Pongal is four days harvest festival,celebrated on the fourteenth of January every year .It denotes the start of the Tamil month of Thai.The harvest festival of Pongal is the symbol of the veneration of the first fruit.Pongal signifies the end of the farming season and marks the begining of Sun's movement northwards for a six month period,which is called 'Uttarayana',which is an auspicious period.
All important events are scheduled during this period.The days get longer in the Tamil lands.Thai Pongal falls on 'Makar Sankranti' which is celebrated throughout India as the winter harvest.This also represents the sun entering the 10th house of the Indian zodiac i.e. Makara or Capricorn
The Pongal festival preparations start much before the day of celebration. In Pongal festival not only people are excited but the animals also join.People decorate their houses and dispose off unwanted things. Women draw various attractive rangoli designs.Some people repaint their houses and give a fresh look.
The houses and courtyards are cleaned and a new string of fresh mango leaves is tied on the entrance of the houses.Temple bells, drums and conch makes the whole atmosphere very pleasant.Rice is cooked in new pots until they boil over as a symbol of bountiful harvest.In the temples rice is made,prayers are sung, mantras are chanted and the 'prasad'of vegetables,spices and sugar cane spices is offered to the Gods,which is then consumed by the devotees to feel blessed by the God.
Pongal is celebrated for four consecutive days like 'Bogi','Pongal' 'Maattuppongal' and 'Thiruvalluvar.On the first day,January 13,during Bhogi celebration,all the old things like clothes etc. are burnt off marking the beginning of a new life.The second day,Jan 14, the Pongal day, is celebrated by boiling fresh milk early in the morning and allowing it to boil over the vessel - a tradition that is the literal translation for Pongal.
On this day people prepare sweets and visit each other's homes to exchange greetings. The third day,Jan 15 ie Mattu Pongal, is meant to offer thanks to the cows and buffaloes, as they are used for farming. On the last day, Jan 16 ie Kanum Pongal, people enjoy by going on long drives and picnics.In the festival called Jalli kathu,Bundles of money are tied to the horns of Pongal ferocious bulls which are tried to be retrieved by the participating people.
The first day of Pongal,ie Bhogi has an association with legend of Lord Indra and Lord Krishna.People used to worship the king of all deities,Lord Indra.This made Lord Indra full of pride and arrogance.Soon he thought himself to be the most powerful in the world.Child Krishna got the information about this and he planned to teach him a lesson. He advised his people and shepherd friends to worship Mount Govardhan and not Lord Indra.
This made Lord Indra furious and he ordered the clouds to create a massive thunder, lightning, heavy rains and flood the land.The people came in trouble and worshipped Lord Krishna for rescue.Soon,Lord Krishna lifted the huge Govardhan Parvat on his little finger and rescued the people from the floods. He continued with the lifted mountain to safeguard all the people from the massive storm of Lord Indra.
The rains and storm continued for three days and at last Indra realized his mistake and also the divine power of Lord Krishna.Indra apologised to Krishna for his arrogance.In return,Lord Krishna started the Bhogi celebrations in honor of Indra and the festival is also known as 'Indran'.
* Legend of Lord Shiva
This has association with the third day of Pongal known as Mattu Pongal which refers to Lord Shiva and his bull-mount, Nandi (Basava).Once Lord Shiva once told Basava to go to the Earth and pass on his advise to the people that they should have an oil massage and bath every day and to eat food once a month.
Confused Basava delivered an opposite message and told them to have an oil massage and bath once a month and to eat food daily. Shiva was worried that due to this mistake there would be shortage of grains on the Earth and in anger cursed Basava that he will live on the earth forever and help people in farming work.So,Mattu Pongal has an association with the cattle,which is also known as Kanu Pongal.