SENTUL, Jan 14 — The auspicious Ponggal harvest festival is momentous not just for its vibrancy and colour, but for the symbolism behind the occasion.
The three-day celebration, usually observed by farmers and South Indians, starts before dawn when believers of the Hindu faith thank their Sun God for the abundance of crops gathered throughout the year.
The festival also ushers in new beginnings, with old clothes symbolically burned as a ritual cleansing.
Such is the festival’s significance that, in 2008, the Tamil Nadu government announced that the new year there would be celebrated simultaneously with Ponggal on Jan 14.
The word Ponggal means to “pour over”, and this is why one of the most iconic rituals practised during the celebrations is to boil milk until it overflows the container.
The Tamil festival is usually celebrated outside homes and temples where three sugarcanes are tied together to form a pyramid and cooked over a clay pot of milk until it overflows, ideally just as the sun rises.
Rice, sugar and other condiments such as nuts and raisins are then added to create a sweet rice pudding that will be served to guests as a means to bless their year with joyfulness and sweetness.
It also symbolises prosperity and abundance.
Malay Mail joined Arul Eswarar, 37, in his preparations to welcome the occasion at the Sri Maha Kala Muneswarar temple’s Ponggal celebration where many enjoyed the food and fellowship while others were there for religious purposes.
Present at the temple also were temple representatives and believers from all walks of life.
Arul said that with the first day of Ponggal arriving on Sunday, more people would be able to participate in the festivities.
“We do this as a thanksgiving to the Sun god for the bountiful harvest throughout the year,” he said
“The first day is dedicated to the Sun god, the second is for cows while the third day is a communal affair.”
He added that the occasion was special to him as it allowed the family to gather early in the morning.
“It isn’t everyday that we would be up so early together; it’s such a wonderful feeling knowing we will be celebrating Ponggal together,” said Arul.
“This is the joy many feel while experiencing Ponggal, it is the perfect time to give thanks not just to the Gods, but to those who are precious in one’s life.”