What is Pongal?
Pongal is one of the most popular harvest festivals of South India, mainly of Tamil Nadu. Pongal falls in the mid-January every year and marks the auspicious beginning of Uttarayan - sun's journey northwards. Pongal festival lasts for four days. This four days long festival of Tamil Nadu is celebrated for showing gratitude to nature. The literal meaning of Pongal is “spilling over" and it had been named so, because of the tradition of boiling rice in a pot until it starts overflowing.
History of Pongal
The history of the festival can be traced back to the Sangam Age i.e. 200 B.C. to 300 A.D. It is the festival of the Tamils in South India. Although Pongal originated as a Dravidian Harvest festival and has a mention in Sanskrit Puranas, during this festival young girls prayed for rain and prosperity of the country. The women had a bath in the morning and worshipped the Goddess Katvayani and followed penance. They avoided milk products throughout the month. They did not oil their hair and avoided speaking harsh words. All these customs and traditions led to the celebration of Pongal.
The two most popular legends of Pongal are stories related to Lord Shiva, Lord Indra and Lord Krishna. The festival is spread over three days and is the most important and most fervently celebrated harvest festival of South India. Farmers worship the sun and the earth by anointing their plows and sickles with sandalwood paste. These tools are then used to cut the newly harvested rice. The festival is celebrated over three days by different festivities.
Legends of Pongal
All the festivals have some interesting legends associated with it. The most popular legends attached with Pongal are: Legend of Mount Govardhan – The first day of Pongal is associated with the legend of Lord Indra and Lord Krishna. Earlier people used to worship Lord Indra who was the King of the deities. This made Lord Indra very proud and arrogant. When Lord Krishna came to know about this, he wanted to teach him a lesson. He persuaded his cowherd friends to worship Mount Govardhan instead of Lord Indra.
When Lord Indra came to know about this, he was very angry and he sent forth non-stop, thunder, lightning, heavy rains and flood in the land. But Lord Krishna lifted Mount Govardhan on his little finger to protect the humans and cattle from the flood and storm. The rain continued for 3 days and at last, Lord Indra realised his mistake and saw the divine power of Lord Krishna. He begged for Krishna’s forgiveness. Since then, Lord Krishna allowed the people to celebrate the festival in honour of Lord Indra. This was the origin of the Pongal celebration.
Legend of Lord Shiva – Another legend associated with this festival is of Lord Shiva and Nandi, the bull. Lord Shiva once asked his bull to go to earth and tell the people to have an oil massage and bath daily and eat food once a month but by mistake, the bull told them to have an oil massage and bath once a month and eat food daily. Enraged Shiva cursed Basava the bull and said that due to this mistake there would be a lack of grains on the earth. He also banished the bull to the earth to help people plough the fields. Thus Pongal has an association with the cattle.
The Important Days of Pongal
Pongal is celebrated for four days. It is a time to discard the old and welcome the new. On the first day of the Pongal, people celebrate it as the Bhogi festival, devoted to Lord Indra. The second day is the Surya Pongal, which is the ceremonial worship involving the boiling of rice in milk in earthenware. On the third day, cows are decorated with tinkling bells, multi-coloured beads and garlands of sheaves of corn and flower and the occasion are known as the Mattu Pongal. And the final day is celebrated as the Kaanum festival.
Bhogi Pongal is a day for family gathering and dedicated to Lord Indra. Offerings are made to him for a plentiful harvest. It is also the beginning of the New Year according to the Malayalam calendar. A huge bonfire of useless things from the home is lit and kept burning throughout the night. Boys beat little buffalo-hide drums and the houses are cleaned and decorated with Kolams.
Surya Pongal is the second day of Pongal dedicated to the Sun God. The granaries are kept full on this day and Sun God with his rays are painted on a plank as he is worshipped. It is said that Lord Sundareshwar performed a miracle on this day in Madurai temple and breathed life into a stone elephant who ate sugarcanes. One can see the depiction of the event in the Meenakshi Temple. Since the word Ponga means to boil representing plentiful, a special dish is cooked on this day in a new mud pot which has innovative shapes and artistic designs on them called ‘Pongapani’.
The third day of Pongal is known as ‘Mattu Pongal’ and is dedicated to the cattle as cowherds and shepherds pay thanks to their cows and bulls, paint their horns and adorn them with shining metal caps. Tinkling bells are tied around their neck and they are fed ‘Pongal’. Lord Ganesha and Goddess Parvati are also worshipped on this day. Cattle races are conducted which is called ‘Manii Virattu’ where groups of young men chase running bulls. Bullfights called ‘Jallikattu’ are also conducted at some places where young men have to take the money bags which are tied to the horns of the ferocious bulls and fight them single-handedly with using any arms. At some other places, this day is also celebrated as Kanu Pongal when young girls feed balls of coloured rice to birds and crows and pray for their brothers’ happiness.
This is the fourth day of Pongal. On this day, family members travel to meet each other and the younger members of the family seek blessing from the elders, and the elders thank them by giving money as a gift. Many people feed the birds by keeping food on a banana leaf. South Indians take the first part of the rice that is cooked and leave it outside for the crows, especially for Pongal.
Gifting Ideas Suitable for Pongal
There is a strong tradition in South India to greet Pongal with the exchange of gifts. This helps to develop a strong relationship with loved ones and family members and adds more happiness and joy to the festival. It is difficult to choose a perfect gift for Pongal. Choosing the right gift can be a difficult task. One has to think carefully before buying the perfect gift for their loved ones.
