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Pongal Festival

Bhagavd Gita
Chapter 3 Verse 10,
an can have a happy and prosperous life only if he lived in harmony with his environment, which consists of Nature and the Divine agencies, the Devas, who control the forces of Nature. Man gets his progeny and his sustenance as the gifts of nature and he has therefore got to be thankful to the divine agencies whose expression these forces of Nature are. Man is required to make an offering of thanksgiving to the Devas, and share the good things of nature, which he gets by their goodwill.

The Tamil festival of Pongal is such a thanksgiving ceremony. Farmers celebrate the event to thank the spirits of nature, the Sun and the farm animals for their assistance in providing a successful harvest. The Sun is offered a “pongal” of rice and milk.

The others celebrate the festival to express their gratitude to the farmers for the production of food. Overall, it is a festival to encourage social cohesiveness and unite people by bringing them together in a common function. Thai Pongal is celebrated on the first day of the month of Thai of the Tamil calendar. The day normally falls between 12th and 15th of the month of January.

On Thai Pongal day, the family begins the celebration early. The pongal is set up in direct view of the Sun (east). The cooking begins by putting a clay pot with water on the hearth. The pongal can be prepared in the kitchen and brought to the place exposed to the direct sunlight which is decorated with kolam drawings.

A senior member of the family will conduct the cooking and the rest of the family dutifully assists him or her or watches the event. When the water has boiled, the rice is put into the pot after a member of the family ceremoniously puts three handfuls of rice in first. The other ingredients of this special dish are brown cane sugar, milk, roasted green gram, raisins, cashew nuts and a few pods of cardamom.

The moment of climax is the spill over of the pongal during the cooking. The spill over of milk is a propitious symbol of abundance. When the mixture of rice, milk and other ingredients is well done, the pongal is then served to friends and relatives who have got together.

In Singapore, there are no farmers nor do we conduct the whole ceremony outdoors as this is not possible in our living environment. The Tamils in Singapore religiously celebrate Pongal annually with an understanding of its significance.

After prayers, families have a sumptuous lunch of ‘sweet rice” and an array of vegetarian dishes.

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