Showing gratitude this Ponggal

Picking the perfect one: Darshini Vijaya Rao inspecting a clay pot in Little India, Klang which she will use for the Ponggal celebration. — KK SHAM/The Star

BUKIT MERTAJAM: Celebrating Ponggal for S. Santhi means showing gratitude to divine powers and nature for the abundance reaped in the year.

“Every year, we celebrate Ponggal without fail as it is part of our culture. We follow the exact auspicious times set in the calendar, which is either early in the morning before sunrise or around 9am to 10am,” said Santhi, 60.

“For those who are working, they can make the sweet rice (called Ponggal too) during the auspicious time in the evening as well.”

These days, she said most people would celebrate by cooking the sweet rice in the kitchen because of work commitments.

“But whenever we can, we do it the traditional way by cooking the rice outside in a claypot over a charcoal fire.

“This is to bring family and friends closer together,” she said when met at her home here.

Ponggal, which literally means “boiling over” in Tamil, takes place tomorrow.

The set-up usually includes a kudam (a steel/brass pot) with a coconut on it placed in front of the claypot as a symbol of welcoming good vibes, luck and people into the house.

“We then have a tray of manjal (turmeric) and kumkum (vermillion powder) to signify the welcoming of good forces into the house.

“There is a tray of fruits which must have pineapple, bananas, mangoes and a coconut as prayer offerings.

“You can always add other fruits to the mix,” said Santhi.

“We then prepare a tray of Indian sweets to herald sweetness into our lives.

“If time permits, I draw a kolam decoration with rice flour. If we want to be a bit fancy, we can make a Rangoli kolam which is colourful,” said the interior designer.

When it comes to making the sweet rice, her set-up outside includes a layer of sand poured over an aluminium sheet to protect the flooring.

“We then stack bricks to form a fireplace that will hold the claypot.

“Three sugarcane stalks are tied together like a tripod and positioned over the claypot.

“We boil the milk and once it boils over, rice and other ingredients like mung beans, cardamon powder, raisins and cashew nuts are added to the milk.

“Once it is cooked, we take out some of the rice and offer it to the Sun God before we add the brown sugar. Then we pray and the sweet rice can be eaten,” she said.

When the milk boils, Santhi will pray for a prosperous year for the country and for everyone to be safe.

“Ponggal is an important festival for the Indian community as a way of thanking God and nature for all that they offer us,” she said.

Ponggal is celebrated from the last day of the Tamil month of Margazhi (December-January) to the third day of the Thai month (January-February).

Farmers in India celebrate it on the first day to represent the first harvest of the year.

The second day is known as Mattu Ponggal and is devoted to cows, regarded as sacred animals.

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

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