AGE-OLD PONGAL FESTIVAL ALSO CELEBRATED BY PEOPLE OF SOUTH INDIAN-ORIGIN IN SOUTH AFRICA
(Members of the Sivan Sabhay in Verulam and visitors celebrating Pongal at their cultural centre in Brindahavan, Verulam, on Sunday, Janaury 17 2016)
RICH TRADITIONS AND CULTURES OF INDENTURED LABOURERS PROMOTED
By Subry GovenderThe age-old Pongal festival, which is celebrated in all its glory and colour in south India and the Tamil diaspora in more than 70 countries, has also been marked by people of south Indian-origin in South Africa.
The Pongal, which this year started on Thursday, January 14 and ended on Sunday, January 17, is a festival that is celebrated to give thanks for the rich harvest and all that nature provides for the people, especially in the villages.
The Pongal festival, which used to be quite an occasion in the early days during and after the indenture period in the homes of south Indian-origin people in South Africa, was this year observed by temples and cultural societies, especially in KwaZulu-Natal and the Johannesburg region.
The people of South Indian-origin in South Africa make up more than 55 percent of the estimated 1.5-million people of Indian-origin in the country.
One of the organisations that observed the Pongal festival with wonderful songs and dances on Sunday, January 17, was the Sivan Sabhay cultural society in Brindahavan, Verulam, north of Durban. The members and visitors of Sivan Sabhay, like other organisations, demonstrated, with their participation, that they valued the culture and traditions of their forefathers and mothers.
One of the guest speakers, Mr Linga Govender, gave an account of how his parents and grand-parents celebrated Pongal when he was growing up in the farming area of Inanda in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
"We all used to be given new clothes on the first day of Pongal and then joined our family members in singing the beautiful songs for this occasion", he said.
"We all used to shout out: 'Pongala Pongal'.
"I remember my mother and grand-mother cooking the sweet porridge that used to be shared with family members and neighbours. My grand-mother used to make garlands and put them round the necks of the cows that we had on the farm. She even used to feed the cows with the sweet porridge.
"It was really a wonderful period in our lives and we as the new generation must continue to pay our tributes to our forefathers and mothers by continuing to observe our rich traditions and cultures," he said.
The chairman of Sivan Sabhay, Mr Tim Govender, paid tribute to the young people who had participated in the function and called on them to continue to be involved in the rich traditions and cultures of their ancestors.
He said since the Pongal festival was about celebrating the rich harvest of vegetables and fruits, the people in South Africa must also pray for bountiful rain during this period of drought.
"We need plenty of rain so that we too can celebrate not only the harvest of vegetables and fruits, but also the cows and other animals that we owe so much to. The cows and other animals must be treated with respect and gratitude," he said.
(The images of Tamil prophets and the Lingam inside the Temple at Sivan Sabhay)
The Sivan Sabhay in Verulam, which was established in the 1980s, has come a long way since its humble beginings in the then small town. Through the hard work of its pioneers, especially Mr Bob Kisten, Mr Billy Kisten and other officials, the Siven Sabhay today boasts a beautiful temple and hall in the residential area of Brindahavan of Verulam.
The officials and members are proud that they have established a rich legacy for the younger generation to continue to observe and promote their centuries-old cultures, traditions, music and languages.
One of the officials told me: "Our Tamil language is considered to be the oldest language in the world and we must do everything in our power to ensure that our children continue to promote and observe our Tamil language and our cultures, traditions and music."
- ends - Subry Govender January 17 2016