Tampines residents gather to celebrate South Indian festival Pongal

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat putting a garland around a cow as he joined about 500 Tampines residents to celebrate Pongal, a South Indian festival. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat putting a garland around a cow as he joined about 500 Tampines residents to celebrate Pongal, a South Indian festival. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

SINGAPORE - All eyes were on a cow and a calf, as they were led onto a holding area at the stage in Tampines Community Plaza on Sunday.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, an MP for Tampines, 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 means the boiling of milk and rice until they overflow to signify abundance and prosperity. The four-day affair started on Jan 15, but in Singapore the celebration can be held any day within the following month.

Some 500 Tampines residents of different races came together to celebrate it.

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

The event, also a part of SG50 celebration, was organised by the Tampines GRC Indian Activity Executive Committees and Integration and Naturalisation Champions to promote inter-racial understanding.

Other highlights include 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 share in the fruits of that growth.

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