Deemed as the confluence of tradition, culture, religion and social life, Pongal sees Tamil Nadu in a highly jubilant mood irrespective of caste, creed and other differences. Pongal is mainly a harvest festival and a thanks giving to acknowledge the help done by the Sun god, bullocks, cows and others for agriculture since agriculture is deemed as the fulcrum of Tamil life.
Usually around the time of Pongal, all the households brim with the harvest produced in their fields and therefore look prosperous and happy. Much before the festival, the houses are cleaned and painted and decorated. The sons and daughters living far from homes arrive at their native places. People procure new clothes and ornaments and also gift them to newly wedded couple.
Bhogi (The eve of Pongal)
Falling on the day before Pongal, Bhogi is the event of cleansing the old and inviting the new. Early in the morning, people collect all the old things, broken furniture, torn clothes and other things to be cleaned and create bonfire. Children and elders stand around the fire and sing and dance to the tunes of the drums they specially make for the event. The homes are then decorated and preparations are made for the Pongal celebrations.
The top highlight of Pongal is thanks giving to sun god. On this day, an oven is set up with stones and bricks on the open ground preferably in the fields or house backyards. New earthen pot is procured, decorated and placed in the oven. People cook rice with milk and other spices and the dish so prepared is also named after the event as Pongal. When the milk boils and comes out of the pot, it is symbolically viewed as the gods blessing the homes with prosperity. During this time, the family members and guests stand around and shout in ecstasy saying, “Pongalo Pongal”. Once the rice is cooked, it is offered with other dishes and vegetables to sun god on banana leaf and then all the members partake it.
In Tamil, the term Maadu stands for either cow or buffalo or bullock. Since these animals give milk or help to plough and draw carts, they are respected and worshipped on this day. The event falls on the day after Pongal. The cattle are washed, decorated and given sweets and dishes to eat.
The term Kaanum Pongal means (Seeing Pongal). The last day of the Pongal celebrations, people visit the places of their teachers, elders and respectable people to seek their blessings. This is the day set off for tours and travels, sightseeing and picnics. There is a huge crowd in Tamil Nadu temples and tourist places on this day. Having received money and gifts during Pongal, people use all of them happily to buy whatever they want on this day and make merry.