Thai Pongal

Celebrated in India and Sri Lanka, Thai Pongal is a much-celebrated harvest festival that occurs between the last day of Margazhi and the third month of Thai in the Tamil calendar, or between January 13th and January 16th in the Gregorian calendar.

It is one of the few Hindu holidays that is based on a solar calendar instead of a lunar one. That’s because its celebration is to venerate and show appreciation to the Sun God for a bountiful harvest.


The history of Thai Pongal can be traced back over 2000 years, to around 200 BCE. It is based on a set of dual legends. The first legend involves Lord Shiva asking his bull, Basava, to go down to Earth and relay a message for him to mortal humans.

The message was that men and women should eat once a month and take an oil bath every single day. However, when Basava relayed the message to mankind, he got it wrong. He told them they should take an oil bath every month and eat every day.

This enraged Lord Shiva, so he cursed Basava and forced him to live on Earth forever, all the while tending the fields of mankind. The second legend involves Lord Indra and Lord Krishna. It goes something like this: When Lord Krishna was a child, he decided to teach a lesson to Lord Indra to take him down a notch.

Krishna went down to Earth and told all the cowherders to stop worshiping Indra, which angered him furiously. In a rage, Lord Indra sent rains for three continuous days. To save humanity from drowning, Krishna raised Mount Govardhan.

Realizing his mistake—and the divine power of Lord Krishna—Indra repented for his trick. It is these two stories that make up the theme of this holiday period.

Customs and Observances

Thai Pongal is celebrated for four days. On the first day, a special puja (reverent religious ceremony) is held. Farmers also go out to the fields to anoint their sickles and plows with sandalwood paste to thank the Earth and the sun. After this is done, they harvest the year’s rice yield.

Many also boil rice in pots to celebrate the bounty of the harvest. The rest of the four days are marked by several festivals within the festival. Each commemorates a different aspect of the Thai Pongal harvest.

Where is it celebrated?
India (Restricted holiday)Sri Lanka (Public holiday)
When is it?
This year (2024)
January 15 Monday
Last year (2023)
January 15 Sunday