Pongal – The Ancient Harvest Festival Of South India

Celebrating Pongal

Two women praying cattle with festival of pongal, Tamil Nadu, India

Pongal is one of the most important and ancient festivals celebrated in South India. This is a three day long harvest festival during which people worship the Sun God and clean their homes besides decorating the walls and floors with colorful patterns called rangoli. The festival also marks the commencement of the spring season and the end of the dark era. Like other festival, Pongal also has its own set of stories and legends which we are going to share with you all in our festival news section.

History  behind the festival Of Pongal

The celebration of Pongal is believed to date back to 200 to 300 B.C. particularly the Sangam Era fell during this period. It said that during the Sangam Era all the maidens observed Pavai Nombu, during which they prayed for rain and prosperity of their country. This festival was celebrated in the month of Margazhi and the young ladies avoided using milk and milk products for an entire month. They also refrained from applying oil to their hair and using harsh words during this month. It is believed that the modern day Pongal celebrations are deduced from this ritual.

The legends of Pongal

A legend also states that during the ancient times, Shiva ordered Basava, his bull to bring a message to the mortals living on earth. The message asked the mortals to have a bath and take an oil message every day while asking them to eat only once in a month. However, Basava, unintentionally altered Lord Shiva’s message and told the people to eat daily and take an oil message once in every month. Upon learning about Basava’s message Shiva became enraged and banished his bull to earth forever, to help people produce more food. This is how the festival of Pongal came to be associated with the cattle.

Pongal fesrive

Another popular legend associated with the festival of Pongal is related to Lord Krishna and Lord Indra. According to this legend Lord Krishna as a child decided to destroy the arrogance of Lord Indira, who considered himself all powerful as he was the king of Gods. To achieve his objective, Lord Krishna, convinced all the cowherds to stop offering prayers to Lord Indira and worship the Govardhan parvat instead. This angered Indira and he showered the region with relentless rain, thunderstorm and lightening. It was then that Lord Krishna in order to save his friends and devotees picked up the Govardhan Parvat and held it on his little finger for seven days providing shelter to all the people and cattle in the region and making Indira realize his mistake.

pongal- sri krishna legends

Yet another tradition of Pongal, makes it a day when women pray for the welfare of their brother. This ritual requires the women to offer special prayers for their brothers by using specific ingredients that are accumulated on a clean banana leaf in the courtyard of the house. They even perform an arti and apply a tilak on the forehead of their brothers, who thank the sisters and present them with gifts and money. The prayer is generally performed together by all the women of the household in the courtyard of the house.