Pongal Celebration

By JONATHAN ABEL
MEDIA & PUBLICATION TEAM

13th Jan 2013 - ‘Pongal’ is an age old tradition of south Indians, commemorating the end of the harvest season and a gesture of thanks giving to the blessings that they have received during the course of the year. This proud tradition was continued by the Indian migrants who settled down in the Peninsular Malaysia tenths of years ago. Similar to many other vernacular traditions that was opted into the practices of Christianity, the tradition of thanksgiving through the act of celebrating ‘Pongal’ was continued by individuals who embodied Christianity. Nowadays it has become a yearly celebration honouring the visitation of baby Jesus by the three kings.

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 On the dusky Holy Sabbath morning of 13th January 2013, this proud tradition was sustained by the Youths of St. Anthony’s Church (SAC), Kuala Lumpur. The church was draped with palm leafs, sugar canes and banana trees. Parishioner’s arrived robed in traditional garments. The sweet concoction of rice and milk was prepared in decorated clay pots on top of a wood fire. The sounds of nadhaswaram and thavil replaced the natural morning hush. The ‘Pongal’ was welcomed with the chorus of ‘Pongal O’ Pongal’ by those who were present.

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 The festivities continued with the celebration of the Holy Mass. During the course of the mass, two pots of ‘Pongal’ were presented as offertories. It was accompanied by the echoes of nadhaswaram and thavil. And with children’s dancing down the aisle with two parishioners carrying decorated clay pots of ‘Pongal’. After the Holy Mass, the Youths of SAC distributed packets of the sweet concoction to all parishioner’s which marked the end of the ‘Pongal’ celebration.

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The ‘Pongal’ celebrations at St. Anthony’s Church, is very good illustration of the diversity of culture and tradition that co-exist under the Catholic Church. An offer of congratulations is due to the coordinators, Youths of SAC, who made the fête possible.

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In a nut shell, although through the years, the initial purpose of ‘Pongal’ might have deferred, the core principles of this proud tradition remains unchanged. The idea of paying homage for the gifts and abundance that was given to us by the birth of Christ, similar to the three Kings who paid their homage to Jesus through the gifts that they brought still persists. And the indication of the new branches of the tree of generations ensuring the continuity traditions that empowers faith and identity is extremely promising.


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