What is Thai Pongal?
January marks one of the most festive celebrations worldwide, with Thai Pongal falling around the second week. Here are 6 things to know about the festival of Thai Pongal:
- Thai Pongal is celebrated by Hindus worldwide
Thai Pongal is celebrated worldwide by those who follow the Hinduism religion, and are mostly Tamils. Hindu Tamils are found around the world, for example, in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and other countries with Tamil immigrants. In Sri Lanka, it is celebrated in the West, North, East, Central regions and just about any other area where Hindus live. Tamil Nadu in India has declared Pongal the State Festival.
- Thai Pongal is a essentially a harvest festival
Thai Pongal is traditionally a festival dedicated to the harvest and the sun, by farmers who depend on Mother Nature and her elements for a bountiful crop harvest of their staple food, rice. Farmers depend on the sun, the rain, the soil, water, and cows, buffaloes etc. Without any discrimination, people from all walks of life celebrate this festival to offer their thanks.
- Thai Pongal is a 4-day celebration
Pongal is actually a 4-day celebration. Day one is Bhogi, on which day worshipers burn any unwanted or old items, symbolizing the end of the old and beginning of the new. Day two is Surya Pongal, the most important day of the festival, where devotees wake up early to bathe and worship the Hindu Sun God — Surya. Day three is Mattu Pongal, which is dedicated to farm animals like cows and bulls who help farmers succesfully raise and harvest crops. Day four is Kaanum Pongal where people offer food like sugarcane and milk rice to the Sun God, and visit relations and loved ones.
- Thai Pongal follows the Tamil-Hindu calendar
The festival of Thai Pongal historically follows the Tamil-Hindu calendar which a astrological calendar that follows the path of the celestial objects like the sun and the moon. Thai Pongal is celebrated in the first four days of the month of Thai in the calendar.
- The most significant practice is the preparation of “pongal”
The Pongal dish is the main sweetmeat of Thai Pongal, and its preparation is a highlight of the festival. Pongal is a dish made of rice boiled with milk, jaggery, plums and other spices, traditionally made in earthenware pots over a wooden fire.
- The Kolam is an integral part of the festival
One of the most important aspects of Thai Pongal is the kolam, which is a traditional design drawn by hand at the entrances of the houses. It is a design made of lime powder and other elements, and is usually drawn early in the morning of Thai Pongal after the residents have a bath.