THOUSANDS of young and old residents and tourists flocked at Kampung Chetty in Jalan Gajah Berang, Malacca, to witness the 2008 Ponggal festival.

Other than being a harvest festival, which dates 5,000 years, it is a traditional event among Indians denoting thanksgiving to God.

Organised by the Indian Chetty community this year, a variety of activities were held to add merriment to the four-day event.

All ready: G. Puvanesh (left) and N. Ranjini (right) holding Ponggal rice pots.
The Ponggal rice cooking, sacred cow bathing and appreciation ceremony, Indian dance presentation, traditional Indian Chetty wedding demonstration and traditional Indian folk games were among the activities enjoyed by the visitors.

K. Vimala Devi, a resident of Kampung Chetty, prepared prayer offerings such as fresh flowers, fruits, silk, kumkum and vibuthi for the festival,.

“These items will be offered to the sacred cow for its hard work during the harvest,” said the 40-year-old, adding that the Ponggal festival was also a time for the community to pray for prosperity.

Traditional: A demonstration of the Chetty wedding.
Several tourists came to know about the event by chance and were immersed in the activities.

Kurt Thomas and his wife Carolyn from the United States said it was his first time they saw a traditional event like this.

“I think the culture is cool and special. I enjoyed learning from it and it opened my eyes,” said the 57-year-old Kurt, who was on his first trip to Malaysia.

In appreciation: Residents feeding fruits to a sacred cow.
Melissa May from Singapore said she felt excited witnessing the celebration as it was somewhat different from that in her country.

“Indians do celebrate Ponggal there, but they do it on a smaller and simpler scale,” said the 32-year-old.

Her friend Russell Jo Lee, 28, was amazed by the traditional dance karagatam in which the dancer made cheerful moves with the rhythmic music while balancing a big urn on his head.

Rhythmic: Boys beating traditional drums for the parade of sacred cows.
“It was exciting,” exclaimed Lee.

The Ponggal festival is held during the Tamil month of Thai, which falls between January and February.

The celebrations involve boiling milk in a clay pot until it overflows, after which rice, sugar, raisins and cashew nuts are added. This is done to thank God for the bountiful harvest and for continued good produce.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam officiated at the festival.

“Festivals like this serve as an introduction of our unique ethnic characteristics to the outside world, and this tallies with tourism promotion under the Ninth Malaysian Plan,” he said.


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