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A Tamil Festival

Thai Pongal, or more commonly referred to as Pongal is the Tamil version of a harvest festival. Usually celebrated in the middle of January, Pongal means “overflow”, referring to the abundance of milk and rice after the harvest. The festival is not as well-known in Malaysia, but it is a significant event for Tamils worldwide. The Pongal celebration is held to thank the Sun God, Surya for the year’s harvest and to offer the god the first grains of the haul.


Pongal falls on the first day of the Tamil month of Thai, and is usually accompanied by preparation of a rice and milk dish also called Pongal. As the dish is an offering to the Sun God, the cooking is usually done under the sunlight. The Pongal dish is a sweet food made from boiling rice with fresh milk and jaggery (a type of unrefined sugar) before being topped with spices, nuts and other additions.


It is considered a good sign when the milk starts boiling and overflows out of the cooking vessel.When the milk begins to bubble out of the container, the tradition is to shout “pongalo pongal!”, put recently harvested rice into the pot and blow a unique conch called sanggu. Another feature of the Pongal festival is the decorations.

Devotees decorate their houses with banana and mango leaves, along with kolam drawings intricate artwork made by carefully using rice flour of various colours. The family will wake up before dawn and start work on the kolam, and it is a belief that it is auspicious to complete the artwork before the sun rises.