PETALING JAYA, January 14 — Ponggal festival marks an important date in the Hindu calendar for the Tamil diaspora community as it is a harvest festival dedicated to Sun God, Surya.
“Thai Ponggal” is a term that is a familiar phrase among the Malaysian Tamil community where they boil rice with milk, dhal, jaggery, ghee, raisins, and cardamom in the morning.
An important sight during the festival is when the rice and milk overflows from the pot and chants of “ponggalo ponggal” can be heard from the community indicating that the sweetened rice has been cooked and has a mushy-like texture.
But the festivities are taking on a slightly different pace this year amid the Covid-19 pandemic as families are unable to travel interstate to see each other and celebrate it together.
Retired lecturer, Sithaletchemy Krishnaiyer who hails from Negri Sembilan told Malay Mail that she would usually host her home to relatives from the Klang Valley and her close friends.
But this year, the occasion has been quiet with her husband, a few friends around her neighbourhood serving simple vegetarian dishes.
“For this year, the auspicious time to cook the Ponggal rice is from from 8.56am till 10.24am — but this time differs according to the different states to cook the sweetened rice.
“Usually, communities cook the sweetened rice outside on a clay pot to thank the Sun God in the morning but it’s a tedious process for my husband and I as it requires us to use firewood and control the fire.
“So the easiest way to cook the sweetened rice while observing the celebration is to just cook the rice in a metal pot over the stove,” she said.
Sithaletchemy and her husband also spent the morning whipping up vegetarian meals for her guests such as potato peratal, sambar, long beans peratal and pumpkin peratal.
“Ponggal is a very community-based occasion where people would usually spend hours cooking as a family or as a community and would eat the sweetened rice as a delicacy.
“And we do miss the usual gathering of family members who would come and we would be together for the day.
“But luckily, my close friends were able to come over to my house for lunch to celebrate the occasion with my husband and I since Negri Sembilan is under the conditional movement control order and this allowed us to celebrate Ponggal with our few close friends,” she said.