The ancient festival dates back to 200 BC. It is said to a have a mention in Sanskrit Puranas. While in Karnataka, the harvest festival is known as Sakranti, here's how the people of Tamil Nadu celebrate Pongal.
A pot that symbolises fulfillment: Rice and milk are boiled in a pot till the pot starts overflowing. The overflowing pot symbolises fulfillment.
Thanking Lord Indra: Bhogi, the first day of the Pongal festival is dedicated to worship of Lord Indra. "The God of Clouds and Rains" brings prosperity to land, it is believed. The first day is dedicated to domestic activity.
Worshiping the Sun god: On the second day, known as Surya Pongal, thanking Sun for the harvest, people here offer Surya Namaskar. In many households, especially in villages, the Pongal pot is placed in the sun to signify the gratitude towards Sun. This also happens to be the first day of Tamil month Thai. Sun is worshiped on the fourth day also, which is called Kaanum Pongal.
Offering prayers to the cattle: On the third day of four-day festival, called the Mattu Pongal, prayers are offered to farm animals, especially cows and bulls. They are also given a day of rest as a mark of gratitude.
Flavours of festivity: Sweet rice known as Pongal sweetens the celebration. Payasam, rice kheer, is also a must in the Pongal platter.
Meeting loved ones: Families and friends are invited over meals and new clothes are exchanged.