Happy Pongal 2020: Indian traditions, customs, gifts and more
For an agrarian (agriculture-based) country like India, the end of barren winters calls for a celebration. The first harvest of the year is welcomed in different colours across the country, with some parts observing the festival as Makar Sankranti, while others celebrate it as Lohri or Pongal.
Pongal or Thai Pongal is widely celebrated in the southern India, mostly by the Tamils. It spans across four days. This year, it will be celebrated from January 14 to January 17.
Traditions and customs of Pongal
Pongal marks the beginning of the Uttarayan or the date when sun begins its northward journey. This means days start to be longer than the nights.
To celebrate the auspicious period, people clean their houses and surroundings. The whole family takes bath early in the morning and wears traditional attire for the four days of the festival.
The women wear sarees or pavada, while men don the angavastram. Kolam is an important aspect of the festival. It is a paste made of rice flour and water or milk or coconut water.
This white paste is considered to be pious and people use it to draw beautiful patterns and designs on the threshold of the houses or the puja area. Colours could be added to the paste. Having sugarcane is another custom during the festival.
Presenting gifts to employees, relatives, family and friends is also an integral part of Pongal. The exclusive gifts given to the labourers for Pongal are called Pongal padi or Pongal parisu.
Although one can choose to gift anything, there are some traditional gifts given during Pongal.
One can gift any idol or image of the Hindu sun god, which is known as Surya Pongal. Bhogi Pongal is also a common choice, which means to gift traditional decorative items. Apart from these, wooden handicraft items or household items such as utensils are a typical choice.
Pongal is celebrated across four days. All of the days have their own characteristics.
The first day of the festival is called Bhogi Pongal, when people worship the sun god and Mother Earth. The first paddy harvested is cooked with milk to make a sweet dish for the occasion.
The second day is called the Perum Pongal or Surya Pongal. This is the most important of the four days, when the sun is worshipped along with his consorts: chaya and samganya. It is customary to light a fire and throw all old and torn clothes into it. People also get an oil massage before bath and wear new clothes.
Mattu Pongal is the third day and it is when animals involved with the agriculture are worshipped. They are bathed, massaged and dressed in vibrant attire.
Jallikattu, a traditional event in which a bull is released into a crowd, is organized on Mattu Pongal. People try to grab the bull’s hump and hang on to it to stop it from running away.
Thiruvalluvar or Kanum Pongal
The concluding day is called the Thiruvalluvar or Kanum Pongal. People pay a visit to their relatives and friends. Women perform puja and pray for the wellbeing and prosperity of their brothers.