Kuching holds vibrant Pongal Festival for small Tamil community

Goh Pei Pei

KUCHING: Sarasa Ahtimulam woke up at 5am, washed up and put on her saree, jhumkas (earrings) and bangles, applied a bindi (red dot) to her forehead, and headed excitedly to the annual Pongal festival at the Kuching Waterfront here.

The 50-year-old homemaker said the festival, which honours the Sun God, is important to the Tamil community.

One of the main components of the event is the festive food, and Sarasa, like many others, had been preparing sweet rice with sugar, ghee and milk in a clay pot for the big day.

She said she prefers brown sugar and adds cashew nuts to make it more flavourful.

"(I) boil the milk over charcoal and wait for it to overflow - this symbolises prosperity and abundance – before adding in other ingredients," she said.

"One of the important things to remember when preparing the rice is that all ingredients must be fresh, and the pot and utensils must be new," she added.

Sarasa said this was the third year she joined the Pongal celebration here, and it was fun and meaningful, as other communities, as well as tourists, join in.

"It's not an event for Tamils only, as everyone can join us, we can cook and eat together," she said.

The event was organized by the Malaysia Hindu Sangam Sarawak State Council, which invited more than 100 families to celebrate Pongal together.

Sarawak has a population of 2.5 million, out of which 7,000 are Indian.

Welfare, Women and Community Wellbeing Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah said despite been a small minority in the multiracial state, the community still observes its cultural celebrations in a merry way.

"It's good to organize the event at a public place like this, so that others can join in and understand (Indian/Tamil culture better)," Fatimah said.