SignificanceAstrologically, the Sun enters the house of Capricorn – called Makar in Sanskrit – on the day of Makar Sankranti. Though traditionally Indians follow the calendar that is based on lunar movements, Makar Sankranti is a solar event. The date of occurrence of Makar Sankaranti usually remains the same as per the Gregorian calendar. Over a thousand-year period or so, there might be slight changes in the date in accordance with the shift in the earth’s axis. The popular belief is that the Sun ends its journey towards South at the Tropic of Capricorn and begins its Northward journey until it reaches the Tropic of Cancer. Scientifically, however, the fact is that the Earth revolves round the Sun and reverses its direction at Aposys and Perisys position of its orbit. The day of Makar Sankranti signifies the beginning of longer days as compared to the duration of the nights.
Rituals, Traditions and FoodThai Pongal is celebrated on four days: The day prior to Pongal is called Bhogi Pongal . The old rudimentary items are disposed of this day. This day shows the importance of removing all the dirt and unwanted things from our home as well as our mind and making room for new ideas or things to enter our mind and life.
The next is Pongal, the main day of celebration, when the Sun God is prayed to for prosperity and wealth. The Sun God is prayed to for making the harvest successful. In the early morning, milk is boiled in big mud pots kept over mud stoves that are common in villages. When the boiled milk spills over from the brim of the pot, people shout "Pongalo Pongal", from which the festival got its common name of "Pongal". Sweet Pongal, Salted pongal, sambar, rasam, milk payasam (kheer), adhirasam, vadai, and curd pacchadi are prepared for lunch.
The very next day after Pongal is celebrated Mattu Pongal when obeisance is paid to the cattle – cow, buffalo, ox, goat, and the sheep – that help us in agricultural or laborious harvest works. The cattle are decorated with sandal paste, vermillion, turmeric, flowers and bells made out of grasses, “netti” shoots and flowers. In villages of Madurai, Tirunelveli, and Ramanathapuram, Jellikattu is an important event, which is a contest for taming the wild bulls. The sweet rice pongal and the salted pongal are served to the cattle as a sign of gratefulness.
The fourth day of celebration is called "Kannum Pongal" or Karinaal , the day when the people in the village meet their relatives and friends to thank them for their support during the harvest time. Thiruvalluvar Day or Uzhavar Thirunaal is also celebrated on the same day to realize the importance of farmers in the nation.