Since time immemorial, the agricultural and related activities have enjoyed a sacred, unique and matchless status in India. People from diverse regions, following varying beliefs confer equal importance to land and agriculture, the basic means of livelihood in India. One such festival commemorating farming and the harvest season is celebrated in Tamil Nadu with full enthusiasm. The capital city, Chennai is no exception and is seen coloured in the festivity of the festival. The festival has derived its name from a rice pudding called 'Pongal', made of jaggery, milk and freshly harvested rice. The festival has its roots lying deep in the countryside regions of the city; however it is equally popular among the urban residents of the city who celebrate it with equal gusto.
The festival of Pongal marks the end of the southeast monsoon and the harvest season in South India. The rituals of this festival include the worship of sun god, mother earth and the cattle for bearing a good harvest. It is a four-day long festival celebrated in the month of Thai of Tamil calendar, which is considered quite sacred. First day of the festival initiating the festival on 13th January of each year is called 'Bhogi Pongal' and is dedicated to cherish the family; the second day 'Surya Pongal' is devoted to the worship of the sun god; the third day 'Mattu Pongal' marks worshipping of cattle while the fourth and the last day of the festival is known as the 'Kaanum Pongal' and is reserved for meeting friends and relatives.
On the day of celebration, the cattle are bathed and properly ornamented by polishing and painting their horns and placing a garland of fresh flowers around their neck. The waste is dispensed out of the house, marking vanishing of the evil. Each of the days of festival bears great significance in the South Indian culture and is backed by several legends. According to the folklore, the first day of Pongal is celebrated to pay homage to Lord Krishna, as he lifted the Govardhan Parvat (mountain) to save his people from the incessant rain. On this day of Pongal, called Bhogi Pongal, the inhabitants of Chennai clean and wash their homes, painting and decorating the doorways with leaves and garlands of flowers, delicious foods are prepared and offering prayers to the rain god.
The second day of the Pongal is known as Surya Pongal. On this day, the sun god is worshipped by one and all. The houses are decorated with colourful kolums. In relation with the third day of the Pongal, it is said that Lord Shiva sent his divine vehicle Nandi - the bull, on the earth, to give the message to the people that they must have an oil bath every day, and must eat only once in a month. Nandi, on reaching earth, delivered the opposite message stating that they must have oil bath once a month, whilst eat everyday. This outraged Lord Shiva and he ordered Nandi to stay on the earth and help the people plough the land in order to grow more grains. Thus, the day marks worshipping cattle and paying homage for their help in agriculture. Mattu Pongal is also called 'Kanu Pongal' and sisters pray for the wellbeing of their brothers in the same fashion as the festival of Rakhi is celebrated in North India. On the fourth day, people visit their relatives and seek their blessings. The bull fighting, called Jallikattu, is organised at each village along with the cart races and cock fights.