Pongal festival celebration 2022 | Bhogi, mattu and kaanum pongal significance and story

Pongal festival celebration 2022| Significance and story 



Pongal festival celebration 2022 | Bhogi, Pongal, mattu pongal, and kaanum Pongal significance and story with the detailed procedure.


Introduction:

Pongal is known as the harvest festival of South India. It marks the beginning of Uttarayana that is the sun’s movement northwards for a period of six months. It is the only Hindu festival celebrated from the 13th of January to the 15th of January every year in Tamil Nadu. 

This festival is called Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Bhogali Bihu in Assam, Baisakhi/Lohri in Punjab, Bhogi in Andhra Pradesh, and Makara Sankranthi in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Bengal. 

Makara Sankranthi refers to the Sun entering the zodiac sign of Makara or Capricorn.  It is a thanksgiving festival to the Sun God, Mother Earth, and the cattle.

Origin of Pongal Festival:

Historians identified Pongal with “Thai Niradal”, which was celebrated during Sangam Era (200 BC to 300 AD).

An inscription at the Veeraraghava Swamy temple at Tiruvallur, in Tamilnadu, also depicts the Chola king Kulothungan who had gifted land to this temple especially for Pongal celebrations. Andal’s Thiruppavai and Manickavachakar’s Tiruvembavai also describe the festival of Thai Niradal and the observance of Pavai Nonbu.

This Pavai Nonbu was observed by maidens (kanyas) during the Tamil month of Margazhi (worshipping Goddess Katyayani) which signifies the completion of their penance on the first day of the Tamil month of Thai (mid-January – mid-February). This must-have paved way for the celebration of the Pongal festival.

The spiritual significance of the Pongal Festival:


It is said that Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhan Mountain on His little finger, to protect the cattle and the people from Indra (the rain God) on the day of Bhogi (the first day of Pongal).

Another version is that on the third day of Pongal, Lord Shiva sent His buffalo Nandi to tell people to have an oil bath daily and eat once a month. However, Nandi became confused and told people to eat daily and bathe once a month.

Lord Shiva got angry and He sent Nandi to help the people on the earth to cultivate more crops and harvest more food, therefore Pongal became a harvest festival. 

Another version is that on the main Pongal day, Lord Vishnu, pleased by the penance of Sage Hema on the banks of Pottramarai tank in Kumbakonam, took the form of Sarangapani to bless the Sage. 

There is an interesting story behind this divine incident. Sage Hema was Bhrigu Maharishi in his previous birth. Once it was decided that Sage Bhrigu should meet the three Lords to pronounce a judgment as to decide the greatest of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.  

He met them and declared that Vishnu was the Supreme Lord, as Lord Vishnu did not lose His temper when Bhrigu kicked the Lord, instead he washed the feet of Bhrigu Maharishi.  Having kicked Lord Vishnu in this process, Bhrigu repented and wished to serve Vishnu in two births.

The divine story behind sugarcane being associated with Pongal:


The Pandya king, Abidhega Pandian was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva.  One day Lord Shiva decided to grace him. Lord Shiva came as a miracle performer, appearing in a number of places in the Pandiya kingdom. He changed iron into gold, changed older people to look younger, and cured many chronic illnesses.

The king sent his guard to fetch Him to the palace. The miracle performer said that whoever wanted to see him had to come to his place. The guard informed the king and the king agreed to meet the miracle performer. He went to a temple where the miracle performer was staying. 

All the subjects of the king stood up and bowed as a mark of respect to the king, but the miracle performer did not stand up. The king felt that that the miracle performer was rude. The king asked him for an explanation and the miracle performer told the king that he had traveled a lot and there was nothing for him to learn from the king as he had mastered all arts. 

The king was shocked by his arrogant answer and wanted to teach him a lesson.  The king saw a farmer with some sugarcane standing next to him. He threw a challenge over the miracle performer stating that he should feed the stone elephants with the sugarcane. 

The miracle performer took the sugarcane and looked at the stone elephants on the temple walls gracefully. To everybody’s astonishment, the elephant trumpeted loudly and stretched out its trunk and took the sugarcane from the miracle performer’s hand and ate the sugarcane and turned back to stone. 

The king was flabbergasted and fell at the feet of the miracle performer, realizing that he was not an ordinary man but the Lord Himself. The Lord blessed the king and disappeared.

