Talk about Pongal festival and the first thing that comes to mind is the boiling over of the cooking rice and lentils, known as pongal dish. This pongal dish is offered to Lord Surya, who is Pratyaksha Brahman – the visible God. For a prosperous and peaceful year, on the Pongal day, Lord Surya (the Sun God) is worshipped after the birth of Thai Month. Pujas and rituals on the day are dedicated to the Sun God.
How to Perform Pongal Puja?
Surya Puja is performed outside the house after sunrise on the Pongal day. Some people invite priests to perform Surya Narayana Puja on the day.
All pujas are performed after sunrise on the first day of Thai month.
Drawing of Pongal Kolam
The place chosen to perform the puja is thoroughly cleaned and a Surya Kolam is drawn - a Kolam with the face of Lord Surya. People also draw sugarcane, peacock, boiling pongal pot etc in or around the Surya Kolam.
The Pongal Puja
The pongal and other dishes specially prepared for the day are offered to Surya.
For many people, cooking of pongal itself is an offering and they perform it outside with a tripod of sugarcane – three sugarcane sticks erected like an uncovered tent.
The pongal pot is tied with
Apart from the pongal and other dishes, some people also offer fruits, vegetables, produce from recent harvest, sugarcane, coconut, betel leaves, betel nut and flowers.
All the fruits, vegetables, flowers and pongal dish are kept on the Surya kolam and a lamp is lit and prayers are offered to Surya.
Prayers Chanted on Pongal
Aditya Hridayam or Surya Ashtotaram or Gayatri mantra is recited. Or you can simply mediate and say some simple prayers.
After The Pongal Puja
After the prayers, some water and flowers are sprinkled on the kolam and pongal dish. You can also sprinkle some uncooked rice mixed with turmeric (akshata).
After final prayers, the pongal, other dishes and fruits are distributed.
Looking at Sun’s reflection in water
In some regions, there is a ritual to look at the Sun’s reflection in a vessel filled with water. Some communities add turmeric and kumkum to the water and look at this reflection. Another unique ritual is to look at sun through the gaps of fingers.
Puja After Sunset
After sunset special prayers are offered to Lord Surya. This includes chanting of any shloka dedicated to the sun god.
Significance of Sugarcane in Pongal : -
Ever wondered why is sugarcane an indispensable part of Pongal? Sugarcane symbolizes sweetness and happiness. But there is also a myth associated with the widespread use of Sugarcane during Pongal.
It is said that on a Perum Pongal day, Lord Shiva performed the miracle of feeding sugarcane to a stone image of an elephant in the Madurai Meenakshi Temple. Lord Shiva is known as Lord Sundareshwar in Meenakshi temple and there is a stone carving based on the event in the temple.
Apart from Sugarcane some of the other essentials during Pongal are Turmeric tufts, koorai poo, Aavaram poo, banana leaves and mango leaves. Koorai poo is believed to keep evil away and so it is placed in front of houses.
The neck of the Ponga panai (the vessel in which Pongal is prepared) is tied with fresh turmeric leaves. In some places, fresh tender green leaves of ginger are also used. The green leaves symbolize prosperity.
How to observe Bhogi Pongal?
Bhogi marks the preparation for Pongal festival and Uttarayana, the auspicious half of the year. Bhogi is specially marked for physical and spiritual cleaning and falls on the last day of Tamil month Margazhi. Cleaning and removing unwanted stuff and damaged things is the main activity on the day. In the evening, people burn all the unwanted things (Bhogi Bonfire). Bhogi falls on the day before Pongal day. It is also the first day of Sankranti in Andhra Pradesh. Here is a brief look at what to do on Bhogi Pongal?
An elaborate oil bath is done at early morning on the Bhogi day.
Drawing of Kolams
After morning bath and rituals, women make beautiful kolams (rangoli).
There is sometimes a healthy competition among neighbors on design and size of the kolams. Large kolams are preferred during Pongal.
Some communities place a pumpkin flower in the middle of the kolam.
