Aren’t We All The Same? – Pongal & Lohri, Festivals Of Two States

5 min read 

I have worked in a different city, a city I wasn’t born in or spent my childhood in. Although I loved every minute of my stay, I knew I was meant to go back to “my” city one day. I found myself celebrating “my festivals” in this city, a practice I never undertook when I was with my family unless pushed by them.

Why do we have this sense of longing for the city we are from? When essentially all of us are the same – Indians.

I am a South Indian, married to a Punjabi. Most of my friends are North Indians as well. I have never understood these brackets of defining a person’s ethnicity. All they lead to is statements like “You are from the North!” (when I visit Chennai) and “You are a Madrasi!” (when I am in Delhi, everyone is apparently a Madrasi in the south). We do try to one up the other in more ways than one. But why?

I celebrated Pongal with my husband last year and also Lohri. It was celebrated with all the fanfare because it was the first Pongal and Lohri after our marriage. The fanfare resulted in a realization that had been dormant all this while, we are all the same.

India being an agrarian country has a lot of festivals centred around the celebration of the harvest. Makar Sankranti, celebrated by the Hindus, is considered one of the most auspicious days and is celebrated in almost all parts of the country with gaiety. Pongal and Lohri are the southern and northern counterparts of this very festival.  What surprises me is the striking similarities between the festivals from two considerably diverse regions of India.


  1. Celebrated around the same time: Pongal is a part of a four-day festival celebrated between January 13 to January 16, but sometimes it is celebrated from January 14 to January 17.  Lohri is celebrated on January 15 and follows the  Bikrami calendar. The day Pongal is celebrated mostly coincides with the day Lohri is celebrated. The house is cleaned and decorated and made befitting for the festive celebrations. shutterstock_210984577 (1)
  2. Worshipping the elements of nature: Pongal is celebrated to worship the Sun God.  Although Lohri originally celebrated the winter solstice, it now celebrates the passing of the winter solstice. It is for this reason that people believe the Lohri night is meant to be the longest night of the year and on the day after Lohri, daylight is meant to increase. The bonfire also signifies the return of longer days and welcomes the Sun God. Both folklores recite stories that respect the elements of nature.  shutterstock_184129811
  3. The harvest festivals: Thai Pongal corresponds to Makara Sankranthi, the winter harvest festival celebrated throughout India.  Lohri corresponds to the passing of the winter solstice and the twinning of the festival with Makar Sankranti. All the festivals celebrate the harvest of crops by paying homage to (sun) God. While Pongal celebrates the harvest of rice and sugarcane, Lohri celebrates the harvesting of rabi and sugarcane, the common thread being the harvest of the sugarcane crop.
  4. The New Year: Punjabi farmers think of the day after Lohri as the financial new year. New agricultural initiatives are taken on this day along with the collection of taxes and payments. Pongal is directly associated with the annual cycle of seasons. As the cycle of season rings out the old and ushers in the new, so is the advent of Pongal connected with cleaning up the old, burning down rubbish, and harvesting new crops.  IB134784-134784160934360-HU326808
  5. The festive food: While Lohri has a sumptuous feast of makki di roti and sarson ka saag, people also indulge in gajak, groundnuts and jaggery. The tradition of Lohri is only complete after the consumption of “til rice” which is made by mixing jaggery, sesame seeds and rice. Pongal is actually a dish made of rice and milk, which is consumed during the festival. The festival derives its name from this dish.  People are invited to enjoy the festive feast and one can always hire a chef to enjoy the festival without tiring out in the kitchen. shutterstock_303018062
  6. Rangoli: Rangoli adorns the foyer of many houses in India and is not an uncommon sight during festivals. Elaborate designs are made during the celebration of Lohri too, patterns in a myriad of colours. However, the traditional rangoli during Pongal is called kolam and is made from rice powder. They are just as intricate and beautiful as the colourful ones in north

With so many similarities between the festivals of the two regions which are literally poles apart, why the disparity between the people? India is a potpourri of cultures, each bringing its own fragrance to the mix. Time to celebrate them all with equal fervour, as one…



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