Auckland Muthtamil Sangam plans Pongal celebrations

Venkat Raman

Auckland’s Muthamil Sangam, which marks its 17th Anniversary this year, is organising ‘Pongal Vizha’ (Pongal Festival) on Saturday, January 20, 2018 at Mt Albert War Memorial Hall, located at 773, New North Road, Mt Albert.

Muthamil Sangam Secretary Karthik Ramanathan said that the Programme, scheduled to commence at 530 pm, will include cultural items, a ‘Pattimanram’ (Debate), and speeches.

“We welcome members of our community to present cultural items at this annual event. Please contact Vice-President and Pongal Vizha Coordinator Maninilavan Arivukkarasu on 021-0375357 or email,” he said.

About Thai Pongal

Thai Pongal is celebrated on the first day of the month of Thai on the Tamil calendar.

The day normally falls between 12th and 15th of the month of January in the Christian calendar.

Thai is the first month of the Tamil Almanac, and Pongal is a dish of concoction of rice, moong dal, jaggery and milk. This festival is celebrated by Tamilians irrespective of their religious leanings. Pongal is therefore known as ‘Festival of the Tamils.’

The Commonwealth of Virginia in the US has declared January 14 as ‘Pongal Holiday,’ although not a public holiday.

Telugu-speaking People of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh mark ‘Bhogi’ a day prior to Pongal and celebrate ‘Pedda Panduga’ on Pongal Day. The third day is known as ‘Mattu Pongal’ (Worship of the Cow) among Tamilians and ‘Kanuma Panduga’ in Telangana and Andhra. The fourth day is observed as ‘Kannum Pongal’ and ‘Mukkanuma’ respectively by Tamilians and Telugu-speaking people.

Most Hindus celebrate the four-day festivities as ‘Makar Sankranti.’

Thanksgiving Ceremony

Thai Pongal is essentially a Thanksgiving ceremony with farmers celebrating the harvest season, paying tributes to Mother Nature, the Sun and farm animals (mainly cattle) for their assistance in reaping good yield.

Pongal is also a festival to encourage social cohesiveness and unite people by bringing them together at a common function. Tamil literature has substantial information about the Festival, while songs dedicated to Pongal are also popular.

Customs & Celebrations

Thai Pongal is an expression of jubilation over life’s renewal.

On this day, farming families rise early, and after bathing, wear new clothes and gather in front of their home garden (known as ‘Muttram’) to cook the traditional Pongal. A square pitch is made and decorated with Kolam drawings, and is exposed to the Sun. A fire wood hearth is set up using three bricks. Pongal is cooked in a clay pot.

Other ingredients used in cooking Pongal are chakkarai (brown cane sugar) or kalkandu (sugar candy), milk (cow’s milk or coconut milk), roasted green gram (payaru), raisins, cashew nuts and few pods of cardamom.

Chakkarai Pongal is the sweeter version of Pongal.

Traditionally, Pongal Day is the day of release of new Tamil films, at least one of which would feature a major star.

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