6 Little-known facts about Pongal in Singapore!

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Pongal in Singapore is celebrated on the commencement of the auspicious month of Thai. Here are some things you should know about it!

Pongal in Singapore is celebrated on the commencement of the auspicious month of Thai.  It has it’s roots in South India, where over 4 days (14-17 Jan), farmers give thanks to ‘Surya’, the Sun God and giver of life, for the blessings of a rich harvest.

Here is what kids should know about Pongal in Singapore:

1.What it means

The word ‘pongu’, meaning ‘to boil over’ or ‘flourish’ in Tamil, and that’s how the festival gets it’s name. 

Traditionally, a new clay pot is filled with milk and fresh rice. Then ginger, turmeric, brown sugar, cashew nuts, raisins and ghee are added as it cooks.

When it is brought to a boil and froths over, family members cry out “pongollo pongal”, which means “may this rice boil over” in Tamil, signifying a wish for overflowing fortunes.

2. Bhogi Pongal

The first day of Pongal is called “Bhogi Pongal.”

Lord Indra (the Ruler of Clouds and Giver of Rains) is worshipped. Thorough spring-cleaning as well as the discarding of old belongings is carried out to signify a fresh start.

Pongal in Singapore

PHOTO: INSTGRAM / DJDASHINI

Oil lamps are lit, new clothes are donned and colourful designs in rice flour (kolam) are created on the floors of houses.

3. Surya Pongal

The second day of Pongal is called Surya Pongal”. The Sun God is honoured. Every household cooks a pot of rice with milk to offer to the Sun God at dawn.  

Pongal means to ‘overflow’, hence the pot of rice has to bubble over to symbolise prosperity and abundance. This is then served to members of the family as well as any visitors to the house.

Pongal in Singapore

Big functions usually take place in everybody’s house on the second day of Pongal.

Traditionally, people also tie a turmeric plant around the clay pot in which they boil the rice.

A number of items are prepared to offer to the God including two sticks of sugar cane in background and coconut and bananas in the dish. This teaches children the importance of worship and thanking the creator.

4. Mattu Pongal

The third day, called ‘Mattu Pongal‘, is set aside to honour cattle–cows are considered sacred animals in the Hindu religion.

To remember the work they do, like ploughing the fields and providing milk, the cattle are scrubbed and their horns painted.

Pongal in Singapore

Multi-coloured beads, tinkling bells and flower garlands are placed around their necks. Traditionally, cattle are also fed the Pongal dishes and taken to villages for a visit.

The sounds of the cowbells create a festive atmosphere and young men in India sometimes race each other’s cattle. Several prayers are also performed on the cows and bulls to save people from evil eye. 

5. Kannum Pongal

The last day, called “Kannum Pongal”, is all about the community and strengthening ties. Younger members seek the blessing of the older members of their families.

Women get up early morning on this day and place a turmeric leaf on the ground after washing it. Then, the leftovers such as rice and colored rice, betel leaves, betel nuts, two pieces of sugarcane, turmeric leaves and plantains are placed on the turmeric leaf.

Brothers are also asked to be available at the time of ritual when the sisters place the rice in the centre of the leaf and perform worship for them with turmeric water, limestone and rice.

Women of the house also sprinkle the water on the kolam in front of the house. 

Offerings are made at temples even as special prayers are conducted.

6. Where to go for Pongal in Singapore

  • Campbell Lane: This street in Little India is transformed into a pedestrian-only mini village with stalls offering unique festive souvenirs and daily Pongal-themed performances.
  • Kinta Road: Catch cultural dances and a thrilling mass Ponggal cooking competition amid a stunning street light-up, with decorations featuring seasonal motifs like pots, sugar canes and cattle.

 Also READ: The oustider’s guide to Deepavali in Singapore