Cleaning and Burning debris on Bhogi Pongal
The most important activity on Bhogi Pongal is to clean the house, office, surroundings, courtyard and other places. All the broken and unwanted things are removed. The reason for this massive cleaning exercise is to bring new energy into life. It is believed that Uttarayana marks the daytime of the Devas and all auspicious things happen during this period. So all the unwanted things are removed and burned to ashes. Bhogi bonfire is a major activity in the evening.
Caution: Bhogi Pongal and Pollution: In the name of cleaning, people burn plastic, rubber, tyres and non-degradable material causing environmental pollution. Such practices should not be encouraged.
Bhogi Pongal Puja
There is no special puja. Daily poojas and prayers are performed. Farmers do have some rituals like consecrating their tools and doing harvest of paddy and sugarcane.
Purchase for Pongal and coming Four Year Stronghere is a tradition to purchase new clothes, sugarcane and new vessel to cook pongal on Bhogi day. Some of the old things are replaced. Many people buy new broom, dustpan and other kitchen items on this day.
Food on Bhogi Pongal
A traditional home meal with Mor Kozhambu is prepared in most homes. Some people also prepare kadala parippu poli, Bhogi ama vadai etc. Sweets are also prepared in some houses.
Preparation for Pongal
In most regions, Bhogi day is used to prepare for Pongal, which happens on the next day. It is also the first day in Thai Month. From 2009, Pongal will also be the Tamil New Year day.
Significance of Mattu Pongal
Mattu Pongal is the third day of Pongal festival in Tamil Nadu. Mattu or Mathu means cattle or bull and the day is also known as Pongal of the cattle. In 2014, Mattu Pongal date is January 15. Mattu Pongal is today famous for the bull fight known Jallikettu or Manji Virattu.
Mattu Pongal is a sort of thanksgiving to cow, which provides milk and organic manure or fertilizer, and bull, which draws the plough. Cows and bulls are an indispensable to the rural economy of India.
On the morning of Mattu Pongal, the cattle are herded to the pool, where they are bathed and decorated. Horns are painted and are capped with special metal caps. The bulls are also adorned with garlands, trinkets and tinkling bells. They are given specially prepared Pongal and other goodies to eat. Special prayers are offered to Lord Ganesha and Goddess Parvati and pongal dish is prepared and offered as ‘prasad’.
In the first half of the Mattu Pongal day, bulls are pampered and fed and in the next half, they are tortured in the name of Jallikettu and Manji Virattu – a sort of bull fighting. Ferocious bulls are specially handpicked and bags of coins are tied to the sharpened horns and they are let loose in an open ground. Young men try to subdue the bull barehanded and in the process hurt themselves and the bulls.
The sport is highly popular in rural Tamil Nadu and in spite of protests from animal activists the sport thrives in the name of tradition.
Kanuma Festival held in Andhra Pradesh during Sankranthi is quite similar to the Mattu Pongal.
Kaanum Pongal – the fourth day of Pongal
Kaanum literally means ‘to see’ and is the fourth day of the Pongal festival in Tamil Nadu. As the name indicates, Kaanum Pongal is essentially a day of relaxation and socializing and people either visit relatives or go out on a picnic.
One of the most important events on the day is the visit to the banks of Kaveri River. Many people pack their lunch and a have a picnic lunch on the riverbank. In many places special prayers are offered to Mother Kaveri.
In certain parts of rural Tamil Nadu, people use the opportunity provided by Kaanum Pongal to perform the ritual ‘Kummippatu’ or ‘kumi patu.’ This is a ritual performed for the speedy marriage of girls whose marriages are unduly delayed. The girl whose marriage is delayed is made to sit in the center of a circle formed by women dancing to the tune of ‘Kummi pattu.’
There is lot of revelry and merry making on the day. People mingle freely and this gives opportunities to initiate new relationships and several marriage proposals are made on this day.
A sumptuous meal is prepared on the day and youngsters pay respect to the elders and the elders give them money or presents. In some regions, food is left out on banana leaves for birds.
Movies Theaters, Zoos, Parks, Tourist destinations, wildlife sanctuaries, beaches, especially the Marina Beach in Chennai, witness heavy rush on Kaanum Pongal.
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