SINGAPORE – Little India’s streets were covered in a blaze of lights on Friday (Jan 5) evening, marking the start of a month-long celebration of Pongal in Singapore.

The light-up ceremony at Campbell Lane was officiated by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

Pongal is a harvest and thanksgiving festival that marks the start of spring and is celebrated worldwide by Tamils, particularly in the state of Tamil Nadu and elsewhere in southern India. Cattle, which plough the paddy fields and provide milk, are honoured during the festival for their role in ensuring a bountiful harvest. Traditionally, farmers celebrate in their homes, cooking their newly harvested rice with milk over a charcoal fire. The shoots of turmeric and ginger plants, which symbolise good luck and long life, are tied around the rim of the pot. As the milk boils over, there are cries of joy, music and drumbeats.

Ponggal, which means “to boil over” in Tamil, falls on Jan 14 and is celebrated for four days. However, in Singapore, celebrations extend for over a month.

The theme of this year’s light-up in Little India is rangoli fusion designs, banana leaves and various Pongal elements such as sugar cane and rice.

The Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association (Lisha) has planned a series of free events from now till Feb 4.

Highlights include a Pongal Masterclass held in collaboration with the Indian Heritage Centre. In the class, visitors will learn about the various types of pongal, a rice pudding, such as chakkara (sweet) pongal and venn (white) pongal in a cooking demonstration led by a chef from the Indian Chefs Culinary Association.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan attends the start of a month-long celebration of Pongal at Campbell Lane on Jan 5. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

There will be a Festival Village at Campbell Lane from Jan 10 to 15, where visitors can buy saris, spices, decor items, traditional cookies and tidbits.

Lisha has also organised a variety of cultural and folk performances..

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