Celebrating Ponggal with a difference


  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 15 Jan 2003

By K. SAITHURUKA

RAWANG: Ponggal, the 5,000-year-old harvest festival, will be celebrated with a difference at the Sri Veerakathy Vinayagar Alayam in Rawang today because 350 families of various races will participate in the sweet rice boiling ceremony. 

The event’s organising chairman, P. Kamalanathan said this was the first time the temple was arranging a People’s Pongga, which would involve other communities. 

“It is also our first attempt to get listed in the Malaysia Book of Records,” he said. 

GETTING READY: Youths volunteering to clean and arrange the post over bricks of stones and wood at the temple Tuesday.

The event will begin at 4pm with the boiling of rice, followed by cultural performances and a special prayer at 7pm. 

“Contrary to popular belief, Ponggal is not a religious festival. It is celebrated every year to pay tribute to the farmers, thank God for the sun and to bless the cows.  

“A special ritual is also held for single girls,” he said, adding that the festival marks the beginning of the Hindu calendar month of Thai for the Tamils.  

Kamalanathan said the 350 pots of sweetened rice would be given to all those present for free.  

“We expect a 2,000-odd crowd to turn up and we also have foreign tourists coming in three bus loads,” he said. 

Yesterday, many youths staying in the area volunteered to clean the place, put up tents and to arrange the pots in neat rows. 

Kamalanathan thanked Beras Jati and Nestle for sponsoring the rice and milk respectively and the Selangor state government for the financial aid.  

Ponggal comes from the word ponga, which means boil or boil over, literally portraying something which is overflowing.  

The term also refers to the sweetened rice porridge normally cooked on the four days of the Ponggal celebration.  

Ponggal rice holds a significant meaning to the community because if it is boiled well, it signifies a lasting happiness and blessings, and a good year ahead.  

The festival starts off with Bhoggiponggal, to honour the ruler of the clouds and giver of rains, Lord Indra.  

On this day houses will be cleaned up and decorated with kolam, a colourful decoration traditionally made with coloured rice, while sugar cane believed to bring good things in life is placed at the doors. 

A new pot will also be decorated and used to boil fresh milk.  

When the boiling milk begins to overflow, cries of Ponggal! will be heard and a prayer of grace to God will be held. Rice is then added to the milk and left to simmer and cook.  

Next, the special pooja (prayer) is held to thank God and the rice is served to all those present.  

The third day of this colourful event is the Mattuponggal, held to honour the cows because of their significant contributions to the people by providing milk and labour.  

The final day of the Ponggal festival is Kanniponggal, dedicated to young unmarried girls where they hold special prayers for compatible husbands.  

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