Published: Sunday January 13, 2013 MYT 5:36:00 PM
Updated: Sunday January 13, 2013 MYT 8:10:17 PM
Hindu Tamils prepare for Ponggal festival
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's Tamil Hindu community celebrates on Monday its best-loved festival, Ponggal, the only festival which follows a solar calendar to mark the beginning of Uttarayana, the Sun's movement northward for a six-month period.
To usher in the harvest festival, the community is buying an assortment of colourfully-decorated clay pots, wooden ladles and sugar canes.
A random check by Bernama at Little India, Brickfields and Masjid India here found an unusually high number of Hindu Tamils thronging shops on a buying spree of earthernware pots, hundreds of sugar canes, bottles of milk and flowers to meet demand.
Ponggal, spread over four days, marks the harvest of crops and a special thanksgiving to God, the Sun, Earth and the cow that produces milk in abundance.
One of the longest celebrations in the Tamil calendar kicks off Sunday with 'Bhogi', when old and unused household items are burned, and the house is thoroughly cleaned to prepare for the start of a new cycle.
Malaysian Hindu Sangam President R. S. Mohan Shan said the second day of Ponggal on Monday, is known as 'Thai Ponggal' which marks the first day of the Tamil month of Thai. "On this day, family members gather in their homes to prepare Ponggal (sweet) rice, to offer to the Sun God, in gratitude for ministering his blessings, and later serving all, followed by lunch.
"The best time to prepare Ponggal (sweet) rice for those celebrating the festival at home would be between 7.23am and 8.58am on Monday, or at 12.40pm," he told Bernama.
If possible, he said, the sweet rice should be cooked outdoors on a tri-sugarcane structure with clay pots on stoves made with stones and wood, as a form of thanksgiving to the sun for the abundance of food.
"For Indians, it is auspicious to look at the boiling milk and when the milk overflows from the pot, everyone shouts 'ponggal o ponggal'. Then, rice, and other items like jaggery, cashew nuts, raisins, turmeric and spices are added to make the Ponggal," said Mohan Shan.
He noted the belief that the birth of 'Thai' paved the way for new opportunities so the popular Tamil saying, "Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum" (When the month of Thai is born, a way ahead appears).
'Mattu Ponggal' is the third day of celebration which includes worshipping cattle because it is believed that cattle helps give a good harvest while the fourth day is 'Kanni Ponggal' when unmarried women make Ponggal and pray for good husbands.
In Tamil Nadu, Ponggal is celebrated on a big scale, even merrier than Deepavali, especially the 'Maattu Ponggal', with a lot of games and activities as many depend on cows for their livelihood.
An astrologer from Ipoh, Jagannathan Sivalingam Pillai, said the birth of the Tamil month of Thai was always a month of promise, of rekindled hope, a feeling of joyful anticipation of good things to come and new boundaries to cross.
"Mid-January is the Tamil month of Thai, which is very auspicious for marriages,” he added.