Pongal - The harvest festival of south India

India is a land of diverse cultures, and along with the different cultures come many festivals that are spread across the year. While, one is done celebrating, another comes right around the corner.

Likewise, just as we got over diwali, Pongal has arrived. But, some of us might not know about this festivity that is wrapped around some amazing traditions.

And if you're one of them, here's all you need to know about Pongal, which is to be observed in southern India, especially Tamil Nadu, and in many other places across the country as well:

Pongal is a popular four-day-long harvest festival celebrated in the Sothern part of India called Tamil Nadu. The festival falls in the month of Thai (January-February) when crops like rice, sugarcane, turmeric etc. are harvested.

Pongal marks the first day of the sun’s return journey to the northern hemisphere. It is also widely known as Makar Sankranti in India, and is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm. Pongal is an important occasion because the southern state of India largely relies on agriculture to generate income, and the sun is a major necessary for good growth. The term Pongal means to boil in Tamil, and this festival is celebrated as a thanksgiving ceremony for the year's harvest.

Pongal is also the name of a dish consumed during this festival, which is a dish of sweetened rice that is boiled with lentils.

The first day is called Bhogi, during which the houses are thoroughly cleaned, entrances are adorned with rangoli or kolam and decorated to get rid of negativity. Bhogi is celebrated in honour of Lord Indra, the god of rain, and lord of lords. Also during bhogi, useless items of the household are tossed into a bonfire traditionally made of cow dung cakes and wood.

The second day is the main ceremony, during which a special ritual is performed where rice, lentils and milk are boiled together in an earthen pot with a turmeric plant tied to it as an offering to the sun god. Sugarcane, coconuts and bananas are also offered along with this.

Like any festival in India, Pongal is also incomplete without its extensive range of traditional delicacies like:

Be it the light, savoury and peppery ven Pongal that makes for one of the most popular Pongal delicacies, served piping hot, with both sambhar and chutney or the sakkara pongal made of green gram, rice and jaggery, a rich and wholesome dessert.

Murukku is another delicious and wholesome snack made with urad dal is one crackling treat served as part of Pongal the feasting.

Vada is always a hit with South Indian food lovers, and it becomes even more special when served with the many sweet and savoury Pongal delicacies on the traditional Pongal spread.

The third day is called Mattu Pongal, which is celebrated in the name of cows, where the cattle are adorned with bells, stems of corn and garlands and worshipped.

The fourth day is called Kanum Pongal, during which birds are worshiped by leaving out balls of cooked rice are prepared and for birds to eat. People also thank family and friends for their support during the harvest.

Pongal is not only a festival but an act of giving, and an act of humanity, dating back to 200 B.C. to 300 A.D. The four day long harvest festival holds great value for the people of Tamil Nadu to thank and appreciate the Sun God.

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