Pongal is celebrated in January right after the winter solstice marking the entry of sun into Makaram Rashi (Tropic of Capricorn) from the Tropic of Cancer. This is a very auspicious day for Hindus. This astronomical event is celebrated in South India as Pongal and in Central and North India as Makar Sankranthi. This festival also marks the end of winter.
Pongal celebrations continue for 4 days, beginning on the final day of the Tamil month of Maargazhi and ending on the third day of Thai. The first day of Pongal is called Bhogi and is celebrated in honour of the god of clouds and rains, Lord Indra. The second day of Pongal is marked by boiling of rice in milk and ceremonial worship followed by symbolic offering to Sun God.
On the third day of Pongal, called Mattu Pongal, cows are adorned, fed and worshipped. Kannum Pongal, the fourth day of Pongal, is marked by ceremonies followed by praying for the prosperity of their brothers’ families by womenfolk.
The Pongal festival is also known as “The Harvest Festival”. Pongal is an expression of gratitude for a good harvest and nature’s gifts. The word “Pongal” is derived from a Tamil word that means “to boil”, “boil over” or “boiling over” of milk and rice signifying a time of plenty or abundance.
Pongal, as with all festivals, has some legends associated with it. Here are 2 most interesting and popular legends.
This legend involving Lord Shiva and his mount, Basava the bull, concerns Mattu Pongal, the third day of Pongal. Legend has it that once Lord Shiva asked his bull to deliver a message to the people of the earth instructing them to have oil massage and bath every day and to eat once every month. Basava, erroneously, tells them to eat daily and have an oil massage and bath every month.
Lord Shiva gets angry at Basava for this mistake as there will now be a shortage of food grains. The bull is cursed to plough the fields and is banished to live on earth. Thus, Mattu Pongal, also called Kanu Pongal, gives much prominence to cattle, especially cows.
This legend involving Lord Indra and Lord Krishna is related to Bhogi Pongal, the first day of Pongal. Lord Indra, being the King of the deities, had become very arrogant and considered himself the most powerful of all gods. Lord Krishna, who was a child at the time, encouraged his cowherd friends and the villagers to worship Mount Govardhan rather than Lord Indra.
An angry Lord Indra lashed out with heavy rain and thunder to flood them. Lord Krishna lifts the Govardhan mountain with his little finger to protect the people and cattle. After 3 days of unabated rain Lord Indra realizes his folly and learns his lesson. He begs Lord Krishna for forgiveness and promises to be humble. Lord Krishna then allows the celebration of Bhogi in honour of Lord Indra. Owing to this legend Bhogi is called Indran.
Hope you enjoyed reading about the legends related to Pongal. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.