Pongal oh Pongal! Here’s what you should know about this four-day Tamil harvest festival

Pongal ohhhhh Pongal! Pongal ohhhh Pongal!

If you’ve ever attended a Pongal festival, you would have probably heard the attendees shouting ‘Pongal oh Pongal’ as the milk boils over from the clay pots.

What does it all mean? What is Pongal and did you know that Pongal actually lasts for four days?

Read on to find out more.

What is Pongal?

A harvest festival celebrated by Tamil farmers.

A harvest festival celebrated by Tamil farmers.

Pongal, which means ‘overflowing’ is essentially the harvest festival celebrated by Tamil farmers. 

The festivities observed by Tamils worldwide is held to thank the Sun God and pray for a bountiful harvest for the coming season.

To symbolise the overflowing of prosperity and abundant harvest, decorated clay pots filled with milk, sugar, rice, raisins and nuts are cooked (this dish is also called Pongal) over a wood fire until the milk overflows from the brim of the pot. 

This is when the women usually start doing the Kolavai which is a form of yodelling followed by shouts of ‘Pongal oh Pongal!’.

A four-day celebration

While you will see most people wishing each other Happy Pongal today (14 January), the festival actually lasts for four days. 

Day 1 – Bhogi

The first day of the celebration is called Bhogi. It starts a day before Pongal. On Bhogi, a bonfire would be lit and old items would be thrown into the fire.

Out with the old.


Out with the old.

The day symbolises getting rid of the old and welcoming the new. 

Igniting bonfires are still a huge thing in India but in modern times, most people who celebrate Bhogi throw or give away old items to the poor instead.

Homes are also cleaned, painted and decorated during this day.

Day 2 – Thai Pongal

The Thai Pongal is the main event for the four-day festival. 

On this day, sugar cane is arranged over boiling pots of Pongal and everyone waits to see the milk overflow from the pot. 

Once that’s done, everyone will enjoy the sweet delicacy usually followed by a good spread of dishes at home.

A joyous celebration.


A joyous celebration.

Day 3 – Maatu Pongal

Maatu Pongal or cow Pongal is a day to celebrate the farmer’s most trusted friend, the cow. 

Most of us know that cows are considered sacred in the Hindu religion but it is also an animal that is reveared by the Tamils especially Tamil farmers because it provides milk, fertiliser (cow dung) and is used by farmers to plough the land.

A show of appreciation.

A show of appreciation.

During Maatu Pongal, cows are bathed with turmeric water and decorated with garlands and vermillion.

They are also given a feast of vegetables, fruits and Pongal to enjoy. 

Day 4: Kaanum Pongal

The fourth day of Pongal is when the visiting happens. 

The word ‘Kaanum’ means ‘seeing’ and during this day, families and friends tend to visit each other and it is also regarded as a day of thanksgiving.

A time to meet family and friends.


A time to meet family and friends.

Many also believe that Kaanum Pongal is an auspicious day to arrange for marriage proposals and start new bonds and relationships. 

Kanni Pongal or Virgin Pongal is another celebration observed during the fourth day. 

During Kanni Pongal, unmaried girls pray to the gods to bless them with good husbands.


More than just an overflowing pot

And there you have it – Pongal explained. 

Now you have a better understanding of the beautiful traditions, culture and roots behind this harvest festival. 

From our little team at Rojak Daily, we would like to wish everyone a Happy Pongal!

May your year overflow with love and happiness!

Source: Rojak Daily


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