Thank you for the food we eat…

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The Adelaide Tamil Association marks the traditional Pongal festival with an outdoor event

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India is a land where majority of the population lives in villages. Hence agriculture is the main occupation and source of income for many households. As a result many Indian festivals are directly or indirectly linked to agriculture. The harvest festival of southern India is called Pongal.

On a hot day in January, Bonython Park was transformed from the traditional BBQ and picnic spot into a scene from the south of India as the Adelaide Tamil Association celebrated Pongal Festival.

As part of the traditional ceremony, a milk concoction was boiled in pots that were specially prepared for the event. In their regular kitchens and in their daily lives, the people gathered here probably try to avoid anything from boiling over on to their stoves. But on this occasion, the milk was allowed to boil over and flow out of the pots, as chants of “Pongal! Pongal! Pongal!” rang out. The term is Tamil for “overflowing”. It is almost as if one is saying, thank you God, for this gift of plenty, and for our prosperity.

The Pongal, cooked with rice, milk, raw brown sugar and little pieces of sugar cane, was offered to the Sun God and Mother Earth as a form of thanksgiving.

Earlier, special invitees Rob Kerin and David Pisoni lit the traditional lamp to start off the ceremony.

With free entry, the turn out for the event was about 450 people. The scorching heat did not hold back any of the enthusiasts as the day was lined up with a long list of competitive games and activities for kids and adults alike. The games included running races, tug of war and the old favourite lemon and spoon race. With attractive prizes like LED/LCD 39 inch TV, chest freezer, BBQ, digital camera etc, participation was high, and the competition, tough!

Some, as expected, took refuge under the tents. Cultural performances kept them suitably entertained and out of trouble!

The playgrounds were clustered with kids letting out their high energy levels, while food stalls served the usual fare of dosa, samosa, chana bhatura etc. A unique feature was the ‘Information Centre’ where videos played about Pongal and some traditional Tamil games.

“Traditionally Pongal is celebrated on the 14th of Jan in India but here in Australia we try to pick the closest weekend,” Adrian from Adelaide Tamil Association told Indian Link. “Next year we are planning to have a bigger event in Elder Park”.