Treat for seniors as Little India celebrates Pongal

Ms Akiko Hayakawa, 35, from Japan, who is working here as a teacher, celebrated Pongal for the first time yesterday by preparing a sweet rice dish - also called pongal - in Little India.
Ms Akiko Hayakawa, 35, from Japan, who is working here as a teacher, celebrated Pongal for the first time yesterday by preparing a sweet rice dish - also called pongal - in Little India.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Some 30 seniors from Sree Narayana Mission nursing home in Yishun were yesterday treated to a vegetarian meal in Little India and given goodie bags as part of Pongal festivities.

The event, officiated by Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Melvin Yong, is part of the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association's (Lisha) series of events for Pongal that run until Saturday.

Pongal is a harvest and thanksgiving festival that marks the start of spring celebrated worldwide by Tamils, especially in South India.

One beneficiary, retired bus driver Lim Nguang Chow, 77, said it was his second time celebrating the festival. "I appreciate the chance to celebrate Pongal together with the Indian community," he said in Mandarin.

Mr Yong said: "Given the diversity in our community, the multiple races and different nationalities living together in Singapore, I think it is very important that we all celebrate each other's festivities together as one."

Agreeing, Lisha chairman Rajakumar Chandra, 59, said as Singapore becomes more culturally diverse, traditions should be kept.

Pongal used to be celebrated in Little India in a big way in the 1930s and 1940s, he said, adding that six cattle and two goats were brought in to recreate the atmosphere of those days. He estimates that half a million people will visit Little India for the festivities, held at a cost of about $200,000.


The event, officiated by Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Melvin Yong, is part of the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association's series of events for Pongal. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG


During Pongal, cattle are honoured for their role in ploughing the paddy fields to ensure a bountiful harvest and providing milk. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2018, with the headline 'Treat for seniors as Little India celebrates Pongal'. Print Edition | Subscribe