The Narendra Modi government on Tuesday, January 10, declared Pongal as a compulsory holiday after the issue was raised by AIADMK General Secretary Sasikala Natarajan. She had written a letter to the Centre "urging the government to roll-back the announcement of Pongal as restricted holiday."

Pongal is among 12 holidays that is considered optional by the Centre. This means that Pongal is not considered a compulsory holiday for central government offices in Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam had also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to include Pongal in the list of compulsory holidays to be observed by all central government administrative offices in Tamil Nadu.

Panneerselvam had requested the Centre to include an 'additional day for Pongal' in the list of optional holidays just as its circular related to the list of 12 optional holidays, out of which three are to be selected, includes an 'additional day for Dusshera,' the Hindu reported.

"This apparent diminution in the importance accorded to Pongal for the past several years has created disquiet and an impression that an important people's festival of Tamil Nadu has been ignored by the central government," Panneerselvam said.

He added that if Pongal was included in the list of compulsory holidays for central government offices in Tamil Nadu, it would "ensure that Thiruvalluvar Day could also be declared as a holiday by the Central Government Employees Welfare Co-ordination Committee of Tamil Nadu, to enable the employees of central government offices working in Tamil Nadu to participate fully in the festivities connected with Pongal."

Pongal is the state's most prominent harvest festival that transcends all religions. Several social, recreational and sports events, including Jallikattu, are organised during the festival that usually lasts for three to four days.

The state government declares a holiday for the festival from January 14 till January 16, the day on which Uzhavar Tirunal (Farmers Day) is celebrated. Pongal falls on the first day of the Tamil month of Thai.