Tampines residents celebrate Pongal festival

Tampines residents celebrate Pongal festival
Minister Heng Swee Keat, accompanied by its Advisers including Mr Masagos Zulkifli, will witness the auspicious Pongal - Harvesting Festival, in Tampines. The event aims to promote inter-racial understanding among people of different races and social backgrounds and to interact, and understand one another better.

All eyes were on a cow and a calf, as they were led into a holding area near the stage in Tampines Community Plaza yesterday. Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, an MP for Tampines GRC, then stepped forward to put garlands around them.

It was part of a thanksgiving ritual for the Pongal festival, which comes from South India, where farming is the main form of livelihood. Pongal refers to the boiling of milk and rice until they overflow, signifying abundance and prosperity.

The four-day affair started on Jan 15 but, in Singapore, the celebration can be held on any day within the following month.

Some 500 Tampines residents of different races came together to celebrate the event at the plaza near Tampines MRT station.

Other MPs for Tampines GRC, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Mr Mah Bow Tan, Ms Irene Ng and Mr Baey Yam Keng, also attended.

The event, which was part of the SG50 celebrations, was organised by the Tampines GRC Indian Activity Executive Committees and Integration and Naturalisation Champions - volunteers who reach out to new citizens - to promote inter-racial understanding.

Other highlights included a rangoli competition, in which traditional patterns were made with coloured rice flour or powder, a Pongal rice cooking segment and dance performances.

Mr Heng said: "The spirit of the Pongal celebration is also very much the spirit of the SG50 celebration, that we celebrate the abundance, prosperity, and we hope that we will continue to grow, to prosper and that everyone shares in the fruits of that growth.

"We also celebrate the spirit of being together, being in one community."

Mr Masagos added: "This is the first time we are celebrating Pongal as a GRC, so it's (on a) bigger scale.

"We would like more families to come for this and not just the Indians, but other races, too, so they can appreciate each other."

Childcare teacher Nirmala Murugiah, 38, who attended the event with her husband and her nine-year-old son, said it was important for the next generation to learn about Indian traditions.

"It's part of our culture and identity, so it's relevant to us, even though we are not harvesting per se."

This article was first published on Feb 9, 2015.
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