Monday January 14, 2013
Time for thanksgiving
By ROYCE TAN
Photos by ZAINUDIN AHAD and ROYCE TAN
THE Little India enclave in George Town, Penang, was packed with Indians doing their last-minute shopping for the four-day Ponggal festival which starts today.
Makeshift stalls have mush-roomed on the streets, selling festive essentials such as stalks of sugar cane, mango leaves, turmeric leaves and ponggal panai (clay pots).
Trader D. Radah Krishnan, 47, said he had bought 500 stalks of sugar cane from suppliers in Batu Kawan and Nibong Tebal to be sold on the eve of the festival this year.
“Those celebrating the festival will usually buy the sugar cane stalks only on the eve of the festival to ensure their freshness.
“By 7.30pm, the sugar cane stalks were sold out,” said Radah who has been selling sugar cane for the festival for the past 12 years.
He also operates a store selling CDs and VCDs in the enclave.
“Sugar cane is an important item for Ponggal as it brings good luck and symbolises sweetness and happiness for the coming year,” he said.
Radah said as in the past year, he did not increase the price of the sugar cane stalks sold at RM7 per stalk.
Another trader R. Ramoothy, 40, who was spotted selling sugar cane in King Street, said he had ordered 1,000 stalks of sugar cane this year.
“This is one of the most signi-ficant celebrations observed by Indians and business will definitely be brisk,” he said.
He added that he had also maintained the price at RM7 each stalk.
Over at the Ramanie Stores (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd in Penang Street, housewife S. Angelin, 34, and her two daughters S. Vinisha Shri, nine, and S. Shavena Shree, seven, were seen busy selecting the most colourful claypots.
“The highlight of the celebration is the cooking of rice, milk, raisins, brown sugar, turmeric, spices and various nuts in the claypot until it boils and overflows, symbolising abundance, prosperity and a blessed year ahead,” said Angelin.
Ponggal is one of the most important and popular Hindu festivals of the year.
Usually celebrated over four days, Ponggal is held to mark the harvest of crops and also as a special thanksgiving to God, the sun, the earth and the cow that produces milk.
Ponggal which means ‘to boil’ in Tamil, is celebrated from the last day of the month of Margazhi (December — January) to the third day of the month Thai (January — February).
The eve of the Ponggal festival is known as Boghi, when old and unused household items are burned, and the house is thoroughly cleaned to prepare for the start of a new cycle.
The first day of Ponggal is known as Thai Ponggal which also marks the first day of the Tamil month of Thai.
This is followed by Mattu Ponggal which includes worshipping cattle because it is believed that cattle help to give a good harvest while the fourth day is Kanni Ponggal when unmarried women make Ponggal and pray for good husbands.
Besides celebrating the festival at home, devotees will also throng temples to pray for a bountiful year ahead.