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Pongal is a popular harvest festival of South India. Even with the changing customs and traditions, the spirit of the festival has survived over time. Since it is the harvest festival, the new crop is harvested, cooked and offered first to God.
This festival is celebrated for four days. Each day of Pongal has some unique customs and traditions related to it. This year Makar Sankranti 2021 will be observed on 14 January. On this date, Makara Sankranti on Thursday, January 14, 2021. Makara Sankranti Punya Kala will start from 08:30 am to 05:46 pm. Duration - 09 Hours 16 Mins. Also, Makara Sankranti Maha Punya Kala will start from 08:30 am and end at 10:15 am. Duration - 01 Hour 45 Mins.
The first day is known as the Bhogi Pongal in which the family gathers together and make offerings to Lord Indra for the plentiful harvest.
ALSO READ: Sakkarai Pongal Recipe
The second day of Pongal is known as the Surya Pongal in which offerings are made to Sun for facilitating the harvest.
The third day of the festival is called the Mattu Pongal in which the cowherds and shepherds pay gratitude to the cows and bulls.
The fourth day of the festival is known as the Kaanum Pongal. On the last day, people travel to see other family members.
Every festival in India has rituals and customs attached to it. These age-old traditions which are followed to keep up the vitality of the festivals. Pongal is no exception. So, let us take a look at the rituals associated with Pongal.
The Surya Puja
The main deity of the Pongal festival is Sun God. Hence all the rituals revolve around worshipping the Sun. Surya Puja is performed outside the house on Pongal.
Drawing The Pongal Kolam
The place chosen for the puja is thoroughly cleaned and a Surya Kolam is drawn. A Kolam is a kind of Rangoli made with white powder. The Surya Kolam is drawn with the face of Lord Surya. People also draw peacock, sugarcane, boiling pongal and such things which signify prosperity.
The food forms the most important part of the Pongal puja. The dish Pongal is prepared especially on this day outside the home. A canopy is erected with three sugarcane sticks tied together. A pot is tied with a turmeric plant and the Pongal is cooked.
Usually the Surya Ashtotaram or Gayatri Mantra is recited on Pongal.
After Puja Rituals
After the puja is over holy water and flowers are sprinkled over the Kolam and the Pongal dish. After saying the final prayers, the dish is distributed among all.
The Sun's Reflection
In some South Indian regions, there is a custom to look at the Sun's reflection in a vessel filled with water. Some communities also add turmeric and kumkum to the the water and look at the reflection. Another unique ritual is of looking at the Sun through the gap between the fingers.