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Pongal (lit. ”boiling over”) is a harvest festival that people celebrate in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The people in this region of India are known as the Tamil people, or Tamilians, and they are a distinct ethnic group within the state of India.

Tamilians also reside in regions such as Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mauritius, and Singapore.

The agricultural workers of India are the primary observers of the Pongal Festival as it marks the changing of the seasons and celebrates the harvest of the year while also thanking the sun and the animals that helped contribute to the harvest.

Pongal celebrates the crops that flourish in the state of Tamil Nadu: rice, turmeric, and sugarcane.

The festival goes by a few different names within India, including Makar Sankranti (in Northern India), Lohri (in the Punjab region), Bihu/Bohaggiyo Bhishu (in the state of Assam), and the Hadaga festival (in the state of Maharashtra).

Because people celebrate it in the Tamil month of Thai, it is also called Thai Pongal.

Pongal Celebrations

Celebrations for the Hindu winter holiday of Pongal vary depending on the day Bhogi Festival, Surya Pongal, Maatu Pongal, or Kaanum Pongal:

Bhogi Festival

The Bhogi Festival is the first day of Pongal.

As it celebrates the god of clouds and rain, Indra, it is sometimes referred to as Indran. During this first day, celebrants thoroughly clean their houses and discard old, unused items.

They light bonfires in the evening using agricultural waste and burn the items people wish to get rid of, signifying a fresh start as the year begins again.

People, especially women, may sing and dance around the bonfire.

Songs typically are those intended to welcome the coming spring season.

Surya Pongal

The second day, Surya Pongal (also called Thai Pongal) is considered to be the most important of all four days.

It begins early in the morning as women venture to the area outside of the household’s front doorway and create elaborate works called kolam using white rice paste or other materials that are similar to street/sidewalk chalk.

The kolam looks similar to a knotted flower design or a mandala, but it is a specifically Tamil artwork for the festival.

In the same area as the kolam, the rice dish called pongal is made in a clay pot using freshly harvested rice, turmeric, and sugarcane as part of the day’s puja, or worship ritual.

When the pongal’s rice boils over, it is ready for the puja.

Participants offer it to the Hindu sun god Surya first, then the cattle, and lastly, people eat it.

ple eat it.

A kolam is drawn outside of a home in Tamil Nadu, India for Pongal.

Pongal Facts

Some intriguing facts about the Pongal Festival include:

Lesson Summary

The Pongal Festival, also simply called Pongal, is a Hindu festival primarily observed by the Tamil people, or Tamilians, of the Indian state Tamil Nadu.

It occurs in January of the Gregorian calendar; people celebrate the four-day holiday starting on the last day of the Tamil month of Maargazhi and ending on the third day of the Tamil month of Thai.

It is a harvest festival that commemorates the shift in seasons.

Like the winter solstice, Pongal is when the sun begins to shine longer and longer each day as spring is on the horizon.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the Pongal festival is celebrated?

Residents of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu primarily celebrate Pongal, but people in other regions of India, as well as Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mauritius, and Singapore, also celebrate. People in other places celebrate as well, primarily those who are of Tamilian descent (i.e., in the ethnic group known as Tamil).

Why is Pongal celebrated?

The Pongal festival celebrates the harvest of rice, turmeric, and sugarcane. It also marks the transition from winter into spring as the days begin to lengthen.

Meaning & Significance

People celebrating Pongal should be aware of the meaning & significance of the important rituals associated with this harvest festival.

Pongal or Thai Pongal is also called Makara Sankaranthi, since it is celebrated on the first day of Thai when the Sun enters the Makara Rasi (Capricornus).

This signals the end of winter and the onset of spring throughout the northern hemisphere.

For the next six months, the days are longer and warmer.

The period is referred to as Uttarayan Punyakalam and is considered auspicious. Legend has it that the Devas wake up after a six-month long slumber during this period. And so it is believed that those pass away during Uttarayana attain salvation.

In fact, Bheeshma is believed to have waited for the dawn of Uttarayana before he gave up his life.

Pongal is a four-day affair.

The first day, Bhogi, is celebrated on the last day of the month of Margazhi.

On this day, people decorate their homes.

New vessels are bought and old and unwanted things burnt.

Scholars have often compared Bhogi to the Indra Vizha celebrated by the Chola kings at Kaveripattinam, also known as Poompuhar.

Indra Vizha was celebrated in honour of Lord Indra, also called Bhogi, the God of thunder and rain.

