Live cattle and goats among highlights in next year's Pongal celebration

Crowds gathered in Little India to celebrate Pongal, a harvest festival that is typically observed by the Tamil community, on Jan 14, 2017.
Crowds gathered in Little India to celebrate Pongal, a harvest festival that is typically observed by the Tamil community, on Jan 14, 2017. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The annual Indian festival of Pongal 2018 will be a month-long celebration with such highlights as a street light-up and a mini-spectacle of cows, bulls, calves and goats in Little India.

Serangoon Road will be lit up by fairy lights from Jan 5, with the switch set to be turned on at 6.30 pm in Campbell Lane by Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

As in past years, a major attraction will be the herding of the animals to a farm-like area in Hastings Road where an olden-day wooden bullock cart will also be on display.

It will take place on Jan 12, when the animals will start ambling at 10 am from the Indian Heritage Centre in Campbell Lane.

Shopkeepers and bystanders along the route would typically garland the animals to honour them for their role in ensuring a bountiful harvest.

Pongal is a harvest and thanksgiving festival that marks the start of spring and is celebrated worldwide by Tamils, particularly in southern India and the state of Tamil Nadu.

It falls on Jan 14 and is celebrated for four days.

Pongal means to boil in Tamil, so a pot of rice is allowed to boil over as a sign of prosperity.

In Singapore, the celebration is organised by the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association, with the Indian Heritage Centre playing a bigger role this time round.

They have planned a host of activities, including a Pongal cooking masterclass at the Indian Hertage Centre where people can learn to cook Pongal, a sweet rice dish. The classes are on Jan 6 and Jan 7, from 11am to 1pm.

Others include a pot painting workshop and a guided tour of Little India to learn of the area's history and culture.

All events are free and more details are available from Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association.

Unlike past years, no events will be held on Sundays to avoid creating noise.

The exception is Sunday, Jan 14, the first day of Pongal.

The association's chairman, Mr Rajakumar Chandra, expects about 100,000 people to visit and take part in the month-long celebration, which ends on Feb 4. As in past years, most are often tourists.

Said MrRajakumar: "Whether Indian, non-Indian, locals or foreigners, I invite them to join in the celebration to learn the meaning of Pongal."