PONGAL,LOHRI, BIHU & SANKRANTHI: Celebrate Winter Harvest Festivals In India

Kausy M


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The much awaited harvest festivals will kick off in the country starting on the 13th of January 2023. It is lively celebration of Lohri, Pongal, Bihu  as well as Makar Sankranthi. Pongal, the well-known  festival in South India, coincides with Makar Sankranti in North India. Lohri, essentially a Punjabi festival, is celebrated on January 13 each year with joy and enthusiasm. Magha Bihu is a  harvest festival  celebrated in Assam in the North East. In addition, the harvest festival is celebrated in Nepal too. It is festival  time across rural India and is dedicated to the Sun god as a thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest. The day is marked in the calendar as the first day the sun transits into Capricorn ( known as makara rashi in the Indian calendar).

In addition, It is the end of the winter solstice and the end of the harsh winter in North India. In other words, it marks the beginning of  the spring  season. All harvest festivals are prayers to the rain god, Lord Indra. Read on to know more about the festivals…(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lohri)

“Pongalo Pongal”– Let the food be bountiful and let our lives overflow with joy and happiness.



Villages and rural towns in Tamil Nadu are festooned with colourful flowers, garlands and buntings. There is an air of celebration and bonhomie everywhere. It is the Pongal festival. There is folk music playing from the loudspeakers, flashy and ostentatious decorations all over the town and groups of boisterous youngsters  roaming around. Village fairs are organised. Farmers are dressing up their cows and getting ready for the festival.It is certainly the time of the year when villagers celebrate and enjoy communal harmony. The landowners and the peasants come together in the village to celebrate this festival. Further, families come together during this time of the year.

When is Thai Pongal Celebrated?

The harvest festival  is popularly known as the Pongal or Thai Pongal. It is one of the most important festivals in Tamil Nadu. Thai refers to the Tamil month, known as Thai  masam (mid January to mid February) when Pongal is celebrated. It is hence referred as Thai Pongal. This year, it will be celebrated from 14th to 17th January 2023 in Tamil Nadu.

Harvest Celebrations-Pongal festival

Food is the fundamental sustenance for human beings. Food from the farm is to be cherished. Agriculture is dependant on the vagaries of nature. Pongal is celebrated as a thanksgiving to the sun god and the rain god for their bountiful blessings. Cows and bulls are also worshipped as a part of the Pongal celebrations. for instance,these animals, as everyone is aware, are central to farming. It is the harvest season when rice, sugarcane & turmeric is harvested. This festival is celebrated in rural areas more as agriculture is mainstream in the rural areas.

The First Day of  Happy Pongal festival- Bhogi 

This first day is celebrated as Bhogi festival in honour of Lord Indra, the rain god. People clean homes  and all the rubbish is thrown to burn. A bonfire is prepared and the unwanted items form the field and the homes are thrown into it. This symbolizes the new beginning. A special sweet with flour and jaggery is prepared on Bhogi in all homes. This is called Poli. This is certainly worth tasting.

The Second Day of Pongal festival-Pongal

Pongal Rangoli

Colourful Rangoli for Pongal

The 2nd day is the pongal  festival.  In addition, homes are decorated with Rangoli or kolam is done with white rice powder and coloured powders. People are attired in new clothes. Sugarcane, coconut and bananas are given as offerings to the God.

 Pongal Dish



Further, Rice, lentils and milk are boiled on earthen pots over wood or coal  in the courtyard.  A turmeric plant is tied around the pot. The whole family gathers around the  pot and cries “Pongalo Pongal”  while clanking pots & pans, when the water boils over the pot. This symbolically refers to “ Let the food be bountiful and let our lives overflow with joy and happiness.”

Pongal festival

Traditional Pongal cooking

Pongal is also the name of the dish made of rice and lentils. Further, a sweet Pongal is also made by adding a bit of jaggery & milk to it. Turmeric and sugarcane is also placed together.

