Tamil community prepares to celebrate ‘Pongal’ on Sunday

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Kuala Lumpur
– The Tamil community in the country is making preparations to celebrate the ‘Pongal’ harvest festival which falls on Sunday.

Signs indicating the approach of the festival are more evident in the Indian enclaves of cities where the necessary items for the festival are sold, such as clay pots and sugarcane.

One such area is Little India in Brickfields.

A check by Bernama found Indian grocers selling colourful clay pots as crowds of people thronged the various shops to buy the pots, new clothes and Indian sweets.

Among the shoppers was housewife P. Amutha, 65, who was seen buying a clay pot.

“The essential things include sugarcane and milk which are compulsory items for the celebration. We prepare the sweet rice according to the auspicious time, either in the morning or evening,” said the mother of three.

Indian sweets were selling like hot cakes, among them the famous ‘ladoo’, ‘palkova’ and ‘jilebee’.

Trader Ram Singh, 65, said he expected more customers with the approach of Pongal.

Pongal is a celebration to mark a bountiful harvest, and it is ushered in with the hope for a better year ahead.

The festival is a traditional occasion for giving thanks to Nature, for celebrating the life-cycles that give man grain. Pongal is celebrated on the first day of the month of ‘Thai’ in the Tamil calendar, and always falls in Jan.

Pongal is not complete without the sweet, tasty rice dish which is cooked in an earthen pot, a traditional cooking method that hails from the Tamil Nadu state in India from where most of the Tamils originate.

Once it comes to a boil, the rice is allowed to spill over to signify abundance. The family members usually gather around the pot and shout ‘Pongalo Pongal’ as the rice boils over. The sweet rice is offered to the Sun God in appreciation of a good harvest.

Pongal is celebrated over several days and one of the days is referred to as ‘Maattu Pongal’ in celebration of cattle, especially bulls, which assist the farmers in the cultivation of crops. In the villages of India, cows are bathed, garlanded and their horns painted in bright colours.

Another of the Pongal days, ‘Kanni Pongal’, is devoted to young maidens who dress up in fine clothes and jewellery and offer prayers in the hope of getting a good husband.

In Penang, R. Thulasi, 42, the wife of an earthen pot entrepreneur, said they had about 50,000 pots for sale this year in view of an anticipated higher demand, more than the 30,000 pots sold last year.

“This year, we were able to prepare more pots because of the better weather. We usually get orders from the wholesalers, temples and individuals. Our customers are from Penang, Kedah and Perak,” she said to Bernama in Nibong Tebal.

Thulasi said the family business, which she is engaged in with husband D. Reguraj, 43, was now into the fifth generation.

They have engaged three workers from India to produce the pots so as to ensure quality, and the pots are sold for between RM6 and RM35 a piece depending on the size and patterns on them.

Muruganatham, 38, a maker of the traditional clay pots from India, said making the pots demanded a great deal of patience, concentration and skill.

He said the manual way of making the pots, which usually took an hour to produce one, had given way to the new way with the use of machinery and moulds that allowed one to produce a pot in two minutes. – Bernama