Celebrated by Tamilians all over India, Pongal or Thai Pongal is a harvest festival that is usually celebrated for four days in the second week of January. This year, Pongal will commence on 13 January and will end on the 16th.
The second day of the festival coincides with the harvest festival Makar Sankranti, which is celebrated throughout the country.
More than being a religious festival, the four-day harvest festival is considered to be a cultural one where one thanks the Surya -- the Sun god for bringing wealth and prosperity.
The word Pongal means "overflowing" in Tamil. On the festive day, as a ritual, people boil milk in new pots, decorate their homes with banana and mango leaves and also draw decorative patterns 'rangoli' using rice flour on the floor.
Then sweet pongal made of rice, cardamom, jaggery, raisins, green gram and cashew nuts is offered to Surya.
Bhogi festival, the first day of the four-day long festival, is dedicated to Indra -- the Rain god. On the same day, unused things at home are thrown into a fire made of wood and cow-dung cakes, around which girls dance and sing praises to the Lord.
On the second day or the puja, people boil rice with milk in new pots and decorate their homes.
Mattu Pongal or the third day is dedicated to cows. The bovines are decorated with bells, flowers and beads, and fed with pongal. An annual bull-fight festival, Jallikkattu is also celebrated as part of Pongal in Tamil Nadu.
On Kannum Pongal or the final day of the festival, leftovers are served on a turmeric leaf along with ordinary rice, betel leaves, betel nuts, turmeric leaves, plantains and two pieces of sugarcane.