The annual Pongal festival celebrated on 21 Jan 2017 at Robelle domain was a huge success. About 2000 people attended. The event was enjoyed by members from the Tamil and non-Tamil communities, with bountiful amounts of food, dancing, music, fireworks, displays, and games all increasing Tamil cultural awareness and overall appreciation. 

By Mala Dhanasekar

Although the rain kept a few of the anticipated numbers away, there was a large crowd who came along to celebrate. The event was designed to bring awareness and give an opportunity for the community to have a chance to experience how traditional festivities occur.

The festival began with the traditional ceremony of lighting the lamp. The event consisted of plenty of traditional games throughout the afternoon segment. One of these was kabaddi, where you have two teams competing against each other, with the goal being to have more of your team members than your opposite team’s going through the oppositions side, tagging opponent team members, and returning back to their own side. All of this is done while holding your breath and saying the word kabaddi over and over again, without breathing in. If the person invading the opposition side is, however, tackled and prevented from returning to the home side, then the opposition side gains a point.

Photos from the event

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Photos courtesy: Remadevi Dhanasekar and Mala Dhanasekar

Another traditional activity that takes place particularly during cultural festivities is the art of kolam designing, which is drawing using rice flour, chalk, chalk powder, and other variations of coloured powders, to create designs and artwork which is traditionally placed at the front of the house and in prayer rooms.

Another game that the special guests also took part in is the game called uriyadi, which involves smashing a small earthen pot with a long stick, while the participant is blind-folded and spun around to disorient them from the location of the pot. This game is similar to hitting a pinata.

There was also a three-legged race and pongal (sweet rice pudding) tasting. A jumping castle was present which a lot of the children enjoyed and took part in, as well as a stall where people could do a variety of activities to win prizes. There was also a magic show which the kids participated in and enjoyed greatly.

There was also plenty of food stalls ranging from sugar cane juice, dim sum, churros to more traditional Indian food.

There was a beautiful slide-show display above the stage, which told stories on what the traditional pongal festivals look like back home in Tamil Nadu. It showed illustrated pictures of how the farmers celebrate, as the festival celebrates the harvest season.

The evening part of the festivities included both the young and older generations participating in cultural dances, musical numbers, and entertainment for the viewers. The night ended with spectacular fireworks, which everyone enjoyed.

Mr Peter Russo, MP, the event ambassador, Mr Paul Pisasale, the mayor of Ipswich, and Mr. Sunil Prasad, Fiji senior citizens president, spoke about the importance of embracing one’s culture and also how important the event experience was, particularly for the younger generation growing up here to understand and gain an appreciation for their cultural roots.

The success of the 2017 Pongal Festival event was due to the huge support from the community, event ambassador Mr. Peter Russo, Queensland Multicultural grant, media supporters, and local community organisations.

Many of the people who came by to celebrate and check out the event were thoroughly impressed and expressed their desire to return the next year.

It was a beautiful opportunity to see how harmonious the communities all worked together, and it was equally heart-warming to see everyone enjoying themselves and both the young and the older generations performing together and embracing their culture.