Thai Pongal, a tribute to the Sun God | Sunday Observer

Thai Pongal, a tribute to the Sun God

15 January, 2023

Thai Pongal is regarded as one of the most important Hindu Tamil festivals. It is widely celebrated in India and all over the world by the Hindus. The Thai Pongal festival takes place on the first day of the Tamil month of Thai.

Generally, the people celebrate the day as a thanks giving day to Sun God. The Son God provides energy, strength, and light for the paddy cultivation. Rice is considered the staple food in many parts of the world including Sri Lanka. Even Thai Pongal is said to be a Tamil Hindu festival. It is considered as a famers’ thanks giving day known as ‘Ullavar Thirunal.’ ‘Ullavar’ means famers and ‘Thirunal’ means auspicious day. Thai Pongal day is known by different names in Indian States. Some of them are ‘Makar Sankranthi’, ‘Uttarayan’, ‘Maghi’, ‘Sankranthi’ or Pough.

Many Indian States refer to this particular day as Makar Sankranthi or Makara Sankranthi as it reveals that in the Zodiac calendar the Sun God enters into Makar Rasi (Capricorn) on this day.

According to the Zodiac calendar, there are 12 signs. They are generally called 12 Rasis. Normally the event takes place on the 14th of January every year, except in leap years. A year consists of 365.24 days. However, a normal year consists of 365 days. The balance .24 days of each year are added as one more day for the month of February every four years. This particular year is called a leap year. Every four years the month of February has 29 days.

In a leap year the Makar Sankranti or Thai Pongal day festival takes place on the 15th of January of that year.


In the States of India, Makar Sankranthi festival is celebrated with different regional variations and identification. In Karnataka, it is referred to as Makara Sankramana or Makara Sankranthi. In Uttarakhand Makar Sankranthi is also called Ghughuti. In Odisha the Makar Sankranti is known as Makara Mela or Makara Chaula.

Similarly in Kerala the festival festival is known as Makara Villaku or Makara Jothi. In Bihar it is called the Til Sankirant. In West Bengal and East Bengal (present Bangladesh) the festival is called Poush Sankranti. Similarly in Goa and Maharastra the festival is often referred to as Sangranthi.

In Punjab, Haryana and Himarchal Pradesh the festival is known as Maghi. In Assam the festival is known by the name Margh Bihu or Bhougali Bigu. In Gujarat the same festival is called Uttarayan. In Telangana state, Andra Predesh and Madya Predesh it is known as Makar Sankranth, Sankranthi or Uttarayana.

The festival is known as Thai Pongal in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. It takes place on the first day of the Hindu Tamil calendar Thai. Even though it is generally considered a Hindu Tamil festival, especially in Sri Lanka, it is considered as Ullavar Thirunal. Ullavar means farmers, Thirunal means auspicious day.

Sweet and non-sweet

The Thai month in the Tamil calendar is followed by the Markali month associated with Hindu events. Markali month is normally considered as a dull and rainy month. Markali is followed by the bright and pleasant month of Thai.

The farmers make two varieties of Pongal rice, one is the non-sweet Pongal prepared with cow milk and coconut milk and the other variety is the sweet Pongal rice made out fresh juggery, coconut milk, cow milk, Ghee, honey and numerous other ingredients for flavour and is offered to Sun God as a thanks giving offering.

The farmers prepare the Pongal out of their newly harvested rice grains. Traditionally, the people use new clay pots for cooking the Pongal. They cook the Pongal outside the houses to make the cooking vessel to face the Lord Son God directly. They decorate the neck of the pot with ginger, turmeric leaves and fresh mango leaves. It is the auspicious symbol for houses, progress and prosperity for the year.

The following day of the Pongal is known as Mattu Pongal or Patti Pongal. That is the Pongal for cattle. The farmers or the Hindus bathe their cattle and decorate them from the day of ploughing the land till the end of the harvest.

It is a way of expressing their gratitude to cattle which helped them in numerous ways for the paddy cultivation. Mattu Pongal is followed by Kanuma Pongal. It is almost a social event for people to visit their friends and relatives. They greet and exchange presents with one another on this occasion.