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January 12, 2016

Pongal Celebration Procedure | How To Celebrate Thai Pongal At Home

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Pongal celebration

Hello Friends, Today’s post is all about the most popular Tamil festival, Thai Pongal celebration at home (also known as Makara Sankranti in other parts of India) along with Pongal recipes link. I have shared the details about Pongal Festival/Makar Sankranti and its pooja procedures of our home along with pictures of our last year celebration. It is purely of Tamil nadu style and it may vary as per your custom and tradition. So this post would be more of essays with images. Please excuse me. I hope this post would help beginners and newly wedded girls to start their Thai pongal festival celebration on their own.

Pongal (Thai pongal/Surya pongal) is a harvest festival of Tamilnadu, South India. It is one of the most important and popular Hindu festivals. This four-day long harvest festival of Tamil Nadu, Pongal is all about thanksgiving to nature and takes its name from the Tamil word Pongal means "boiling over" and is held in the month of Thai (January-February). 'Pongal' literally means overflowing and is named so because of the tradition of cooking the new rice in pots until they overflow, which is a symbol of abundance and prosperity.

Pongal is usually celebrated from January 13 to 16 every year. In 2024, Pongal celebration takes place from January 15-18. The main festivities starts on January 14/ bhogi day. Pongal festival is on January 15th, Monday. This festival marks a period of plenty, peace and happiness. On the first day known as Bhogi, people clean their homes thoroughly and in the evening, all unwanted goods are lit in a bonfire. The second day is Perum Pongal, the most important. It is also called Surya Pongal because people worship Surya, the Sun God and his consorts. Women decorate the central courtyard of their homes with beautiful kolams  (Visit my in-laws blog for kolam ideas), done with rice flour and bordered with red clay.

Traditionally they cook pongal in clay pots on stoves made of stones and offer Sun God along with Freshly grown seasonal vegetables, sugar cane, legumes and pulses. The third day, Mattu Pongal is meant to offer thanks to the cows and buffaloes, as they are used to plough the lands. Jallikattu, a violent taming the bull contest, marks this day. On the last day, Kanum Pongal, people go out to picnic packing Varieties of rice. The festival of Pongal is mainly associated with the rural people. People wish each other on this day. Pongal wishes are exchanged between family and friends, and there are celebrations within the family.

Click this kolam picture to view pongal kolam designs from my in-laws blog :)

Disclaimer : I have shared the procedures based on our tradition. Please take this as a reference, consult the elders of your family and do the pooja as per your practice. Beginners can follow this if you don’t have any specific procedure at home.

Please watch the video below for making sakkarai pongal in venkala paanai / sweet pongal in bronze pot

Pongal Kolam Designs

How to celebrate pongal festival
What is Pongal Dish ?
The most important part of the Pongal festival is cooking the Pongal dish. A sweet version of pongal called Sakkarai pongal is made with rice mixed with moong dal and cooked with ghee, cashew nuts, raisins adding jaggery (a type of unrefined sugar). A spicy pongal called Ven pongal/Ghee pongal is also prepared adding lots of ghee and spices like pepper & cumin. 

Traditionally, pongal is cooked in clay pots, on stoves made with stones and wood used as fuel. When it starts to boil over, everyone shouts out "pongalo pongal".

Things required for pongal celebration
  • Pongal Pot – Either Clay pot or bronze pot or pressure cooker
  • Clay stove – If using (optional)
  • Rice flour & color powders for kolam –  Click here for rangoli/kolam designs
  • Manjal kothu/Turmeric plant
  • Mango leaves/Maavilai
  • Banana leaves ( we use 5 to 7 leaves)
  • Betel leaves & nuts(Vetrilai paaku)
  • Banana
  • Coconut
  • Sugarcane
  • Vegetables for offering God like sweet potato,  yam, panag kizhangu, pumpkin, arbi, raw banana, field beans, all country vegetables. 
Ingredients required for cooking

Usually we make Sweet pongal, white pongal/paal pongal, Sambar with 7 vegetables, Poriyal or kootu, Thayir pachadi, Paruppu/dal along with Vada, Suzhiyan & adhirasam. Click HERE for Pongal recipes collection. Visit my in-laws blog for kolam ideas.
  • Raw rice / pacharisi
  • Moong dal
  • Jaggery ( Buy sugar candy if making kalkandu pongal)
  • Milk
  • Water
  • Cardamom seeds
  • Jathikai/Nutmeg
  • Edible camphor
  • Ghee
  • Cashews, dry grapes, cloves
  • Salt
  • Toor dal
  • Urad dal for vada
  • Rice flour & jaggery for adhirasam(optional)
  • Chana dal, jaggery, maida, rice flour ( for making suzhiyan, optional)
Vegetables to buy:
  • 7 vegetables ( broad beans, sweet potato, cluster beans, raw banana, yam, arbi, field beans, pumpkin)
  • Gooseberry or Lady’s finger for pachadi
How to celebrate pongal festival

 Pongal festival – Pre Preparation

On bhogi day, wash and clean the entire house. Clean doors, windows & keep turmeric, kumkum dots. If you have the practice of burning old things, you can do it on this day. We used to discard the old clothes. Wash all the blankets, pillow cover, screen cloth. Wash the lamps and other pooja vessels. Decorate it and keep it ready for next day pooja. If using clay pot & stove buy them. If using cooker or bronze pot, wash and keep it ready. Tie the manjal kothu around the pot. Draw three lines with wet viboodhi (pattai) and keep a kumkum dot on the pot.

