance with its association to the one or the other natural element. During Pongal celebrations the homes are washed and decorated beautifully, people wear new clothes and make various festive dishes. Social get-together with family, friends and relatives with exchange of gifts and signing, dancing are also an integral part of Pongal celebrations in India.
The first day od pongal is celebrated as the Bhogi Pongal and is usually meant for domestic activities and of being together with the family members. This first day is celebrated in honour of Lord Indra, the supreme ruler of clouds that give rains. Another ritual observed on this day is Bhogi Mantalu, when useless household articles are thrown into a fire made of wood and cow-dung cakes. Girls dance around the bonfire, singing songs in praise of the gods, the spring and the harvest.
The second day of harvest festival is known as 'Pongal', in tamionadu, the most important day of the entire festival, where prayers are offered to the Sun. On this day, the Sun is given great importance. On the morning of this day, the family will gather outside their houses and cook 'pongal' in clay pots. When the rice inside the pot overflows, the people will cry out 'Pongal O Pongal' and pray to the Sun. The overflow of rice symbolizes a prosperous farming season for them. On this auspicious day, people will visit each other and dine. Sweets are also cooked in the Hindus homes for the guests.
The third day is known as Mattu Pongal, the day of Pongal for cows. To the village people cow, the giver of milk and the bull which draws the plough in the fields are very valuable and therefore the farmers honour their dumb friends by celebrating it as a day of thanks-giving to them. The cattle are washed, their horns are painted and covered with shining metal caps.
Kanu Pongal, which falls on the same day as Maatu Pongal, is celebrated by sisters for the welfare of their brothers. Pongal or Harvest festival of Tamilnadu is reminiscent of Raksha Bandhan and Bhai Dooj of North India.
Preparations for the festival of pongal start early and the first thing that is always found in Hindu homes before the start of "Pongal Festival" or "Harvest Festival" is the 'kolam'. This is a form of decoration for the Hindus' homes. This decorative pattern is made with rice flour & is usually drawn on the floor, outside the door in tamilnadu. The kolams serve as a symbol of welcoming guests to the entrance of the house. At the center of the Kolam is a lump of cow-dung, which holds a five-petalled pumpkin flower-a symbol of fertility and an offering of love to the presiding deity.