Pongal in South East Asia: Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar and others.
Since Tamils live in different countries of South East Asia, ‘Pongal’ festival is very popular. Indonesia has about 2,000 to 10,000 Tamils. Singapore has about 200,000 Tamils who constitute third main cultural group. Malaysia has 1,060,000 Tamils. Tamil population of Myanmar [Burma] was 200,000 at one time. The Tamil population reduced at the end of Second World War. Cambodia has 1,000 Tamils, China 5,000 and ‘Thai’land 10,000.
‘Pongal’ Celebrations in these Countries:
In Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar ‘Pongal’ festival is one of the biggest Hindu festivals. This festival is celebrated on national scale gathering all Tamils from far and wide. Numerous temples are spread over in these small, diverse immigrant countries. Tamil cultural activities take place with deep participation on an international spread. Four ‘Pongal’ days are celebrated with rhythmic sounds of bells, drums, clarinets and conch shells. This is heard in Hindu temples regardless of which country the temple is located. Same sound is heard even in Southern Hindus temples when ‘Pongal’ is celebrated.
Early morning, there is a ritual at home. Rice is cooked in new pots that are allowed to boil over. This is the symbol of prosperity. In temples, rice is prepared while chanting prayers and playing musical instruments. Vegetables, sugar cane and spices are offered to Gods. Later these are consumed by devotees to cleanse themselves of their past sins.