The harvest festival of Ponggal has many interesting and unique observances


A shop in Brickfields selling items for the Ponggal festival. — SAMUEL ONG/The Star

TAMILS around the world celebrate Ponggal today to pay gratitude to the sun for without it there is no life on earth.

“But there is more to the festival than its primary aim,” said Malaysia Hindu Sangam president Datuk Mohan Shan.

Mohan explained that on the eve of the Indian harvest festival, there would be a preparatory celebration called Boghi.

“On this day, the house is cleaned thoroughly as it is believed that a clean house invites good luck.

“Traditionally, items that are old and cannot be used anymore are thrown into the fire on this day.

“But it may not be feasible for many now, so scrapping it will do as well, ” he said.

Mohan said every aspect of the celebration should be observed as it had a explanation to it.

“The first day of Ponggal falls on the first day of the Thai month in the Hindu calendar.

“Starting off with a clean house, three sugarcanes are tied and a fire is lit underneath to cook the milk.

“A new pot decorated with turmeric leaves neck is used and the milk is allowed to boil over.

“This is the main part of the event which must be done when the sun is up and the best time would be between 7.30am and 10am.

“It is best to do it outdoors with the milk pot facing the sun.

“It is believed that when the milk boils over, the direction sends a message on the family’s prospects for the year ahead,” he said.

Mohan said rice and other condiments such as sugar, cashew nuts and raisins are added into the boiled milk to cook the sweet dish also known as ponggal.

“Then, a prayer is done outside and the cooked dish is brought into the house and served first at the altar, before being shared among the family members.

“A vegetarian meal is served at home on this day.

“Those who cannot boil the milk in the morning should do it before the sun sets,” he said.

Mohan said the festival was mainly celebrated by padi farmers in India using rice from the new harvest but the celebration has evolved with time.

“Now, everyone celebrates. It continues on the second day with the farmers giving thanks to their cows for helping them in the field.

“The cattle are given a bath and decorated, ponggal is made in a similar method and fed to the them.

“The third day is more of a social event that takes place in a public place such as a field.

“This time the ponggal is made by unmarried women.

“In India, the farmers make the most money during the harvest season and it was a perfect time to get their children married.

“Villagers attended these events and scouted for suitable brides and grooms.

“The celebration may have evolved but the proper method must be observed including the day it is celebrated.

“There is a trend of celebrating Ponggal on other days, which is wrong and should not be done,”he said.

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