SINGAPORE - Bukit Panjang residents cheered "Pongalo Pongal!" on Sunday morning (Jan 19) as they celebrated Pongal, a harvest festival celebrated by Tamils to mark the arrival of spring.
Around 2,000 residents had gathered at an open field next to Pending LRT station to try pounding rice with their hands to experience the traditional way of cooking Pongal rice, a sweet rice pudding.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was the guest-of-honour at the festival which was hosted by Dr Teo Ho Pin, MP for Bukit Panjang SMC.
Noting that residents of various communities had come together to celebrate Pongal by participating in the festivities and performances on Sunday, PM Lee said: "It is only in Singapore that this happens."
He added that grassroots advisers and leaders have put in efforts across towns and neighbourhoods all over Singapore to foster community spirit and improve amenities and facilities across the country, which has made people feel that they have a place in Singapore.
Using the ingredients and cooking method of Pongal rice as an analogy, PM Lee said: "Every year, I hope we have a pot with milk, lots of milk, lots of rice, lots of warmth and fire, to boil over, and we can say Pongalo Pongal."
Pongal festival celebrations in Singapore started on Jan 10 and will last until Feb 9. As part of the festivities, families prepare the rice pudding for relatives and friends.
Dr Teo, who is also mayor of the North West district, said that Pongal celebrations have been a yearly affair in Bukit Panjang since 2008.
He highlighted that residents in the constituency have benefited from housing renewal programmes and facility upgrades.
The Bukit Panjang LRT is currently undergoing a renewal which is slated for completion in 2024.
Cycling tracks are also being built at the town, which can also be used by personal mobility device users, Dr Teo noted.
A surprise birthday celebration for Dr Teo was held during the festival, which was also attended by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Mr Liang Eng Hwa, both MPs for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.
Sunday's event was jointly organised by Bukit Panjang Citizens' Consultative Committee and Bukit Panjang Integration and Naturalisation Champions, and supported by North West Community Development Council.