Thai Pongal is one of the festivals of Tamil Naduand is known to be one of the most important festivals of this South Indian state, along with the Union Territory of Puducherry. The festival conveys appreciation to the Sun God for a bountiful harvest.
Etymology of Thai Pongal
The word Thai has its origins in the Tamil calendar, where Thai is referred to as the tenth month. The word Pongal has various other connotations from festivity and celebrations to ‘overflow’ or ‘boiling over’. Pongal is also the name of a sweetened dish of rice boiled with lentils that is ritually consumed on this day. Symbolically, Pongal signifies the gradual heating of the earth as the Sun travels northward toward the equinox.
History of Thai Pongal
Dating back to more than 1000 years, there is several epigraphic evidence which suggests that Thai Pongal or Puthiyeedu, has been around since the 9th century during the Medieval Chola period. Puthiyeedu is believed to represent the first harvest of the year. Thai Pongal is also referred to as Makara Sankranti, which is mentioned in the classic work of Hindu astrology, the Surya Siddhanta.
Celebration of Thai Pongal
Cooking is a primary part of the festival and is done in sunlight, usually in a porch or courtyard as the dish is dedicated to the Sun God. The cooking is done in a clay pot that is decorated with coloured patterns called kolam. The celebration of Thai Pongal is held for 4 days from the last day of the Tamil month of Maargazhi to the third day of Thai. Discussed elaborately below are the 4 days of the festival:
Bhogi: It is celebrated a day before Pongal by throwing away and destroying old clothes and materials, by setting them on fire, marking the end of the old Thai and the emergence of the new Thai.
Thai Pongal: This is the main festival that takes places on the second day and coincides with Makara Sankranthi. The name Pongal comes from the tradition of boiling rice with fresh milk and jaggery in new pots, topped with brown sugar, cashew and raisins, and allowing it to boil over in the sunlight.
Maatu Pongal: Celebrated a day after Thai Pongal, which includes worshipping the cattle, Mattu Pongal is celebrated in recognition of the importance of cattle in the agrarian community. Features of the day include gamessuch as the Jallikattu or taming the bull.
Kaanum Pongal: Marks the end of the Pongal festival, the word Kaanum means ‘to visit’ and on Kaanum Pongal, families hold reunions on this auspicious day. This is a day to offer appreciation to the friends and relatives for their support in harvest.
The central theme of Thai Pongal is love and peace.