Celebration of the harvest festival in Tamilnadu:


Bhogi:

Bhogi is celebrated as the first day of the four-day harvest festival of Pongal. A bonfire is lit with logs of wood and people discard old things that are no longer useful and welcome new fortune and prosperity in their lives.

Pongal:

Traditionally, Pongal is prepared on mud pots (Pongal Panai), tied with a cluster of turmeric plants around its neck, with Chandan and Kumkum applied around the pot.

Pongal is cooked in the Pongal Panai by using firewoods set up on stones under the direct sunlight facing east at the auspicious time. Kolam with rice flour is drawn at the place where the Pongal is prepared. 

There is a custom followed by the people in TamilNadu, which is thumping the utensils with the ladles and shouting with enthusiasm “Pongal – O – Pongal”,   to signify the auspicious moment of the spilling over of the milk, while cooking Sakkarai/Sweet Pongal.

The Sun is worshipped as the source of life, as it is important for a good harvest that provides food for all. It is then offered to Sun God and then shared with the family members, relatives, and friends.

Mattu Pongal:

The third day of the four-day Pongal festival is celebrated as Mattu Pongal, by the farmers as a thanksgiving festival to the cattle. Cows are respected for providing milk and bulls for working hard and helping the farmers to plow the fields to cultivate crops.

Kaanum Pongal:

It is the final day of the Pongal festival, a day for sightseeing and recreation, where people go out with their families and friends for a picnic.


Reasons behind the celebration of Thiruvalluvar’s Day:


Thiruvalluvar was a celebrated Tamil poet and philosopher (lived in the 4th century BC), best known for his Tamil literature, Thirukkural.  It is a collection of couplets on ethics, political and economic matters, and love. Therefore, the fourth day of Pongal is celebrated as Thiruvalluvar’s Day, to honor Thiruvalluvar for his widely cherished work of Tamil literature.

How to celebrate the Pongal festival at home:


On the day of Bhogi, 

the entire house is cleaned and Kolam with Kavi is drawn in the front yard at the entrance of the house. The pooja room is decorated with flowers.  Lamps and incense sticks are lighted.  Moong dal or Coconut Payasam, Paruppu Vadai, Sambar, Rasam, and Poli are prepared. Moong Dal Payasam and Vadai are offered as neivedyam along with four betel leaves, two bananas, and betel nuts.

On the day of Pongal, 

1. The threshold in the front yard of the house is decorated with colorful kolams with red paint (Kavi).

2. Mango leaf festoons are tied at the entrance of the house.

3. The pooja room is decorated with rice flour kolam or Ezhai kolam (wet rice flour kolam).

4. Using rice flour, the Sun God and the Moon in a chariot are drawn on a wooden plank. 

5. A picture of Sun God is kept on the wooden plank (Palaka).
 
6. Chandan and Kumkum are applied to the picture of Sun God and decorated with flower garlands. Ginger cluster and Turmeric cluster are kept on either side of the picture of Sun God.

7. Incense sticks and lamps are lighted. 

8. In these modern days, Pongal is prepared on the gas or electric stove in a Bronze/Brass pot, with turmeric plants tied around the neck of the Bronze/Brass pot (Panai), applied with Chandan and Kumkum on all its sides.

9. Kolam is drawn on the stove. 

10. Sakkarai/Sweet/Jaggery Pongal - is a rice pudding prepared with rice, milk, jaggery, and roasted coconut, cashews, and raisins.

11. While preparing Sakkarai/Sweet Pongal, the spillover of milk is a propitious symbol of abundance and this much-awaited auspicious moment is signified by thumping the utensils with the ladles and saying “Pongalo –O- Pongal” with enthusiasm.

12. Once the Pongal is ready, an offering is first made to the Sun God with an elaborate pooja.

13. The worship of Sun God begins with Ganesha pooja, by making a cone-shaped Ganesha with turmeric powder mixing with few drops of water. It is placed on a brass plate and with the Akshatha (consecrated rice) and flowers, Ganesha pooja is performed.

14. Chandan and Kumkum are applied on the tip of the cone-shaped Ganesha. 
Four betel leaves with two betel nuts with two bananas are offered to the cone-shaped Ganesha as neivedhyam.