The second day is Perum Pongal, the most important.

It is also called Surya Pongal because people worship Surya, the Sun God and his consorts, Chaya and Samgnya. Women decorate the central courtyard of their homes with beautiful kolams, done with rice flour and bordered with red clay.

The Pongal dish is cooked exactly at the moment when the new month is born.

There are several legends associated with Perum Pongal.

A sage named Hema prayed to Lord Vishnu on the banks of the Pottramarai tank in Kumbakonam.

On Perum Pongal day, the lord is believed to have taken the form of Sarangapani and blessed the sage.

Yet another legend has it that Lord Shiva performed a miracle where a stone image of an elephant ate a piece of sugarcane.

The third day is Mattu Pongal, celebrated to glorify cattle that help farmers in a myriad ways.

On this day, the cows are bathed and decorated with vermilion and garlands and fed.

In certain villages in southern Tamil Nadu, a bullfight called manji-virattu is held in the evening.

Bags of coins are tied to the sharpened horns of ferocious bulls that are let loose in an open ground.

The young men of the village vie with each other to subdue the bull and grab the bags tied to the horns.

In fact, in ancient Tamil literature, men had to subdue the bull in order to win the hand of a fair maiden and even Lord Krishna is believed to have defeated seven bulls before marrying Nappinnai.

Unlike in the Spanish bullfights, in manji-virattu, the bull is never killed. Mattu Pongal has little significance to city folks.

In most urban homes, the day is celebrated as Kannu Pongal.

Special prayers are offered by women for the well-being of their brothers.

The Tamils also remember the poet Tiruvalluvar, who was born on this.

The last day is Kaanum Pongal. It is that part of the festival when families used to gather on the riverbanks and have a sumptuous meal (kootanchoru).

It is also time for some traditional dances such as kummi and kolattam.

In recent years, that day is celebrated as Uzhavar Tirunal in honor of farmers.

Pongal Festival

Pongal festival is the first festival beginning off each new year in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

As the dates for pongal festival are calculated by the solar calander (ie. Western), the dates of January 13-16 never change.

When the harvest is over, the people of Tamil Nadu express their gratitude to the gods, the earth and their cattle.

For four days, they celebrate with abandon and worship with devotion.

Each day of this festival has a special significance, however, it is celebrated more grandly in the villages, while the city folk mainly celebrate on the second day only.
Kolam ( Rangoli) :-
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.

The first day – Bhogi
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 – Pongal
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 – Maatu Pongal
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.

Kaanum Pongal
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.


What is Pongal?

Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated by the Tamil community.

It is a celebration to thank the Sun, Mother Nature and the various farm animals that help to contribute to a bountiful harvest.

Celebrated over four days, Pongal also marks the beginning of the Tamil month called Thai, which is considered an auspicious month.

It usually falls on the 14th or 15th of January each year.

Pongal is also the name of the dish made and eaten during this festival. It is a mixture of boiled sweet rice.

It is derived from the Tamil word pongu, which means “to boil over”.

Four Days of Pongal

Day 1. Bhogi Pongal

The first day of Pongal is called Bhogi.

It is a day where cleaning and discarding of old belongings are carried out to signify a fresh start.

New clothes are worn, houses are decorated in the spirit of the festivity. 

Day 2. Surya Pongal

The second day is the main day of Pongal and is celebrated as Surya Pongal.

On this day, the Sun God is honoured.

Colourful decorative floor patterns called kolam are drawn at the entrance of one’s home, and each household cooks a pot of fresh rice with milk at auspicious timings.

As the milk boils freely over the pot, family members shout out happily “Pongalo Pongal”! After the Pongal is offered to the Sun God, they would feast on several Pongal dishes that are prepared especially for the day.

Day 3. Maatu Pongal

The third day of Pongal is called Maatu Pongal. 

This day is devoted to honour and worship the cattle (Maatu) to remember the work they do – ploughing the land.

Cows are bathed and adorned with multi-coloured beads, flowers garlands, and bells.

In Singapore, thanksgiving prayers would be conducted for the cattle at some dairy farms owned by Indians.

Day 4. Kaanum Pongal

The fourth day of Pongal is called Kaanum Pongal.

On this day, importance is given to the community and to strengthen ties.

Families gather together to have a sumptuous meal.

Younger members seek the blessings of the older members of their families.

It is also a day for traditional Indian folk dances such as mayilattam and kolattam.


