Saturday, January 13, 2007

Happy Thai Pongal

Wishing that this festival is one, which brings good luck and prosperity and hoping that it is joyous, and fills your days ahead with happiness. Have a wonderful Pongal.

The first day of Pongal known as 'Bhogi Pongal' is a day for familygathering and is dedicated to Lord Indra, the king of the deities andGod of the Clouds and Rains. It is also the beginning of the New Yearaccording to the Malayalam calendar and before sunrise, a hugebonfire of useless things in home is lit that is kept burningthroughout the night. The houses are then cleaned till they shine andare decorated with Kolams painted using rice four. The harvest ofrice, turmeric and sugarcane is brought in for next day.

The second day of Pongal known as 'Surya Pongal' is dedicated to theSun God. The granaries are kept full on this day and Sun God with hisrays are painted on a plank as he is worshipped with the birth of thenew auspicious month of Thai. Since the word 'Ponga' means 'to boil'representing plentiful and excess yield, a special dish is cooked onthis day in a new mud-pot that comes in innovative shapes and haveartistic designs on them called 'Pongapani'. A colorful sugarcanemarket is also set up on this day. The special dish is called'Sarkkarai Pongal' and is offered to Sun God with sugarcane sticks.

The third day known as 'Mattu Pongal' is dedicated to the cattle ascowherds and shepherds pay thanks to their cows and bulls, wash them,paint their horns and cover them with shining metal caps. They arefed 'pongal' and tinkling bells are tied around their neck. Cattleraces are conducted and in the game called 'Manji Virattu' groups ofyoung men chase running bulls. Bull fights called 'Jallikattu' arealso arranged at some places where young men have to take the moneybags tied to the horns of ferocious bulls single-handedly and withoutthe use of arms.

The third day is celebrated as 'Kanni Pongal' when unmarried girlscooks Ponggal wishing for wedding bells soon.

Pongal, as all Indian festivals, have interesting legends attached toit. Originated as a Dravidian harvest festival, it has found nomention in Indo-Aryan Puranas. According to the popular legend, thefirst day of the festival known as Bhogi Pongal was once dedicated toLord Indra. The child Krishna came to know of the pride and arroganceof Indra on being the king of the deities and that he thought himselfto be the most powerful of all the beings. He conjured a plan toteach him a lesson. When, as usual, his father and other villagerswho were cowherds by profession, were preparing for the festival andofferings to Indra, Krishna objected and persuaded them to worship MtGovardhan instead, as it gave them fodder for their cattle. WhenIndra came to know of this, he considered it a heresy of thevillagers and sent thunderous pours, storms and lightning to drownthem and punish them.

However, Lord Krishna had other plans in mind and he lifted up theGovardhan mountain on his little finger to protect the cowherds andtheir cattle. The simpletons tried to help him by putting their ownsticks in the mountain out of love. The rains continued for threedays and at last Indra realized his mistake and divine power of theyoung boy. He promised humility and begged Krishna's forgiveness.Since then, Krishna allowed to let the Bhogi celebrations continue inhonor of Indra. A beautiful depiction of the scene can be scene atMahabalipuram where Krishna lifting Govardhan has been carvedskilfully and since then the origin of the festival of Pongal cameinto being.

Another legend associated to the third day of Pongal known as MattuPongal involves Lord Shiva and his mount, Nandi the bull. It is saidthat once Shiva ordered Nandi to go to the Earth and deliver hismessage to the people that they should take oil bath every day andeat food once a month. However, the dozing Nandi could not hear themessage right and told the people to eat everyday and take oil bathonce a month. Shiva was furious and said that due to his folly, therewill be lack of grains on the Earth and so he would have to remain onEarth to help humans plough the fields.



  1. Jeyaram, I wish you the same!!
    Thank you the information about thai pongal

  2. Hello Jeyaram,
    Very nice article and a wonderful picture.
    Can you email me a high resolution picture of the image, with no text in it. I am planning to use it as a back drop for a tamil pongal event. Thanks Jeyaram.

  3. Hello anonymous,
    How can i send you the picture the way you asked, without your email address. ^V^????

  4. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!