15. After finishing the Ganesha pooja, camphor is lighted and shown to Ganesha, ringing the bell.

16. With the Akshatha and flowers inside the right-hand palm, moving in the clockwise direction over the burning camphor, the flowers and Akshatha are offered to Ganesha.

17. The plate with the cone-shaped Ganesha is moved towards the North as an indication of prosperity and progress.

18. Now Sun God is worshipped with flowers and consecrated Akshatha (uncooked rice mixed with turmeric powder with few drops of water for performing pooja).

19. It is important to start the pooja at an auspicious time avoiding Ragu Kalam.

20. It is important to mention the thithi, star, day, and month while performing the pooja. 

21. Aditya Hridayam slokam is recited.

22. Four betel leaves with two betel nuts, two bananas, two apples, two oranges and two pomegranates, two sugarcanes (sugar cane is an important harvest of the season, which signifies prosperity), a cracked coconut, with Sweet Pongal, Ven Pongal, and Vadai are offered as neivedhyam.

23. Sambar is prepared with all kinds of vegetables like Carrot, Broad Beans, Sweet Potato, Chow Chow (Bangalore Brinjal/ Pear Squash), Potato, Mochai (Butter Beans), and Colocasia on this day.

24. Pongal means to “overflow”, hence the pot of rice boils over to symbolize prosperity and abundance. A drop of ghee and few Tulsi leaves are sprinkled over the offerings.

25. Keeping water in the right-hand palm, sprinkling three times in a clockwise direction around the neivedhyam items, betel leaves, betel nuts, fruits, and coconut are offered to Sun God. 

26. Camphor is lighted and shown to Sun God, ringing the bell.

27. With Akshatha and flowers inside the right-hand palm, moving in the clockwise direction over the burning camphor, the flowers and Akshatha are offered to Sun God.

28. Aarathi is shown to Sun God and slightly spilled over the kolam in the front yard of the house. 

29. Then, namaskarams offered to Sun God for prosperity, health, and happiness.


Significance of the ritual Manjal Keerarathu:

On the same day in the evening, a ritual known in Tamil as “Manjal Keerarathu”, that is gently rubbing with a turmeric piece (taken from the turmeric cluster tied around “Pongal Panai”) on the forehead is observed by a particular section of Tamil community. This is treated as a blessing which is showered by elderly married women to young ladies and girls within the family.

 
Significance of Kannu Pidi:


1. The next day after Pongal is celebrated in Tamil as “Kannu Pidi”, a ritual followed by a particular section of the Tamil community. The leftover Sweet Pongal and white rice of the previous day is mixed with turmeric powder and Kumkum as yellow rice, red rice, and curd is mixed with plain white rice.

2. Kolam with rice flour is drawn facing east in the open terrace or balcony. 
On the Kolam, turmeric leaves are placed on which yellow rice, red rice, curd rice, and Sweet Pongal with sugar cane pieces are served.

3. Chanting the slogan “kakapidivachen, Kannupidivachen, Kaka Kootam kalanchalam, Enga kootam Kalayama Irukkanam,” the different types of colored rice are made into small balls and arranged in odd numbers (as either five or seven or nine) in a row on the turmeric leaves.

4. Two betel leaves and two betel nuts with two bananas are placed on a plate and offered as neivedhyam.
 
5. After showing the Karpoora Aarathi to the items, namaskarams are offered to Sun God. Usually, crows are expected to eat these items. This Kannu Pidi is celebrated for the welfare of brothers and to have a good relationship with the family. (This is the meaning of the above Tamil slogan).

6. After finishing this ritual, a head bath is taken and a bowl of variety rice such as coconut rice, tamarind rice, lemon rice, and curd rice is offered as neivedhyam to God and worshipped.

The above procedure is followed in our family to celebrate Pongal.


Authors - Revathi and Pavithra.


Disclaimer:

The story, instructions, and procedures behind the Pongal festival mentioned in this post are completely based on our family tradition. This is how we perform our Pooja and the main reason for this post is to keep an online record for myself and for our future generations. I also would like to share the same with our family members and friends for reference. I'm sure this post would be useful if you are performing the Pongal festival every year. You may share this post with anyone. Thank you for understanding!!


Check out our other South Indian festival procedures below! 




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