New Delhi: Pongal, celebrated mainly in Tamil Nadu, is a popular harvest festival and marks the auspicious beginning of the sun's northward journey towards the equinox, known as Uttarayan. Pongal celebrates the first harvest of the year. The festival, which is celebrated over four days, coincides with Makar Sankranti and Lohri, which is celebrated in North India.
Pongal translates to "spilling over" and the festival derives its name from the tradition of boiling rice in a pot till it starts overflowing. Other popular traditions in the celebration of Pongal include the drawing of rangolis and cooking of the Pongal dish, which is a Tamil preparation of rice boiled with milk and jaggery.
This year, Pongal began on January 13 and ends on January 16. The first day of Pongal is called Bogi, or Bhogi Pongal, and is celebrated in honour of Lord Indra. Lord Indra is considered the God of clouds and rains, and is believed to bring plenty and prosperity to the land.
The second day, which is today, is known as Surya Pongal and is dedicated to the Sun God. The third day is dedicated to cattle and is called Mattu Pongal. It is on this day that parts of the country hold the Jallikattu festival. The fourth and final day is called Kaanum Pongal, or Thiruvalluvar day, which marks the end of the festival for the year.
Apart from Tamil Nadu, Pongal is also popular in the Union Territory of Puducherry. It is also celebrated by the many Tamil people staying abroad, especially in neighbouring Sri Lanka.