In the South Sankranti becomes Pongal. It is the time when the people get ready to thank God, Earth and their Cattle for the wonderful harvest and celebrate the occasion with joyous festivities and rituals praying for fruitful seasons ahead. The festival is mainly celebrated in Tamil Nadu as well as in Andhra Pradesh and it lasts for 4 days starting on the mid of January. The first day is called the Bhogi Pongal which is celebrated as a family festival where people clean their houses and discard unwanted household items into a bonfire. They also decorate their houses with colourful Rangoli patterns. Surya Pongal, the second day, is dedicated to the Sun (Surya) when Pongal (newly harvested rice boiled with milk, jiggery, cashew, and coconut in decorated earthen pots) is cooked by women dressed in traditional attire and offered to the Sun God. It is followed by great rejoicing. Mattu Pongal, the third day, is a day dedicated to the worship and veneration of cattle(mattu). The cattle are bathed and decorated with colourful beads, colours, garlands, bells etc. The pongal that has been offered to the local deities is given to the cattle to eat. Bundles containing money are tied to the horns of ferocious bulls, and unarmed villagers try to wrest the bundles from them. The fourth and final day is Kaanum Pongal. It is marked with a ritual involving the laying down of rice, betel leaves and nuts, plantains and many other types of food on a freshly washed turmeric leaf. The women of the family will then bless the house and their brothers and sprinkle turmeric water in front of the house. With ingredients provided by the freshly gathered harvest, community meals are held at night. This is a colourful harvest festival to demonstrate the people’s gratitude for a bountiful harvest. It also serves as the holy phase of transition, marking the end of what the people consider as an ominous phase which started in mid-December and the transition from the winter season to spring season.
See our departures for Pongal in Tamil Nadu and The Best of South India