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Saturday January 15, 2011
By PRIYA MENON firstname.lastname@example.orgPhotos by P. NATHAN
WORKING together as a team, the THR Raaga crew entertain thousands of listeners each day but recently the team got together as a family to celebrate the harvest festival, Ponggal.
Held at THR announcer Ram’s house in Puchong, the jolly group were seen enthusiastically doing their part to make the event memorable.
Entertaining their fans have left the group missing their comrades, many do not meet one another due to their hectic schedule and they decided this was the perfect opportunity to strengthen their bond.
Ponggal, which is a harvest festival for the Tamils who hail from Tamil Nadu, India, gives thanks for a bountiful harvest.
Ponggal in Tamil means “boiling over or spill over.”
The boiling over of milk in the clay pot symbolises material abundance for the household. Thai Pongal, celebrated at harvest time, is traditionally intended to thank the Sun God and livestock, especially cows that helped in gaining the material abundance.
Cows are considered sacred and hence the use of its milk as a main ingredient in the Ponggal or sweet rice.
The ceremony is held outside the house using traditional clay pots. It is considered good luck to have the ceremony just as the sun rises. Usually the ritual is conducted early in the morning.
Men and women will dress in new traditional clothes to mark the celebration and many are vegetarians for the day. The womenfolk will draw the kolam made from rice flour, which is another auspicious sign. The kolam also serves the purpose of feeding smaller animals and insects like ants.
For members of the THR Raaga team, the day began with them gathering with items needed to cook the Ponggal. Ram ensured his guests were well fed with traditional food.
Sugarcanes were tied in a triangular shape and beneath it bricks were laid out as a foundation to place the claypot. Firewood placed below the pot was then lighted before the team said a prayer and poured in the milk, the first ingredient.
Slowly the womenfolk, Geetha, Revathy both announcers and content producer Rani, Music executive Meena Kumari, Promotions executive Kavin Mullai and breakfast show producer Visha stoked the fire while waiting for the milk to boil over.
The men including announcers Ram and his brother Aanantha, Uthaya, Maran, Raaga Road Cruisers Moses Daniel and Divyen Chanelara decided to sit back and watch the women work their magic.
According to Revathy, who hails from an estate in Sungai Tinggi, Batang Berjuntai, if the milk spills over on all sides of the pot, it is considered an auspicious sign.
“If it flows in the direction of the Sun, then it is said that the offering has been made to the Sun but if it flows on all four sides then luck, health and wealth will be with the people of the house,” she said.
Meena Kumari also explained that the Ponggal should be done outside the house to embrace and thank the elements of nature.
As the milk boiled over, the team chanted ‘Ponggalo Pongal’ to signify the spilling over of the milk. Next, other ingredients like rice, brown sugar, raisins, cashew nuts and ghee were added into the pot.
For Ram, it was his first Ponggal ceremony held at his newly renovated home and he viewed the ceremony as a blessing for his family.
Kavin Mullai, Rani, Aanantha, Moses Daniel and Diviyan said they were happy they could carry out Ponggal with their colleagues.
Uthaya said celebrations at his home town in Sungai Siput were normally held on a grand scale as most of his neighbours were Indians.
Maran said celebrations in estates were grand and that Ponggal was given great importance.
‘Now, everybody seems to be celebrating the festival but in a more modern version to cater to the various needs of urbanites,” he said.
He, however, was happy to note that many universities have embarked on a mission to celebrate and educate the young on the cultural aspects of Ponggal.
According to Jolly Vincent, who is in charge of publicity, the team intends to organise the event each year at a different announcer’s home.
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