S'poreans of all races join in to create pongal rice dish, contributing to multi-racial society

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam, visits a decorated cow paddock in Bukit Panjang as part of the eighth annual Pongal festival. Bukit Panjang residents cooked up a storm yesterday to set a new national record
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam, visits a decorated cow paddock in Bukit Panjang as part of the eighth annual Pongal festival. Bukit Panjang residents cooked up a storm yesterday to set a new national record for the biggest number of people cooking pongal rice together. -- PHOTO: ZAO BAO

SINGAPORE - 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 locals and new immigrants 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 Pongal festival is a Hindu harvest festival celebrated mainly in the southern part of India.

Speaking as guest-of-honour at the event, 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," he went on.

"They do so, not just 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 the rice in the pot but about whether there's enough giving and compassion in our society."

Besides the culinary festivities, more than 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.