This quick guide will tell you everything you need to know about Pongal...
Just like Thaipusam and Deepavali, Pongal is a popular festival celebrated by Hindus in Singapore. This is when Little India comes to life with activities to commemorate the harvest festival. If you have no clue what we’re talking about, fret not. We’ve put together a helpful guide to give you a quick understanding of the vibrant festivities.
Guide to Pongal in Singapore
What is Pongal?
Pongal means “to boil” in Tamil and it is celebrated widely in South India over four days. It’s the time when farmers give thanks to the Sun God, Surya, for their bountiful harvest. While Singapore isn’t exactly rolling in farms, the festival also marks the start of the auspicious month in the Tamil calendar, Thai.
How do people celebrate?
The four-day festival starts with Bhogi Pongal. Hindus tidy their homes and toss out unwanted things in a metaphorical nod to a fresh start. In the villages, cows are revered with painted horns. And people offer prayers to Indra, the god of lightning, thunder, rains and river flows.
Next up, Surya Pongal. Hindu devotees pay their respect to the Sun God by boiling a pot of rice and milk at the crack of dawn. Remember the meaning of Pongal? The rice and milk overflow as the act symbolises prosperity and good fortune. It’s also common to light up oil lamps and decorate the floors with coloured rice flour, aka kolam.
The third day pays tribute to the cows for their hard work. Who remembers the adorable animal parade in Little India in 2019 when cattle were adorned with flowers and red turmeric powder?
Finally, Kannum Pongal marks the end of the festivities. Families host reunions, children get blessings from their elders and many visit the temple on this special day. These strengthen the ties between loved ones and the community.
Pongal in the city
This year, the Indian Heritage Centre has an exciting line-up of cultural activities (till 17 January) to usher in the auspicious month. For a full-on immersive experience, sign up for IHC Pongal Day Out. The trail takes you around Campbell Lane to witness the colourful buzz of Pongal preparation and the dazzling light-up along Serangoon Road. Plus, catch a live demonstration on how to create a kolam and learn how to make the traditional Pongal dish.
Since Pongal is a harvest festival, you get an opportunity to reap what you sow with a planting workshop. The hands-on experience includes learning different harvesting techniques, potting two plant types of your choice and painting your pots with myriad colours.
This year, in light of social distancing, the Indian Heritage Centre has an online portal for you to celebrate Pongal behind the screen. Learn everything about the harvest festival, including what goes into the pot, traditional folk dances and how it is celebrated in the city.
Who’s ready to experience Pongal in Singapore?