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January 15, 2015

Kaanum Pongal: Fourth and Final Day of Tamil Harvest Festival in January

When is Kaanum Pongal? 
2019: January 17, 2019
2020: January 17, 2019
2021: January 16, 2019 

Do my colleagues in India get Kaanum Pongal off?
Probably not. 

Kaanum Pongal is the third of the four days of Pongal (first day - Bhogi, second day - Thai, third day - Maatu, and the fourth day - Kaanum).  Thai Pongal, the second day of Pongal is typically the day off for private companies (check your company's official holiday listing), colleagues with children may take off more days as children (and government employees) tend to have leave on all four Pongal days. And, in some cases, when Pongal falls on particular weekdays, the government may issue a notice allowing more days off to aid in families traveling to their native place for Pongal, as is the case in 2019. Read more here 

What is Kaaum Pongal and How is it Celebrated?
The fourth day is termed as Kaanum Pongal. On this day, people travel to see other family members. When I celebrated this in a Tamil village in 2000, the family I celebrated with traveled to another village to meet family there. On this day, the younger members of the family pay homage to the elders, and the elders thank them by giving token money (like Rs. 10). 

Elders may bless children using this
gesture. This is a still from a Pongal ad.
Learn more here.
Another way to observe this day is to feed the crows. For this ritual, called Kakkai Chatham, people leave food out on banana leaves for crows (kakkai) to take. As Ammupatti discusses, here, there are many different ways to observe this, though I don't remember my friend's family having done this, but I do know many South Indians will take the first bit of rice cooked in any given day and set it outside for the crows to take, so this is not necessarily a habit only for Pongal. I was additionally told that feeding the crows is akin to feeding departed souls, as crows represent ancestors. One of my friend's families believe that feeding the crows once a year is sufficient as a year in our human world is akin to one day in the life of a departed soul. Some also go to temple, as shown in the photo. The photo is taken from the top of the staircase we climbed to get in the temple. 

It is also on this day, some observe the bonds between brothers and sisters. Similar to Rakhi (August/September) and Bhai Duj (part of Diwali), of North India, it is on this day that sisters and brothers meet and sisters show affection and respect to their brothers by presenting gifts and doing aarti and/or placing kumkum on their forehead and prostrating and touching their feet. Brothers usually respond in kind by offering a gift of clothing or other useful item his sister would appreciate. As many people may be traveling on this day, Viji Varadarajan says,  
"This is the day when mixed rices preparations; puliyodharai, maanga saadham, thengai saadham, thayir saadham are cooked. It is a day for picnics on the banks of the river that brings water to the paddy lands. Traditionally rasam is not cooked on the day of Kanu, as the food served this day are picnic dishes and finger food. An interesting story related says that Lord Shiva commanded bull Nandi to go to earth and tell his devotees to have an oil bath everyday and eat food twice a week. Nandi mixed up the message and asked the people to have an oil bath twice a week and eat everyday. An irate Shiva commanded Nandi to remain on earth and help man plough his fields so that food would be available everyday. (source page 69)"  
It is also on the fourth day of Pongal, poets and poetry is revered as this day is alternatively called Thiruvalluvar Day or Karinall. Thiruvalluvar is a famous Tamil poet. He has written thousands of couplets in the famous work, Thirukural, on moral and social standards. One of his favorite statue memorials is situated in Kanyakumari, on the southern tip of India, in the town of Kanyakumari in the state of Tamil Nadu. 

Read about the first three days of Pongal: Bhogi, Thai, and Maatu Pongal

Jennifer Kumar, author of this blog, is the Managing Director of Authentic Journeys. We provide cross-cultural training for India - US virtual teams. Jennifer has lived in Chennai for 2.5 years and in Kochi, India for 6.5 years. She currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. See our 2017-2018 client project portfolio. Or, to build your teams, check out our India Cross Cultural Training Program or US Cross-Culture Program for Virtual Teams in India.

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.