 Buy all the required ingredients for cooking & pooja on this day and keep everything ready. On bhogi night, after finishing the dinner, clean the gas stove and draw three lines using viboodhi (viboodhi Pattai) and place kumkum dots on all the sides of gas stove. Refer picture to get the idea. 

If you have the practice of making suzhiyan, adhirasam and obbattu/ poli, prepare them and store in a box. Soak the urad dal & grind vada batter. Refrigerate it over night. If you wish, you can wash the entrance and draw the rangoli too.The next day morning, you will be having enough time to make neivedyam recipes and perform the pooja quickly. Clean the pooja room and draw a rangoli in the place where you are going to spread the banana leaves for neivedyam.

On Pongal day, wake up at early morning 4am because we are supposed to do the pooja during sunrise at around 6am. So wake up early and take head bath. Some people make pongal at the auspicious time of the day. So you can plan accordingly. 

First make sambarporiyal/kootupachadi and paruppu. Keep everything aside. It takes 45 minutes including chopping & cooking if you have two cookers in hand. My mom keeps pongal in our backyard by using stone/ clay stove and bronze pot wheras my MIL keeps pongal in gas stove. She uses bronze pot. So make pongal according to your family practice. 

Now keep the bronze pot ( please refer THIS POST with video if you are making pongal in bronze pot) or cooker ( Refer THIS POST for cooker). Make sweet pongal and paal pongal. When it starts to boil over, shout out "pongalo pongal". Pray for your family’s well being and prosperity. After making pongal, keep it near the pooja room. Make the urad dal vada at the end to maintain crispness. Now everything is ready for pooja !!

How to celebrate pongal

Pongal Pooja Procedure

Generally Pongal neivedyam is for Sun God. But we do it for our Veetu theivam, Maga maayi and Sun God. So we have offered all the dishes in 9 leaves. But in general, spread 5 leaves for Sun God. 

In those 5 leaves keep sweet pongal, vella pongal, pongal sambar, 7 kai kootu in little quantity. Light two lamps in front of the banana leaves. Spread a banana leaf and keep all the seasonal vegetables like sweet potato, pumpkin, yam, arbi, panag kizhangu. Keep sugar cane pieces, banana, betel leaves & nuts. Break a coconut and keep it. Fill uzhakku (rice measuring pot) with rice. Now do the pooja and mangala harathi. Finish the pooja. 

After the pooja, my mom distributes a glass of milk sweetened with jaggery. We call it as “siruveetu paal”. It tastes really yummy and we love it. If you wish, you can make it too. For that, make jaggery syrup and strain it. Add boiled milk to it. Add crushed cardamom. Mix n serve !

To make a simple pooja, just spread two banana leaf in the backyard/ terrace or pooja room. Light two lamps on both the sides. Keep the vegetables on the banana leaf. Keep a uzhakku full of rice.  Place the coconut, betel leaves and nuts. In another banana leaf, spread the cooked sweet pongal, paal pongal and seven vegetable kootu. Offer to Sun God and do the pooja.

Pongal recipes

Prayers Chanted on Pongal

Aditya Hridayam or Surya Ashtotaram or Gayatri mantra can be recited Or you can simply mediate and say some simple prayers.

After The Pongal Puja
After the prayers, some water and flowers are sprinkled on the kolam and pongal dish. You can also sprinkle some uncooked rice mixed with turmeric (akshata).

After final prayers, pongal, other dishes and fruits are distributed.

Looking at Sun’s reflection in water
In some regions, there is a ritual to look at the Sun’s reflection in a vessel filled with water. Some communities add turmeric and kumkum to the water and look at this reflection. Another unique ritual is to look at sun through the gaps of fingers.

Source : The hindu blog

Disclaimer : I have shared the procedures based on our tradition. Please take this as a reference, consult the elders of your family and do the pooja as per your practice. Beginners can follow this if you don’t have any specific procedure at home.

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Selvarani Ganesan said...

Hi Chitra...
Detailed post of pongal....Hats off....for ur effort
Tnk u

Selvarani Ganesan said...

Hi Chitra...
Detailed post of pongal....Hats off....for ur effort
Tnk u

Chitra said...

Thank you Selvarani :)

pinky said...

great dedicated post :)

Chitra said...

Thank you !

K said...

Great and informative post. Thank you.

Unknown said...

super dear... great wrk

Unknown said...

Thankyou dear.. m looking for same... Will try to follow.

Chitra said...


Unknown said...

Great.. very informative post. All Ur posts help a lot to me. Thank you.

Chitra said...

Thank you, glad to know it :)

sangwain said...

Hi..akka I just want to confirm that can we still cook Pongal for praying eventhough we cook non-veg on the gas stove everyday? .Thankyou

Chitra said...

Hi yes you can do. Just before making pongal wash and clean the stove. Keep some manual kumkum dots or put viboodhi pattai with kumkum. Proceed 👍

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for this detailed write up. Very helpful for me as a newly wed. God bless! 🙏

Chitra said...

Welcome :)

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swarna said...

Great post Chitra. Thank you for sharing. I'm from Sri Lanka
I'm married to a Tamil from Jaffna. In remembrance om this day. Thank you so much.

swarna said...

Great post Chitra. Thank you for sharing. I'm from Sri Lank. I enjoy this article so much.

swarna said...

Thank you so much for a great post. Shared in remembrance of this day
Lot's of love from Sri Lanka.

Chitra said...

Thank you so much for your love😍