Pongal in South East Asia
Due to the large number of Tamils residing in the
various countries of South East Asia, Pongal is extremely popular
festival in these places. Indonesia has about 2,000 to 10,000 Tamils,
where as Singapore has about 200,000 Tamils who constitute the third
main cultural group. Malaysia has a 1,060,000 Tamil population and
Myanmar (Burma) had a Tamil population of 200,000 at one time, but since
the end of the Second World War the number has been reduced. Cambodia
has 1,000 Tamils, China 5,000 and Thailand 10,000.
Pongal Celebrations in these Countries
In Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar the festival of Pongal is
one of the biggest Hindu festivals celebrated on a national scale that
rallies round the Tamils from far and wide. Numerous temples are spread
over in these small and diverse immigrant countries and Tamil cultural
activities take place with deep involvement on an international spread.
For four days, Hindu temples situated in these countries ring with
rhythmic sounds of bells, drums, clarinets and conch shells as Southern
Hindus celebrate Pongal - the Harvest Festival.
An early morning ritual in the homes begins with rice cooked in new
pots which are allowed to boil over as a sign of prosperity. In the
temple, rice is also prepared while prayers are chanted to the
accompaniment of the musical instruments. Vegetables, sugar cane and
spices are offered to the gods and later consumed by devotees to cleanse
themselves of their past sins.