Surya Pongal, the second day of Pongal is dedicated to the Sun God, therefore, it is very auspicious to gift Sun God sculptures on this occasion. They come in various beautiful designs and are made out of silver, gold, brass and white metal.
Home Decor Pieces
On the first day of Pongal, people clean their homes and discard all unwanted things and fill their home with new and artistic decorative items. They also buy new utensils for the kitchen. Things made out of wood, different kinds of decorative items and household goods are considered to be the right gift for this occasion.
Flowers and Plants
Gifting flowers and plants are the most beautiful expression of love. A gift can be accompanied with a bouquet of flowers of your choice. A variety of Good Luck plants are also available nowadays which can be the perfect gift for Pongal for your loved ones.
Calendars and Organisers
Calendars and organisers are another popular Pongal gift as this festival comes in the start of the New Year. Calendars come in a variety of designs like wall hangings and as table décor. Organisers are available in painted designs and colours and are a great gifting option.
Sweets and Dry-Fruit
Sweets are a must for any Indian festival as they bring sweetness into a relationship. A variety of sweets and dry- fruit hampers in various packaging are available in the market which is ideal for gifting. It can be accompanied by another gift. Dry fruits have a longer shelf life and can be sent to a loved one who is far away.
9 Exquisite Pongal Gifts to Charm Everyone
Wooden Radha-Krishna Key Holder
This is a beautiful key holder with four hooks. It is made of wood which makes it last longer. It has a beautiful picture of Radha and Krishna in assorted colours. You can put it on your door or on the wall and hang your keys. It is an ideal gift for any occasion. Wipe it with a soft dry cloth to keep it clean. The price of this product is Rs. 999 at Amazon.
Pure Gold and Rhodium Coated Chain Necklace for Women
The Gold and Rhodium coated chain necklace is an ideal gift for a loved one for a festival or any other special occasion. It is 22 carats pure gold coated. Keep it in a velvet coated jewellery box when not in use. This product is available for Rs. 4,000/- at Amazon.
Festival Gift Box
This is a velvet and satin long pencil box with lid. It is secured with a golden metallic twist lock and covered with charming and shining gloss laminated photo print of Pongal. It is made of wood and covered with fabric and paper. It has a cardboard lining inside to give it more durability. It is a perfect gift for Pongal. This product is available for Rs. 250/- at Amazon.
Nutshellz Dried Dates
Nutshellz Dried dates is a vegetarian product and come in a package of 2000 gms. The dates are fresh, hand-selected, a nutrient-rich product of very good quality and the price is affordable. It is packed just in time to retain the freshness, aroma and taste and it to give it a longer shelf life. It is the ideal gift for any festival or corporate event. The product is available for Rs. 2,000/- at Amazon.
Haldi Kumkum Holder
This Haldi kumkum holder is a beautiful ornamental product. It is designed with kundan and sparkling stones. It is a decorative item and ideal for puja during festivals or marriages. It comes in attractive and stylish design and is crafted by a skilled artisan and is long lasting. It is perfect for gifting or personal use. This product is available for Rs. 2,000/- at Amazon.
Crafticia German Silver Golden Single Lotus Bowl
This is a decorative Rajasthani traditional lotus bowl and unique handcrafted design of Jaipur. The bowl is made of brass and is available at Amazon. This royal handicraft item is perfect for any festival occasion. It can also be used as a decorative piece for the dining room, hotel, or a corporate office. It can also be given as a gift for festivals or weddings. The price of this product is Rs. 1000/-.
Handcrafted Decorative Gift Set
This beautiful gift set includes an Acrylic Rangoli Design set, Haldi Kumkum box, Dry fruits, Shubh Labh and Laxmi Paul. These components are kept in a golden coloured basket and are a perfect gift to relatives and friends. This product is available for Rs. 1498/- at Amazon.
Handcrafted Decorative Rangoli Set
This is a 7 piece Ganesha Design set which is handcrafted and finely designed for home decor. It is made of acrylic material and has a red colour base with multi-coloured stones and kundans. It is a new concept in Rangoli and festive home decor and can be arranged in different shapes and designs which make the home look unique and beautiful and is a must have for any festival. The price of this product is Rs. 699/- at Amazon.
Meenamart Iron Buddha Hanging Lantern
This elegant Buddha Lantern by Meenamart will remove the darkness from your living space. It has a pyramid style metal base and reflects the silhouette of Lord Buddha when lighted up. This product is available for Rs. 1,199/- at Amazon. The candle holder has a handle and can be placed in any corner of the room with ease. It has an eye-catching design and is very classy and elegant. It will bring warmth and serenity into your room and is a perfect gift for housewarming ceremony, wedding, corporate event or festivals. It can be kept indoors and outdoors and can also be used to bring relaxation during meditation and yoga practice or any other household purpose.
Gifts Should Reflect The Nature of The Festival
Pongal is a very important festival in South India celebrated by everyone regardless of religion. It celebrates the nature and the farmers who provide us with our daily food. Among the various rituals performed during Pongal, a very important ritual is visiting friends and relatives and sharing gifts with them. Pongal being a festival of traditional nature, it would be good if the gifts that you present reflect the same. Traditional gifts like kumkum holder and tea lights may sound like everyday gifts but they suit the occasion. Make sure you select gifts that reflect the festive nature of the festival.