The Pongal Festival, or Sankaranthi, was originally held in celebration of a good harvest in South India, where farming is the main form of livelihood. Here in Singapore, the Pongal Festival welcomes the beginning of the 10th Tamil month, called Thai, which falls in mid-January each year. It is celebrated in the form of a thanksgiving and usually lasts four days. Pongal literally means to boil over and hence the pot of rice is allowed to boil over as a sign of prosperity.
The first day of Pongal, called Bhogi Pongal, is spent spring cleaning and discarding old belongings to welcome a new beginning. On the second day, Pongal is celebrated. Hindu homes start the day with the preparation of pongal (sweet sticky rice where milk, rice and sugar are boiled together) cooked in a new pot that is presented as an offering to the Gods in return for their blessings. On this same day, house visits are made and greetings are exchanged. The third day, Mattu Pongal, is dedicated towards honouring the cattle, for ploughing the fields and for the milk they provide. On this day the cattle are bathed, their horns painted and multi-coloured beads, tinkling bells and flower garlands are tied around their necks. The fourth day, Kaanum Pongal, is for younger members of the family to pay respect to their elders.
On these days, Pongal rice is also prepared at all Hindu temples and special prayers are conducted. In Little India, visitors can witness certain significant rituals and customs such as the honouring of the cattle and the Mass Pongal, which consists of a cooking competition among 20 families as part of a nine-day Pongal Festival. During this joyous festival, Campbell Lane, in front of Serangoon Rood, is usually transformed into a pedestrian-only mini village. You can browse the myriad of stalls and get your hands on unique souvenirs. Culture vultures can also experience the daily Pongal themed cultural performances taking place.