Pongal is observed by the Tamil community across the world in mid-January every year. It is one of the biggest harvest festivals in India along with Makar Sankranti.

Know the history, significance, and celebrations of the Pongal festival here

One of the most popular festivals in India is Pongal which is celebrated widely by the Tamil community across the globe.

As per the Tamil solar calendar, Pongal is celebrated in Tai month.

It is a four-day event that is dedicated to the Sun God.

It also marks the beginning of Uttarayan, the journey of the Sun northward.

Why is the Pongal festival celebrated, how is it celebrated, and what is its significance?

On this glorious day – the sun is worshiped as the life force behind all creation.

Filled with love and celebration, Pongal is an important festival in Tamil Nadu’s Culture.

History of the Pongal Festival

The history of the festival can be traced back to the Sangam Age and is considered the ‘Dravidian Harvest festival’.

But some historians claim that this festival is dated back at least 2,000 years old.

It was celebrated as Thai Niradal.

According to the legends, during this festive season, unmarried girls prayed for the agricultural prosperity of the country, and for this purpose, they observed penance during the Tamil month of Margazhi. 

They abstained from the consumption of milk and milk products and didn’t oil their hair throughout the month.

The use of harsh words is strictly refrained by them.

A ceremonial bath in the early morning is part of the ritual of penance.

Why is Pongal celebrated?

According to Hindu Mythology, Lord Shiva once asked Basava (Bull) to visit the Earth and ask the Human to have an oil massage and bath every day.

But Basava (Bull) announced that eat daily and have an oil bath once a month.

This makes Lord Shiva furious and he cursed the Basava (Bull) to live on the Earth forever and said that Basava (Bull) has to plow the fields and help people produce more food.

Hence, people after harvesting celebrate this festival with crops and cattle.

Importance of the Pongal

As we know that India is an agricultural country and the majority of the festivals are inclined toward nature.

Just like another festival, the Pongal is referred to as Uttarayan Punyakalam which bears special significance in Hindu mythology and is considered extremely auspicious.

It is basically a harvesting festival or it can be considered as the ‘thanksgiving’ festival’ because this festival is celebrated to thank the Sun God and Lord Indra for helping farmers in getting better-yielding crops.

During the festival, people reject old belongings and welcome new stuff.

The preparation of the traditional “Pongal” dish is the festival’s most important custom. Rice that has just been harvested is used, and it is cooked by boiling it with milk and raw cane sugar (jaggery).

The sweet dish occasionally includes extra ingredients like cardamom, raisins, split green gramme, and cashew nuts.

Other components include ghee and coconut (clarified butter from cow milk).

Some people prepare the Pongal dish in addition to the sweet version, such as the salty and savoury varieties (venpongal).

In certain communities, women gather together to cook as a social activity by bringing their “cooking pots to the town centre, or the main square, or near a temple of their choice, or simply in front of their own home.

The dish is made in honour of the Sun god, Surya, and is prepared in the sunlight, typically in a courtyard or porch.

The traditional greeting on the Pongal day is “has the rice boiled,” and family and friends are invited.

Pongal Festival Every year

Often known as the harvesting festival, Pongal is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in India’s Southern part.

It is primarily celebrated in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Puducherry.

Pongal comes from Tamil Literature, which means to boil or to overflow.

It is a celebration to thank Sun God, Mother Earth and various other farm animals that helps farmers to contribute to a bountiful harvest.

According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva instructed Basava (Bull) to visit the Earth and ask the Human to bathe and receive an oil massage every day.

Nevertheless, Basava (Bull) declared that he would eat daily and take a bath once a month.

Angry, Lord Shiva condemned the Bull (Basava) to dwell on Earth forever and told him that he must plough the fields to increase food production for mankind.

Therefore, the mythology is followed to date, and people observe this festival with crops and cattle after harvesting.

Pongal goes way back in the Sangam age from 200BC to 300AD. During this era, Pongal was celebrated as Thai Niradal, and it also marks the beginning of the auspicious Tamil Month called Tai.

Also, in the olden days, the festival was marked by unmarried girls fasting and performing rituals,praying to God to save their agricultural prosperity of the country. They would not take any dairy products or oil their hair for one month.

In fact, they would also bound themselves to take their ceremonial bath early in the morning only and prohibit the use of any harsh words.

These festivities paved the way to today’s Pongal.

