Ready for double celebration


K. Rajathi ties flower garlands at a shop along Jalan Mesjid Kapitan Keling. — Photos: cHAn boon KAi, LIM BENG TATT/The Star and Bernama

K. Rajathi ties flower garlands at a shop along Jalan Mesjid Kapitan Keling. — Photos: cHAn boon KAi, LIM BENG TATT/The Star and Bernama

THE last few days saw Little India in Penang abuzz with activities as Hindus shopped for essentials to celebrate the thanksgiving festival of Ponggal today.

Besides the beautifully hand-painted clay pots, essentials like sugar canes and turmeric leaves used to decorate the cooking area were also hot-selling items in the area.

Mathavon Stores owner K. Nadarajan said he brought in 4,500 stalks of sugar canes and 3,000 turmeric leaves and “they were selling fast.”

“Business has been brisk for the past few days.

Anbukarasan Morotar preparing turmeric leaves in Little India while K. Rajathi (below) ties flower garlands at a shop along Jalan Mesjid Kapitan Keling. —Photos: CHAN BOON KAI, LIM BENG TATT/The Star and Bernama
Anbukarasan Morotar preparing turmeric leaves in Little India.

“The hustle and bustle of last-minute shopping has brought many people to the enclave in the inner city of George Town,” he said.

Trader Anbukarasan Morotar said little is known about the significance of turmeric leaves during the celebration.

“The plant is tied around the pot when ponggal (sweetened rice) is cooked.

Devaraja Pottery employee Amwee Abdullah inspecting the stock of pots while another worker (below) is making pots on a potter’s wheel at the pottery in Parit Buntar, Penang.
Devaraja Pottery employee Amwee Abdullah inspecting the stock of pots.

“While many buy sugar canes as it symbolises growth and prosperity during the harvesting festival, they do not know why turmeric leaves are tied around the pot.

“Turmeric is auspicious and sacred in Hinduism. It also has a lot of medicinal values,” he said, adding that he bought 500 stalks of sugar canes from a supplier in Gurun.

A store worker preparing sugar cane for customers at King Street in Little India, Penang.
A store worker preparing sugar cane for customers at King Street in Little India, Penang.

Housewife Kalachelvi Kalimuthu, 35, said her grandmother would always want turmeric leaves to be tied around the pot when cooking the rice.

“I am not familiar with the significance of tying the leaves to the pot but it is a must during the festival,” she said.

With less than a week to the annual Thaipusam festival, many people were seen taking time to do both Ponggal and Thaipusam shopping.

A worker making clay pots at the Devaraj Pottery in Parit Buntar
Worker is making pots on a potter’s wheel at the pottery in Parit Buntar, Penang.

V. Priya, 28, said her parents were doing Ponggal shopping while she was looking for sarees for Thaipusam at a shop in Market Street.

“We bought two new pots and sugar canes for the celebration,” she said.

Ponggal, meaning “to boil over” in Tamil, is celebrated from the last day of the Tamil month of Margazhi (December-January) to the third day of the Thai month (January-February).

The first day is celebrated traditionally by farmers in India to represent the first harvest of the year while the second day of the celebration is known as Mattu Ponggal and is devoted to cows, which are regarded as sacred animals.

Store keeper K. Savithite (left) showing clay pots to customers in Little India for the Ponggal festival.
Store keeper K. Savithite (left) showing clay pots to customers in Little India for the Ponggal festival.

Young women are celebrated on the third day, known as Kanni Ponggal.

It is also celebrated as a form of thanksgiving for an abundant harvest.