Thai Pongal

January 23, 2014 by Clover van Steenberghe
Filed under: Holidays, Language Learning 

Thai Pongal (தைப்பொங்கல்) or Pongal (பொங்கல்) is one of the most important holidays in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the Indian Union territory of Puducherry, and Sri Lanka. The holiday marks the end of the harvest season and is celebrated every year from January 13th to 16th by the Tamil people in the region. The tradition of Thai Pongal may be around 1,000 years old although some believe it to be much older.

Thai refers to the tenth month in the Tamil calendar. The word Pongal means “overflowing,” “boiling over” or “spilling over” in Tamil. The word Pongal and the holiday Thai Pongal symbolize material abundance. Traditionally Thai Pongal is intended to thank the Sun God and livestock that created the material abundance in the rural areas and farms. During the Thai Pongal holiday, Tamils return to their home villages to spend time with family and participate in ceremonies and traditions that thank the Sun God for the good harvest.
Pongal is the biggest harvest festival of the Tamils and is spread over four days. Each of the four days have their own significance. On the first day, people discard old unused possession, homes are cleaned and washed and then decorated. The outside of doorways are painted or adorned with garlands, flowers and leaves. “Bhogi” or the Rain God is also worshipped on the first day. Pongal falls on the second day and starts with the symbolic boiling of rice in milk with other special ingredients in a new clay pot. The moment the milk boils over (the symbol of abundance) family members shout “Pongalo Pongal!” The rice is then offered to the Sun God and later eaten. The third day or “Maatu Pongal” is a day to celebrate cattle and their role in traditional Indian farming. This day is celebrated together with other villagers and people bathe their cattle and paint their horns. The last day of Pongal is about visiting family and friends in the village and surrounding areas.

Here are a few Tamil phrases to wish your Tamil friends a good holiday.
இனிய பொங்கல் நல்வாழ்த்துக்கள் or Iniya Pongal Nalvazhthukkal translates to “Happy Pongal” in English
பொங்கல் வாழ்த்துக்கள் or Pongal Vazhthukkal translates to “Pongal Wishes” or “Pongal Greetings” in English

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