Thai Pongal (Tamil: தைப்பொங்கல்) is a harvest festival dedicated to the Sun God. It is a four-day festival which according to the Tamil calendar is usually celebrated from January 14 to January 17. Thai Pongal corresponds to Makara Sankranthi, the harvest festival celebrated throughout India.
Thai Pongal is one of the most important festivals celebrated by Tamil people in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the Indian Union Territory of Puducherry, and the country of Sri Lanka, as well as Tamils worldwide, including those in Malaysia, Mauritius, South Africa, United States, Singapore, Canada and UK.
The day marks the start of the sun’s six-month-long journey northwards (the Uttaraayanam). This also corresponds to the Indic solstice when the sun purportedly enters the 10th house of the Indian zodiac Makara or Capricorn. Thai Pongal is mainly celebrated to convey appreciation to the Sun God for a successful harvest. Part of the celebration is the boiling of the first rice of the season consecrated to the Sun – the Surya Maangalyam.
The origins of the Thai Pongal festival may date to more than 1000 years ago. Epigraphic evidence suggests the celebration of the Puthiyeedu during the Medieval Chola empire days. Puthiyeedu is believed to represent the first harvest of the year. Tamil people refer to Pongal as “Tamizhar Thirunaal,” the festival of Tamizhs. Thai Pongal, also referred to as Makara Sankranti, is referred to in the classic work of Hindu astrology, the Surya Siddhanta.