To put it differently, one should not miss witnessing Pongal, the festival of new beginnings. It could be an unforgettable experience for travellers who enjoy discovering and learning about Southern India’s culture.

The festival observes on January 14 every year in the country.

The dates are also shared by other festivals across India like Makarsankranti, Bihu, Lohri, International Kite festival, etc.


It is the culmination of a four-day celebration that honours the Sun God and commemorates its trip north, where each day has its own significance:

Day 1 – Bhogi Pongal:On this day, people happily burn their old useless household items marking their new beginnings.

A special puja is also performed by cutting on the paddy.

Day 2 – Surya Pongal:It is the actual Pongal festival where the Sun God is worshiped. Women draw decorative patterns called Kolam at their home entrance and prepare the pot of fresh rice with milk at auspicious timings.

Milk rice is left in the clay pot to boil freely, and as it boils, the family members happily start shouting out “Pongalo Pongal”!.

Post that, Pongal is offered to the Sun God, and they would feast on the special meal.

Day 3 – Maatu Pongal– The third day of Pongal is devoted to worshipping the cattle. Cows are washed and adorned with colourful beads, flowers, and bells during this day. Jallikattu, a famous traditional bull-taming sport of people in Tamil Nadu, especially in the village, is also part of Mattu Pongal. Basically, it’s a game where a bull is released into the crowd, and any person can try to calm and tame it.

A winning bull will usually be kept for breeding.

Day 4 Kannum Pongal – This day, all the women in the house make different types of colourful rice.

After preparation, they would leave it in separate pots on their terrace to feed crows as a symbol of worshiping their ancestors.

Post that event, families celebrate and participate in traditional Indian Folk dances such as Mayilattam and Kolattam.

Pongal – A Time to Start Anew!

Pongal, a harvest festival of Tamil Nadu, signals a time for new beginnings.

It marks the end of a cold winter and signals the start of the sun’s six-month journey towards the North.

On this auspicious day, the Sun is worshipped as the life force behind all creation.

The festival is spread over 4 days and this period is referred to as Uttarayan Punyakalam. This is a very auspicious time according to the Hindu Solar Calendar. Celebrated every year between January 15th and 18th, the timing of this festival coincides with the solar equinox – after which days begin to get longer and nights get shorter.

Pongal heralds the New Year in Tamil Nadu.

The people of this region believe that during this period the Gods wake up after a six-month-long slumber to shower prosperity and wealth on the mortals.

This all-important festival of Tamil Nadu enjoys great antiquity and can be traced right back to the Chola period, about 2000 years ago. It revolves around three crops – rice, turmeric, and sugarcane, which are predominantly grown in Tamil Nadu.

The word Pongal means “to boil” or “to overflow”.

It also refers to the dish which is the most integral part of this festival.

This 4-day festival witnesses’ different versions of Pongal being cooked. Traditionally, Pongal is cooked in the courtyard of the house at an auspicious time.

The time is normally recommended by the temple priest.

Even today, in many homes, Pongal is cooked in clay pots placed on stoves made with stones.

The choice of wood as fuel lends the Pongal a very distinctive flavour.

The auspicious moment when the dish starts to boil and overflow, is celebrated by chants of “pongalo pongal”.

People greet each other by asking, “paal pongita” or “has the milk boiled over”?

The festival of Pongal is spread over 4 days and each day has its own significance, customs, and rituals.

Bhogi Pongal

It is the first day of the main Pongal festivities.

On this day, Lord Indra, the God of clouds and rains, is worshipped and thanked for the abundant harvest that brings prosperity to earth.

Bhogi Pongal is hence also referred to as Indran.

This day is normally spent by performing all kinds of domestic chores.

Every member of the family cleans up his/her room and gets rid of old and unused items.

Every home is thoroughly washed and scrubbed.

After the cleaning, the homes are decorated with Kolams– floor designs made with a white paste of rice outlined with mud. Kolams are not only welcoming and pretty, but also define the sacred area where the Pongal will be prepared.

By the end of the day, a fresh harvest of rice, turmeric and sugarcane is brought in from the fields, as part of preparations for day two.

The day also involves a lot of dancing and singing around bonfires in honour of Lord Indra.

Leftover hay from agricultural fields and unwanted household goods are added to the fire to keep it going.

It signifies getting rid of all past baggage and gearing up for a new start.

Surya Pongal/Thai Pongal

The second day of the festival is considered to be the most important. It is called Thai Pongal or Surya Pongal.

The rituals on the second day are very elaborate.