Pongal Festival –These 2 varieties of Pongal are made on the 2nd day in all the homes.

Pongal festival

The Third Day of Pongal festival- Mattu Pongal

This is the auspicious day for cows.  People worship the cows with garlands &  colourful bells. The cows are brought  to the village centre and  paraded on the roads. Cattle race is part of the show.

Jalli Kattu (taming of the bull) is a big sport that is practiced in some areas. There is a money tied to the horn of the bulls and they are let loose by the owners. Young men chase the bull to retrieve the money.  However, there is no physical harm done to the animal in this sport although there is a continuing  controversy about playing this sport as compared to other sports. People do claim that it is cruelty to animals. It is a rural sport and there are several people lobbying to retain the sport.

Fourth day-Kanu Pongal

Kanu Pongal or Kanum Pongal is celebrated on the forth day.

The turmeric leaf is washed and placed on the ground. Left over pongal, sweet pongal, turmeric rice and curd rice are all placed on the leaf, along with sugarcane and banana. All the women gather around and call out to the birds. and feed them.  They pray for the well being of their brothers and their families. The saying goes that as birds flock together, families should remain close together always. Hence the celebration. It is an occasion when married women visit their maternal homes to meet with their brothers and parents and seek their blessings. They are warmly welcomed and given gifts.

Pongal festival

Girls of the families are given special gifts on this day.

Music & Dance-cultural celebrations  & SHOPPING

People celebrate the Pongal festival with music and dance performances all around the State. Shops offer special discounts on Pongal purchases. Therefore, make the most of this and enjoy shopping in Chennai.

Finally, visit the T Nagar and the Mylapore Market in Chennai to make Pongal purchases. Shops such as Sarvana Stores, RMKV and Pothys all have a special discount on Pongal purchases. The Mylapore Market area near the Kapalishwar Temple organises a Rangoli competition. Enthusiastic participants cover the entire stretch of road.

Lohri & Makar Sankranti 



Similarly, Lohri marks the beginning of spring, especially in the state of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana. It will be celebrated on 13th January 2023. The festival is traditionally linked with the harvest of the rabi crop. On this day, farmers in Punjab celebrate the success of the winter crops. They gather around the big bonfire to enjoy traditional folk songs and dances to the beat of dhols. People toss munchies such as popcorns, peanuts and puffed rice into the bonfire while circling around it.

This year, Makar Sankranti  will be celebrated on January 14th. Finally, As per the Hindu solar calendar, the festival is celebrated to mark the shift of the sun into ever-lengthening days. It is also marked with kite flying.

Magh Bihu- ASSAM



Further, People in the north east celebrate this festival as Magh Bighu. There is a bonfire in the last day of the previous month and people rejoice, cook dinner and dance around the fire. For instance, Rice cakes & sweets  with coconut are made and young men and women dance and play games. Above all, Bull fighting is also a sport here.

India Festival – Communal Thanksgiving Festival

Lohri, Sankranthi ,Pongal & Bihu are communal celebrations

As a matter of fact, from the North to the South of India, mid January is considered  an auspicious month. The largely rural festival is celebrated by farmers as a Thanksgiving to nature for the bountiful crops bestowed on them. Food security is  fundamental to the well being of humans. Above all ,that is what the festival aims to convey.Finally, like other festivals, it is communal and connects people.Further, it is interesting to note that land, farm ,animals & nature are worshipped together. The inter dependency is a cause to be recognised, understood & cherished.

Shopkhoj Wishes its readers a Happy Pongal/Lohri/Bihu /Makar Sankranthi.

Also Read

Makar Sankranthi in Bangalore


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4 thoughts on "PONGAL,LOHRI, BIHU & SANKRANTHI: Celebrate Winter Harvest Festivals In India"

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  2. Monique says:

    Thanks, quite great article.

  3. Colleen says:

    Heya just wanted to give you a brief heads up

  4. Thirumalai says:

    Beautifully written.

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