Once through with the cleaning and decorations of their households, people begin to prepare themselves to honor the Sun God. Second day of the 4-day Pongal festival is better known as Surya Pongal. It is the most important day of this harvest festival celebrated in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu. People wake up early in the morning, take bath. Womenfolk decorate the courtyards with beautiful color patterns called kolams. The joy in the hearts becomes discernible when everyone in the family come together to celebrate the day in traditional flavor with gaiety and exuberance.
Surya Pongal: Celebration of Nature’s Bounty
Surya Pongal is the first day of the auspicious Tamil month of Thai (mid-January to mid- February), which paves the way for new opportunities. It is also the day when Sun begins its northward journey, causing change of season. It is called Uttarayana. Surya Pongal is celebrated as a Thanksgiving Day when people show gratitude to the Sun God for giving bumper harvest and pray for his grace to shower abundance and prosperity in the coming days. They offer the Nature’s produce back to the Nature with heartfelt happiness and gratitude. Sun’s consorts, Chaya and Samgnya are also worshipped.
A traditional dish prepared on this day accentuates the true essence of the festival. Newly harvested rice is cooked with milk and jaggery in a new clay pot, preferably in an open area. The dish is called Pongal, which in Tamil means boiling over or spilling over. A sapling of turmeric is tied around the pot. Turmeric signifies purity and it attracts good fortune. As per the ritual, the milk in the pot is allowed to boil over as it is considered a sign of abundance and prosperity and when that happens, the members of the house watching it shouts ‘pongalo pongal’. The dish is first offered to the Sun God on a new banana leaf along with other delicacies and later happily partaken by family members and shared with friends. Gifts and sweets are exchanged along with good wishes for a prosperous year ahead. The day is considered highly auspicious for venturing into any new initiatives.
Significance of Surya Pongal
The Sun’s journey towards north heralds the advent of spring, ushering in new hope, new opportunities. The agricultural community looks forward to these opportunities to reap a happy and prosperous future for themselves and their children. However, the festive spirit of Surya Pongal is not restricted to villages, it is celebrated by the city dwellers as well. They decorate their houses, offices, wear new clothes, worship the Sun and spend the day merrymaking and feasting with family members and relatives. The bond with Nature is honored along with celebrations of family bonding. The festival also reiterates the importance of harmonizing with the transitions taking place in the Nature to benefit from Nature’s benevolence. Feeding the birds, honoring Indra (rain God), worshipping cows are some of the other rituals that are performed during the 4-day festival, which is essentially a celebration of life that has prospered due to Nature’s bounty.