Sarawak Hin­dus cel­e­brate Pong­gal

New Straits Times - - News -

Pong­gal, a har­vest fes­ti­val mostly cel­e­brated by Hin­dus, was once a cel­e­bra­tion among fam­ily mem­bers at home.

While this is still true in many homes, Pong­gal, which is one of the more im­por­tant pop­u­lar Hindu fes­ti­vals, is also cel­e­brated on a large scale in tem­ples and com­mu­nity halls.

Fam­i­lies and friends get to­gether for the cel­e­bra­tion. Dressed in colour­ful clothes, they en­joy the ex­cite­ment of the fes­ti­val, which is akin to a thanks­giv­ing event.

Of par­tic­u­lar im­por­tance to farm­ers, they of­fer thanks to god for a boun­ti­ful har­vest.

Yes­ter­day, the Sarawak state coun­cil of the Malaysia Hindu Sangam or­gan­ised the cel­e­bra­tion at the Kuch­ing Wa­ter­front for the third time.

Pong­gal was cel­e­brated on Jan 14 but house­wife Sarasa Ah­tim­u­lam said due to the small num­ber of In­di­ans in the state, Pong­gal was not so well-known com­pared with Chi­nese New Year, Hari Raya Aidil­fitri or Gawai Fes­ti­val cel­e­bra­tions.

“Cel­e­brat­ing it in this man­ner is so much more fun and ex­cit­ing as we can have peo­ple of other races and tourists join us.

“We can ex­plain to them why we cel­e­brate Pong­gal and how to pre­pare the sweet rice,” she said at the Kuch­ing Wa­ter­front here yes­ter­day.

“I was so ex­cited that I woke up at 5am to­day (yes­ter­day), washed up, put on my favourite red sa­ree and jew­ellery, ap­plied a bindi (red dot) to my fore­head, and came here.”

The 50-year-old home­maker said the fes­ti­val, which hon­ours the Sun God, was im­por­tant to the Tamil com­mu­nity.

One of the main com­po­nents of the event is the fes­tive food, and Sarasa, like many oth­ers, pre­pared sweet rice with sugar, ghee and milk in a clay pot, and added cashew nuts to make it more flavour­ful.

“We boil the milk over char­coal flame and wait for it to over­flow. This sym­bol­ises pros­per­ity and abun­dance.

“Then we add the other in­gre­di­ents.

“One of the im­por­tant things to re­mem­ber when pre­par­ing the rice is that all in­gre­di­ents must be fresh, and the pot and uten­sils must be new.

“It’s not an event for Tamils only as ev­ery­one can join us. We cook and eat to­gether.”

More than 100 fam­i­lies came as early as 6.30am to cel­e­brate the fes­ti­val. Sarawak has a pop­u­la­tion of 2.5 mil­lion, of which 7,000 are In­di­ans.

Wel­fare, Women and Com­mu­nity Well­be­ing Min­is­ter Datuk Fa­timah Ab­dul­lah said de­spite be­ing a mi­nor­ity in the mul­tira­cial state, the com­mu­nity still ob­served its cul­tural cel­e­bra­tions in a merry way.

“It’s good to or­gan­ise the event at a pub­lic place like this, so that oth­ers can join in,” she said.


A woman stir­ring a pot of milk and rice dur­ing the Pong­gal cel­e­bra­tions at the Kuch­ing Wa­ter­front yes­ter­day.


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