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Kid-friendly Guide to the 2024 Pongal Festival in Singapore (15 – 18 January 2024)

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Here’s everything you need to know about the 2024 Pongal Festival in Singapore!

From 15 to 18 January 2024, Little India will bustle with even more colour and life than usual for the 2024 Pongal Festival, which features magnificent light displays at the Little India Pongal Light-up, a chance to see cows at the Pongal Cattle Farm at Clive Street and kid-friendly workshops. January is the month when a number of harvest festivals are celebrated in various parts of India, and Pongal is an important festival celebrated by the Tamil diaspora around the world. Let’s take a look at the meaning of the Pongal festival and how it is celebrated in Singapore including all the deets on Indian Heritage Centre’s Pongal Open House 2024 which takes place over two weekends and offers signature Pongal trails, Kranji Farm tours, free Pongal crafts, and live performances.

Read More: Top 10 Indian Restaurants in Singapore

When is Pongal 2024?

Pongal Festival 2023
Image Credit: Indian Heritage Centre

Pongal is from 15 – 18 January 2024. The festival usually begins on the last day of the ninth month in the Tamil calendar. You can celebrate early this year as the Indian Heritage Centre’s Pongal Open House 2024 takes place over two weekends (6- 7 January and 13-14 January 2024) and there will be lots of family-friendly cultural activities and fun workshops (see below for more info).

What is Pongal?

Pongal festival activities in Singapore
Image Credit: Indian Heritage Centre

Pongal is a four-day harvest festival celebrated by the Tamil Hindu community to convey gratitude and appreciation to the Sun God (Surya) for a successful harvest and to usher in a bountiful spring season. This is also a time when cattle are honoured, especially the cow, which is considered sacred in the Hindu religion. Pongal is an occasion for making offerings at the temple, for lively social gatherings, and for new beginnings when people don new clothes and do spring cleaning in their homes.

While we are unlikely to see “harvest seasons” living in an urban city like Singapore, this festival is still relatable in modern times. Pongal celebrations provide an opportunity to teach children (and ourselves) to value and celebrate mother nature and the animals around us, and to set our intentions for a fresh new start to the year.

How is Pongal celebrated in Singapore?

Pongal Festival
Image Credit: Indian Heritage Centre

Most families celebrate Pongal 2024 in Singapore at home with their loved ones. Most temples here will have communal Pongal cooking, and many devotees will also come to offer prayers and participate.

Family-friendly activities for Pongal 2024 in Singapore

The Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association (LISHA) and the Indian Heritage Centre have been involved in organising Pongal activities along Campbell Lane in Little India to celebrate Pongal. Look out for a bazaar with stalls selling festive goods like prayer items, traditional clothes, festive decorations, Indian sugar cane, and other ingredients relevant to the Pongal festival.

Cows are also a core part of the Pongal harvest festival celebrations. Look out for the Cattle farm area @ Clive Street (from 9 am to 8 pm) where a few cows will be held (usually under a marquee so there’s shade – you’ll smell them before you see them!

There are plenty of ways kids can learn about the 2024 Pongal festival in Singapore. Start off with this fun Pongal crafting activity or visit the Indian Heritage Centre’s Pongal Open House to enjoy family-friendly cultural activities and fun workshops.

Pongal 2023 Singapore - Kolam Activity

IHC’s Pongal Open House 2024 takes place over two weekends:

Celebrate the harvest season at the IHC Sun-themed Pongal Open House with signature Pongal trails, Kranji Farm tours, free Pongal crafts, traditional food and craft demonstrations and live performances. Programme charges may apply but there’s free admission to Indian Heritage Centre on the Pongal Open House days.

  • Take part in a hands-on crafts activity
  • Join in with a dance at the Harvest Dance & Storytelling session
  • Explore the Tamil culture’s agricultural roots on a Kranji Farm Tour
  • Take part in a Pongal Cooking Demonstration by Chef Annil Ravindran
  • Delve into the intricate world of gilded paintings through an immersive Tanjore Art Workshop. 

When: 6- 7 January and 13-14 January 2024, 10am – 6pm
Where: Indian Heritage Centre, 5 Campbell Ln, Singapore 209924
How much: Free Admission for all weekends however charges may apply to some programmes. More info & register here.

Understanding the Pongal Harvest Festival

The Pongal festival is spread out over four different days, and each day has its own meaning and traditions:

Day 1: Bhogi Pongal
The first day of Pongal is typically when houses are cleaned out and old belongings are discarded to mark a fresh start. Not only are houses decorated, but new clothes are also worn to celebrate a new chapter.

Pongal 2023 Singapore - Cooking Pongal
Image Credit: Nithi Anand via Wikimedia Commons

Day 2: Surya Pongal/Thai Pongal
The second day of Pongal is when the community honours the Sun God (Surya). Typically, households will decorate the main entrance into the home with kolam (a decorative art made with rice powder), and will typically cook rice with milk in an earthenware pot (pictured above), letting it boil over to symbolise the “bubbling over” of prosperity. The family will shout “Pongalo, Pongal” as the pot bubbles over, and this is followed by a meal with specially prepared dishes. The cooked Pongal from the pot is also offered to the Sun God.

In Singapore, you’ll find two kinds of cooked Pongal: Sakkarai Pongal (sweet) and Venn Pongal (savoury); the latter is usually served for breakfast. And while there are many ways to cook a pot of Pongal, common ingredients include rice and raisins, ghee, milk, cardamom and cashews.

Day 3: Mattu Pongal
The third day of Pongal is devoted towards cattle, to honour the hard work they do for farmers. In India, cows are bathed and dressed up with beards, flowers, bells, and more. While this isn’t common practice in Singapore, some dairy farms that are owned by members of the Indian community may offer thanksgiving prayers instead.

Pongal 2023 Singapore - Poi Kal Kuthirai Attam dancers
Image Credit: Kumarrajendran via Wikimedia Commons

Day 4: Kaanum Pongal
The fourth day of Pongal is dedicated to strengthening familial and community ties. The elders of the family give their blessings to the younger folk, and most families typically gather for a meal together. In India, you will find traditional folk dances being performed – these include dances such as the mayilattam (peacock dance), kolattam (stick dance) or the poi kaal kuthirai attam (horse dance, pictured above).

We hope this info on Pongal has been helpful. Here’s wishing you all a wonderful Pongal celebration!

Lead image from the Indian Heritage Centre.

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