Thai Pongal vaazhthukkal | Pongal festivities and recipes

Pongal recipes
Pongal, the harvest festival, marks a new beginning in the South Indian Tamil calendar and is here soon. With the weather at its best, the season of Pongal is one of the best in the southern states of India. In this post we bring together, the idea of the festival, how it is celebrated and most importantly the recipes for the Pongal festival.

What is Pongal celebrated for?

The agricultural season in India is twice a year. The one that starts in June and ends in January which is the rainy and winter session. This is a season of abundance of water that makes growing vegetables, beans, fruits, root tubers and paddy easier. The harvest season is at the end of December. With the upcoming spring beginning, thanksgiving to the natural elements, the people, the animals and the tools all of which worked together to make the crop a success is Pongal. The rain and sun god are worshipped.

When is Pongal celebrated?

With the beginning of the auspicious “Thai” Masam, the four-day festival of a thanksgiving nature begins. The month begins with the movement of the sun towards the north, Uttarayanam, mythologically signifying the awakening of the Gods. A perfect time to have the harvest festival. This is the best time to travel to Tamilnadu, India. the weather is calm and pleasant and the towns and rural areas are decorated. head off to the villages and experience every household laying out their courtyard open with beautiful kolam decorations. 

What does pongal mean?

Pongal signifies “the rising” of the grains being cooked. With all the concerns set aside, festivities are in full swing joy of being together and having enough.

What are the pongal festivities?

Pongal is celebrated as a four-day festival. It celebrates the season that was hectic but has provided for a better life.
Day 1 Bhogi pongal
The slightly chilly winter has passed and the summer is set to start. The agricultural lands have produced a hood crop that has been reaped. Now it is time for a celebration and thanks to the natural elements that contributed to the bounty. The bhogi is all about cleaning and resetting. The fields have been burned off to remove the waste. The houses get cleaned and adorned. The mango leaf buntings (thoranam), along with leF folding from young coconut fronds decorate the space. The floor gets a carpet-like makeover with rice paste drawings called kolam. New clothes are laid out which gets everyone excited. The prayers on this day are devoted to the Rain God who is the main source of water to the agricultural lands. Since Bhogi is all about preparation, recipes like puliohare, obbattu, vadai, parippu payasam etc are made.
kolam decorations
Day 2 Thai Pongal
This is the day many of us know as Pongal day.
The wood fire camp-style kitchen is set up in the courtyard of the house. with newly cured mud potsLaced with creative rice paste decoration and turmeric roots around it, sugar cane tripods set up the scene us complete with kolams or rice paste drawings done earlier,   the whole household gathers to watch the fresh harvest offerings to be prepared. The cuisine is simple country-style cooking utilising the newest vetch of rice, lentils and vegetables. The prepared dishes or pongals are offered to the Sun-god seeking blessings for an abundant upcoming season.
Day 3 Maatu pongal
The farmer’s most reliable friend the cattle is worshipped on maatu Pongal. The relationship between man and his useful beast began from the time the mythological Basava was banished from heaven and ordered to help humans create an abundance of food to feed their hungry stomachs. the toiling beasts are beautifully decorated with new bells and painted horns and treated with sugarcane and soft cooked rice and jaggery.
This is also when the jallikattu cattle racing happens. I am not a fan of betting so I avoid this ritual.
Day 4 -Kanu Pongal
The last day of the festivities begins early, with the women offering the leftover Pongal varieties on a clean turmeric leaf with the traditional betel leaf offerings. The song that is sung along is equally enjoyable as you are offering this to the birds and animals living in the area.
“Kaka pidi vechen
kanu pidi vechen…..”
This is a wish made by the married women for the inlaws’ house and their parent’s house to be blessed with a bounty.

Recipes for the Pongal Festival

Pongal is not just the name of the festival but also the food that is cooked during this festival. Predominantly rice the meal is made with the soft cooking fresh rice crop and the associated vegetables like root vegetables, pumpkin ginger turmeric etc that are abundant during the season. Desserts are sweetened with sugarcane as that crop was fresh too. Mainly these dishes can be divided into savory pongal and sweet Pongal along with some accompaniments.

Savory pongal recipes

As the pot of rice and lentils mix and boils, amidst the happy “pongalo pongal “call outs the soft cooked pongal is quickly transformed to sweet or savory based on the flavours planned for that day.


Oats pongal

Temple style pongal

Millet kara pongal

Sweet dessert -pongals and payasams


Leftover pongal recipes

Since most of us have a smaller family, there is a bit of Pongal that gets left over. In the busy run of the week, Pongal is not comfortable in the lunch box. However, turn them into pongal cutlets or deep fry as vadai to see them vanish faster.

Other recipes made during Pongal

Variety rice ideas like cabbage puli saadam, Lemon rice, coconut rice,puliodhare, thair saadam etc are made on bhogi day.
Vadai or lentil fritters like parippuvadai, masoor dal vadai or soft medu vadai accompany most meals.
Obbatu / Boli is a sweet-filled flatbread that is served as such like Bele obbatu, shenga holige or dunked in sweet milk like paal poli.

Stay connected

Celebrating a festival is a blessing in itself. Enjoying the company of your family and sharing the joy with your neighbours and friends is essential for that wholesome happiness. Hope you make the best of this pongal with your dear ones. If you happen to try our recipes please do tag us on your social media posts or leave us a comment on how it turned out.
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Pongal recipe collection.
See you at the next post.
Happy Pongal.

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Vidya Narayan
6 years ago

Loved reading the post. Pongal is a huge affair in South India. Loved all the varieties of Pongals that you have beautifully captured. Wishing you and everyone at home a very happy Pongal. Stay healthy and prosperous.

Poonam bachhav
6 years ago

Wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy Pongal …lovely write up !

6 years ago

Happy Pongal..lovely post! Love Pongal dishes.

6 years ago

wow! wow! No words to express, it’s almost I have celebrated the festival here, with you all and NOW. Thank you for such a wonderful and informative post. I am saving it to make my kids read. clicks <3 <3 <3
Thank you for all the recipes,

6 years ago

Love the details shared by You. Happy Pongal dear

Ritu Tangri
6 years ago

Yesterday only I was telling my daughter that the way we celebrate Lohri in North India, In South India, Pongal is celebrated. Now I have something more to tell my kids about Pongal…quite an information. Thanks for sharing.

6 years ago

Good to know about the tradition. Each region differs magnificiently. Loved those different pongal.

6 years ago

India has rich culture and learned about the Pongal with this. The food looks yummy too! A must try when got the chance. Thank you for the post, so informative!

Mayuri Patel
2 years ago
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Love reading about the different traditional 4 days Pongal celebrations. SO much meaning and appreciation for what God gives us. Lovely kolam and pot decorations.

2 years ago
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Loved the info on the reasons why we celebrate Pongal n the different days and celebration involved. Thanks for sharing.

5 months ago
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It never fails amazes me to see how popular pongal is. Even a laid back persons like us will make some effort for pongal. We call it sankranti btw. I loved your detailed post for pongal. The different varieties of food being the point where I am glued to. 😀 now I need to make up my mind what to cook tomorrow for the festivities. Thanks your post I have more options.
Thanks for including my post.

Priya Srinivasan
5 months ago
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Thats a lovely post on our Thai Thirunaal Seema! Love the fan fare with which it is celebrated back home. Wonderful collection of pongal recipes!

4 months ago
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Nice to read about Pongal and so many delicious recipes there for pongal. Bookmarking this to try out a few recipes.

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