The ceremonial worship starts with the drawing of the Kolam.

This is done by the womenfolk early in the morning after their bath.

The members of the household wear new clothes and then the all-important ritual of preparing the Pongal begins. Rice is boiled in an earthen pot which has a turmeric plant tied to it.

The pot is put atop a clay stove in the courtyard of the house.

The pot is also very beautifully painted.

Once the rice cooks and boils over, it is then offered to the Sun God, along with bananas, coconuts and sticks of sugarcane.

The Pongal is first offered to the Gods, then to the cattle, and it is only at the end that it is distributed amongst friends and family.

Maintaining this order is considered to be of utmost importance.

Mattu Pongal

The third day is dedicated to worshipping the cattle.

They are integral to farmers and their livelihood, and on this day their blessings are sought.

The cattle of the household are given a ceremonial bath in the morning.

Then their horns are cleaned, polished, painted, and decorated with flowers.

Once the cattle have been embellished, aarti is performed so as to ward off the evil eye.

The worship of cattle has its roots in a legend which goes as follows.

It is believed that Lord Shiva had once asked his lovable bull, Basava, to go to earth with a message for humans, that they must have a bath and oil massage daily, and eat once a month.

Basava instead conveyed the message that humans should eat daily, and take a bath and oil massage once a month.

Shiva was furious and exiled his most loving bull to live on earth forever.

He told Basava that henceforth he will have to till the earth with a plough to aid the farmers to cultivate and produce food.

Cows and bulls are revered till today in the region as they are considered to have descended from Basava, the divine Bull.

Pongal also involves a traditional cattle sport called Jallikattu.

Kaanum Pongal

This is the last and the fourth day of the festival and marks the end of the Pongal festivities.

It is essentially a day of merriment on which Pongal songs and dances are performed.

On this day, a particular ritual is performed. Sweet Pongal, betel leaves, bananas, betel nuts, two sticks of sugarcane, coloured rice (red and yellow), and other preparations are together placed on the washed turmeric leave sand left in the courtyard.

The primary item, rice, is placed in the middle of the turmeric leaf.

This is considered to be an offering to birds.

All the women of the household assemble together in the courtyard and offer prayers for the family’s prosperity in general and for their brothers’ well-being in particular.

This is followed by aarti with turmeric water, rice, vermillion, and limestone.

This water is considered very holy and is sprinkled everywhere in the premises of the house.

Kaanum Pongal is considered to be a very auspicious day to arrange marriage proposals and to forge new bonds and relationships.

Delicacies of Pongal

The core dish of the festival is undoubtedly Pongal.

This traditional dish is prepared with rice, dal, and ghee.

Different variations are made using these essential ingredients.

Rice, sugarcane, cereals, and turmeric are the staple crops of Tamil Nadu.

These are harvested in the Tamil month of Thai and play a significant role in the preparation of Pongal.

The festival is therefore often called Thai Pongal.

Traditionally, the first rice that is harvested is used.

This is the reason why the Pongal is first offered to the Sun God as prasadam to thank Him for a good harvest.

Always considered auspicious, turmeric is an integral part of Indian customs and rituals.

Turmeric leaves are also used to decorate the earthen pot in which the Pongal is prepared.

Sakkarai Pongal is the sweet version (in which jaggery is added) and Ven Pongal is the salted version of this sacred dish.

The flavour and aroma of Pongal is enhanced when it is made in pure ghee.

To prepare Sakkarai Pongal, a concoction is made of rice, milk, moong dal, jaggery, and ghee, and is brought to a boil and allowed to spill over. 

Ven (white) Pongal, apart from being a traditional preparation of the festival, is also a popular breakfast dish of the state and is now also served in different avatars all over the country.

Along with Pongal, other delicacies too are prepared during this festival season.

One of the important dishes is Pongal Kootu. 

Kootu means a combination of lentils and vegetables.

This dish is basically a sambar including seven seasonal vegetables. 

Pongal Kootu can be prepared with a combination of broad beans, pumpkin, ash gourd, potato, raw banana, sweet potato, and lima beans.

Kara Murukku is a delicious and whole some snack made with urad dal and is a crispy treat served as part of Pongal feasting. Its unique round-coiled shape and crunchiness makes it an all-time favourite evening snack too.

Harvest festivals are celebrated to show gratitude for the gifts that Mother Nature has bestowed on us.

Pongal is a unique festival that strengthens bonds and brings the community together.