PENANG: Ponggal is a four-day long harvest festival traditionally celebrated in Tamil Nadu, a Southern state located in India. The festival has now gone viral all around the world and it is no longer only celebrated by Indians, but seen as a global festival that everyone other than Indian people celebrating it. CDM parishioners came dressed up in traditional clothes to welcome the year of 2017 in the highly anticipated Ponggal festival in the church grounds. At CDM, this celebration is seen as a festival that brings new hope and light to everyone at harvest time. Through this festival, the many different races within the church would be exposed to a view of Indian tradition and help them understand what may seem unfamiliar and strange. This four-day festival as a celebration of thanksgiving to nature takes its name from the Tamil word meaning “to boil” and it is held in the month of “Thai” (January-February). “Thai” is simply the season when the rice and other cereals, sugar-cane and turmeric (an essential ingredient in Tamil cooking) are harvested.
On Saturday, 15th January, just hours before the sunset evening mass, Fr. Martin Arlando, the parish priest of CDM, with the assistance of the members of the Tamil Apostolate carried out the ritual of the boiling of the rice within the church compound. As it would take at least two hours for the boiling process to complete, everyone gathered very early to prepare the necessary utensils and ingredients. With many willing hands available, the process was carried out smoothly. Later during the evening mass, three elderly women were given the responsibility to perform the “Arati” blessing on Fr. Martin as a sign to ward off the evil eye. At the offering, many traditional items were offered by couples of different races all dressed in Indian costume. Their gifts included padi, milk, sugarcane, fruits and vegetables and Indian sweets.
After mass, as in traditional Indian style, banana leaf dinner was served to all. Everyone were made to eat with their fingers and were served in batches as seatin capacity was limited at the church basement. It is that one style of eating that almost anyone could manage and it covered all the delicious, finger-licking main dishes (Chicken, Fish, and Mutton) along with healthy vegetables, papadom and a sweet drink. Everyone complimented the efficient servers as they moved from table to table topping up rice and drink even offering second servings for those really hungry. Overall, it prove to be an awesome experience of Indian culture and hospitality.
23rd January, 2017