Why You Should Catch the 2024 Thai Pongal Harvest Festival

Published on 10 January 2024
By Team Catch
318 Views

It’s only January and we are already kicking off our arts, culture and heritage calendar with a bang! Among the many traditional festivals Singapore has on offer, the Indian community certainly has a wealth of riches when it comes to cultural festivities, if last November’s Kalaa Utsavam is anything to go by.

 

The Thai Pongal Festival, a vibrant celebration of gratitude and prosperity, is observed by the Tamil Hindu community. Spanning four days, each with unique rituals and meanings, the festival honours the Sun God, Surya, for a successful harvest. 


New harvest, new beginnings

 

It's a time for new beginnings, with homes cleaned and adorned, and people donning new attire. The festivities include cooking Pongal (a sweet or savoury rice dish) which symbolises abundance. In Singapore, the festival features communal cooking, prayers, and kid-friendly activities like crafting and cultural workshops.

 

Thai Pongal is a festival that is celebrated by the Tamil community, and it usually begins on the last day of the ninth month of the Tamil calendar, and this year, the Festival is held from 15-18 January 2024.


No harvest, no problem

 

OK, so we don’t have much by way of farms and harvesting in Singapore. But Pongal is still very much a relevant cultural event. Families celebrate it and value the natural resources that sustain life, and also to set goals and intentions for the future.

 

Four days of vibrant, jam-packed festivities 


Day 1: Out with the old, in with the new

 

So how do Tamil Singaporeans celebrate Pongal over four days? Well, the first day is usually when homes are cleaned and old items discarded to make place for the new. Families may also buy new attire to mark a new beginning.


Pongal cooking in decorated earthen pot, Indian Heritage Centre

A pot of Pongal, the signature sweet rice dish, simmers away, symbolising abundance and prosperity in the heart of the harvest festival. Image Credit: Indian Heritage Centre

Day 2: Pongalo Pongal!

 

The second day is dedicated to honouring the Sun God (Surya). Families decorate the main entrance into the home with kolam, which is made from rice powder. They will also cook rice with milk in a claypot, letting it boil over to symbolise the abundance of harvest. And while it boils over, everyone shouts “Pongalo, Pongal” joyously. The cooked rice, or pongal, is then offered to the Sun God. 


Adorned Cattle are walked around the Pongal Festival in Little India 2023, Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association

Wander through Little India between January 15 to 18, and you just might spot these delightful, flower-adorned cattle, if luck is on your side. Image Credit: Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association

Day 3: Honouring Cattle

 

While there are only a small number of dairy farms in Singapore, Day Three of the festival, or Mattu Pongal, is devoted to cattle. While we may not practise as they do in India, where cows are bathed and adorned with flowers, our Indian dairy farmers may offer prayers of thanks instead.


Food and fruits on banana leaves, Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association

A Pongal feast served on banana leaves, in a community festival held by the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association. Image Credit: Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association

Day 4: Kaanum Pongal

 

The final day of the festival is for family and community. The elders in families will give their blessings over a meal together. In Singapore, most families would celebrate Pongal at home or participate in communal Pongal cooking and offer prayers at temples.


Troupe of dancers and performers at the Pongal Open House 2023, Indian Heritage Centre

Step into a world of celebration this January at the Sun-themed Pongal Open House at the Indian Heritage Centre! Image Credit: Indian Heritage Centre

Where and When To Catch Pongal in Singapore

 

You can join in the celebration with your family as well, starting with fun craft activities available  on the Indian Heritage Centre’s website. You can also print out Pulli Kolam (artwork made with coloured rice powder) design templates to try and create one for your own home. There is also a Pongal-themed colouring sheet and instructions on how to create your own traditional Indian games like the Pallanguzhi (a traditional two-player board game played in South India). 

 

Of course, there’s also the Pongal Open House on two weekends: 6 to 7 January and 13 to 14 January 2024 from 10am to 6pm at the Indian Heritage Centre at 5 Campbell Lane, Singapore 209924. Admission is free.


Top image credit: Indian Heritage Centre

 

 

Be The First To Catch the Hottest Events

Why settle for the ordinary?

Don't wait in line. Get the newest and hottest event updates sent to you!