What is Pongal? Meaning and Traditional Significance of Tamil Harvest Festival

Pongal, the harvest festival, celebrated for years down the South of India, Tamil Nadu, is a Tamil Thanksgiving festival. In any civilization, people used to express their gratitude to the nature for showing its kindness towards corps. Just the name and tradition differs, but the goal of the festival is to thank nature. The time of festivity differs according to the calendar based on solar system.

What is Pongal

In Tamil Nadu, Pongal is celebrated in mid-January that marks the beginning of new Tamil month Thai, so the festival is technically called as Thai Pongal. The celebration starts with the first day of the month and last for four days. Pongal, the first day of Thai month, brings peace, happiness, prosperity, brightness and harmony in everyone’s life. There’s a popular saying in Tamil “Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum” which Tamil people believe that knotty family issues will be unraveled with the approach of the Tamil month Thai. This is customarily the month of weddings.

The festival gets its name from a Tamil word which means ‘to boil’ and is held during the season when rice, cereals, sugar-cane and turmeric are harvested. ‘Ponga’ literally means overflowing and is named so because of the tradition of cooking the new rice in pots until they overflow, which is symbolic of abundance and prosperity.

When Pongal is Celebrated?

Pongal signals the end of the traditional farming season, giving farmers a break from their monotonous routine. Farmers also perform puja to some crops, signaling the end of the traditional farming season. Pongal is celebrated for four consecutive days – ‘Bhogi’ on January 13, ‘Pongal’ on Jan 14, ‘Maattuppongal’ on Jan 15, and ‘ Kaanum Pongal’ on Jan 16.

The First Day – Bhogi


This first day is Bhogi celebration in honor for Lord Indra, the preeminent God of mists that give downpours. Tribute is paid to Lord Indra for the plenitude of reap, accordingly conveying bounty and success to the land. Another custom saw on this day is Bhogi Mantalu, where will get rid of old household things and purchase new things. This significantly resembles the beginning of new life, burning our sins in fire and starting a new life.

The Second Day – Thai Pongal

Thai pongal

It is the important day of the celebration celebrated to honor Sun god, Surya. The tradition of the festive is cooking the newly harvested rice in mud pots till it overflows (it is the literal translation for Pongal), apparently thanking Sun.  All individuals wear customary dress and markings. The prime theme of the festival is exchange of love and food and showing gratitude to nature and cattle.

The Third Day  – Mattu Pongal

mattu pongal

The third day is known as Mattu Pongal, the day for Cows. Multi-colored beads, tinkling bells, sheaves of corn and flower garlands are tied around the neck of the cattle and then are worshiped. They are fed with Pongal and taken to the village centers. The resounding of their bells attract the villagers as the young men race each other’s cattle. The entire atmosphere becomes festive and full of fun and revelry. Arati is performed on them, so as to ward off the evil eye.


On this auspicious day, they conduct Jallikattu, the sport of taming bulls. It is the traditional sport organized in Tamil Nadu for several years, which is now banned by the Apex court.

The Fourth Day – Kaanum Pongal

Kaanum pongal

The Fourth day is Knau or Kaanum Pongal also known as Thiruvalluvar day. Turmeric plays an important part on this day. People used to spray Turmeric water all over the house. On this day, People will be visiting religious places and tourist attractions and organize gatherings at their homes.

TechieWheels wishing everyone out there a Happy Pongal!!!