Pongal is a popular harvest festival celebrated in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is typically celebrated in the month of January, and the festival lasts for four days. The word "Pongal" means "to boil" and refers to the traditional dish of the same name made from rice, lentils, and milk, which is prepared and offered to the gods as a form of gratitude for a bountiful harvest.
The first day of Pongal is known as Bhogi Pongal, and it is dedicated to Lord Indra, the god of rain. On this day, people throw away old possessions and light a bonfire to symbolize a new beginning. The second day is known as Surya Pongal, and it is dedicated to the sun god, Surya. On this day, people prepare and eat the traditional Pongal dish and also prepare sweets. The third day is known as Mattu Pongal, and it is dedicated to cattle, which play an important role in the lives of farmers. People decorate their cows and bullocks and give them a special feast. The final day of Pongal is known as Kaanum Pongal and it is a day to spend with family and friends, and to visit relatives.
Pongal is also celebrated as Makar Sankranti, Maghi, Maghe Sankranti, Magh Bihu, and Uttarayana across India. These festivals are all held at the same time and are celebrated to mark the start of the sun's journey northward, known as the Uttarayana. This marks the end of the winter solstice and the beginning of longer days. These festivals also mark the start of a new agricultural season and are celebrated with traditional food and sweets, prayers, and bonfires. In Assam, Magh Bihu is a three-day festival where people light a meji and perform traditional rituals, games and sports. Shakrain is a harvest festival celebrated in Bangladesh, where people fly kites and prepare traditional sweets and food. All of these festivals are an important cultural and social event for people in India and the neighboring countries, it's a way to show gratitude for the good harvest and look forward to the new year.