Thai Pongal: A Festival for a Bountiful Harvest

Thai Pongal in Sri Lanka
Image: Royal Holidays Sri Lanka

The festival of Thai Pongal is celebrated by Hindus around the world, and it is one of the most festive and traditional celebrations around the world. Thai Pongal is held on the fourth day of the month of Thai in the Hindu-Tamil calendar which is an astrological calendar, and so it usually falls in the second week of January.

Thai Pongal is essentially a harvest festival of sorts, dedicated to Mother Nature and her elements which farmers depend on for a bountiful harvest of their crop – rice. Thai Pongal is a celebration of the sun, the rain, the soil, water, as well as cows and buffaloes.

Thai Pongal Decorations
Thai Pongal Decorations

What many people might not know is that Thai Pongal is actually a 4 day celebration. The holiday given for Thai Pongal is the second day, on which the traditional dish “Pongal” is made and the kolam is drawn. Day one is called Bhogi and on this day, worshipers burn their old and unwanted items. Day two, the main day, is dedicated to the sun god – Surya. Day three is dedicated to the cow, bull and other farm animals. Day four is Kaanum Pongal where sugarcane and milk rice is prepared by worshipers and offered, and visits are made to relations and loved ones.

Pongal

Preparation of the traditional sweetmeat “Pongal ” is one of the most important aspects of Thai Pongal. Pongal is a sweet rice with milk, jaggery, plums, and spices like cloves and cardamoms.

Kolam

The kolam is another important part of Thai Pongal. It is a traditional hand-drawn design made with lime powder and other susbtances, drawn at the entrance to the house.

Thai Pongal at Amaya Lake
Thai Pongal at Amaya Lake

Many hotels and restaurants in Colombo celebrated Thai Pongal by following the cultural traditions, putting up decorations and preparing the traditional food and sweetmeats.