Pongal the Harvest Festival

As the vast majority of India’s population depends on agriculture, many Indian festivals are often linked to agriculture and related activities. The Pongal Festival is one of the most important harvest festivals celebrated in India. Also known as Sankaranthi, it is celebrated mostly in South India, especially in Tamil Nadu, where farming is the main livelihood.

Pongal falls in mid-January each year, to welcome the beginning of the 10th Tamil Month, called Thai. It is a period of thanksgiving to nature for the bountiful harvest.

The Pongal Festival Village is held from 10 to 15 January 2014 at Campbell Lane, Little India.

The Pongal Festival Village is held from 10 to 15 January 2014 at Campbell Lane, Little India.

Campbell Lane is sandwiched between the touristy Little India Arcade and the upcoming Indian Heritage Centre.

Campbell Lane is sandwiched between the touristy Little India Arcade and the new Indian Heritage Centre, which is currently under construction.

India is the second largest producer of sugar cane, an essential item for Pongal.

India is the second largest producer of sugar cane, an essential item for Pongal.

Campbell Lane, off the main thoroughfare of Serangoon Road in Little India, transforms into a pedestrian-only street during the Pongal festival, with the Pongal bazaar selling goods such as fresh produce, decorated milk pots, and festive decorations.

During Pongal, milk will be boiled until it overspills in these decorated earthen pots. This symbolises an abundance of blessings for the family.

During Pongal, milk will be boiled until it overspills in these decorated earthen pots. This symbolises an abundance of blessings for the family.

Sugar-cane sticks are  used as offerings, together with coconuts and bananas.

Sugar cane sticks are used as offerings, together with coconuts and bananas.

One of the rituals of Pongal involves tying the turmeric plant around the pot in which the rice will be boiled.

One of the rituals of Pongal involves tying the turmeric plant around the pot in which the rice will be boiled.

Despite undergoing heavy construction work at the moment due to the construction of the upcoming Indian Heritage Centre, Campbell Lane is still experiencing large crowds made up of shoppers at the Pongal bazaar and the occasional curious tourist.

Festive items such as the Indian sugar cane, ginger and turmeric plant, and ingredients for the cooking of the Pongal, a type of traditional sweet rice, are available at the bazaar. There are special celebrations as well, including cooking demonstrations, the Light-up of Serangoon Road for the rest of January, and the distribution of Pongal.

A worker puts up decorations at one of the festive bazaar stalls.

A worker puts up decorations at one of the festive bazaar stalls.

A walk through the bazaar can overwhelm your senses.

A walk through the bazaar can overwhelm your senses.

Indian festivals are usually a sensory overload and a walk through the Pongal festival bazaar at Campbell Lane delivers just that.

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