Pongal harvest festival celebrated

Bukit Panjang residents cooked up a storm yesterday to set a new national record for the biggest number of people cooking pongal rice together.

Two hundred people pitched in to make pots of the sweetened rice dish at the eighth annual Pongal Festival, held this year at an open field in Pending Road.

The event is a Hindu harvest festival celebrated mainly in southern India.

The guest of honour, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, said: "It's really wonderful how in Singapore we celebrate all our communities' festivals, not just within our own community, but with everyone getting together.

"Each time we get a major festival for any of our communities, we make it a point for everyone to come together.

"They do so, not because there are any rules to do so, but because increasingly, year by year, we all feel Singaporean. And we enjoy taking part in each other's events and recognise the meaning in each event has meaning beyond one community."

He added that traditionally during Pongal, when the pot boiled over, it meant that there was enough to eat. "Now, it's no longer about whether there's enough rice in the pot but about whether there's enough giving and compassion in our society."

Besides the culinary festivities, over 20 Indian businesses raised $80,000 to help needy students in the constituency. Residents and foreign workers also took part in a blood donation drive.

This article was first published on January 19, 2015.
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