Originally a Tamil festival of thanksgiving for good harvests, Pongal literally means 'to boil over', an expression that alludes to abundant harvests and prosperity, akin to a pot of rice boiling over on the stove.
The first day of Pongal, called Bhogi Pongal, is spent cleaning the home and discarding old belongings to welcome the new. The second day is when the celebrations truly start. The day begins with the cooking of the pongal, a dish of sweet sticky rice boiled together with milk, rice and sugar. The food is presented as an offering to the gods. Families would then go out to visit friends and relatives. On the fourth day of the festival, Kaanum Pongal, younger members of a Hindu family pay their respects to their elders.
But what happens on the third day? Well, traditionally, this was the day when cattle were rewarded for their hard work in ploughing the fields or providing milk for the community. The animals would be bathed, their horns painted and decorated with colourful beads and tinkling bells, and fragrant garlands be tied around their necks.
Of course, such celebrations don't take place in urban Singapore, but visitors who wish to partake in the Pongal fesitivities should head to Campbell Lane in front of Serangoon Road in Little India. During the festival, this area is transformed into a pedestrians-only mini village. Temporary stalls are set up to sell trinkets and other unique souvenirs. Pongal-themed performances are also held during this time.
Pongal is celebrated on the same dates every year, at the start of the Tamil month, Thai. The Pongal dates are January 14-17. The main festivities occur on January 15.