Sarawak Hindus celebrate Ponggal
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.