The photo above is from the Ponggal celebration held at a church in Selangor.
This scene was repeated across most churches in Peninsula Malaysia.
That is because Ponggal is a Harvest celebration for the people of Malaysia who are of South Indian origin.
It is a four-day celebration that falls in the month of Thai (between January and February) when crops like rice and sugarcane are harvested.
The term Ponggal in Tamil means “to boil”, which denotes how the festival is celebrated, by cooking rice with sugar and seeing it come to a boil, then overflowing from the pot to signify abundant blessings.
As we know, the South Indian community – who mainly comprise Tamils in this country – are made up of people of all faiths. That is Hindus, Christians and Muslims.
This annual Harvest Festival in the middle of January is therefore of cultural origin and celebrated by Hindus, Christians and Muslims alike back in South India.
The fact that the Indian Muslims in Malaysia choose to turn their backs on this major festival, maybe out of fear or just plain ignorance, does not mean that this Harvest Festival is of any religious significance.
It is just celebrated by the South Indian community with thanksgiving to God whether at home or at temples and churches where the people of the same community gather.
The question to ask Jakim and the ignorant officials at the Education Ministry is if Ponggal is haram, are they going to declare Gawai (Sarawak) and Ka’amatan (Sabah) as religious festivals and therefore haram for Muslims too?
Let’s make the equivalent comparisons – Ponggal = Gawai = Ka’amatan . These are all traditional harvest celebrations celebrated by people of all religions.
With the by-election coming up in Kimanis, Sabah, maybe the relevant ministers and other leaders in the Pakatan Harapan government would like to clarify if Muslims would be forbidden from celebrating Gawai and Ka’amatan too from this year.
HAPPY PONGGAL TO ALL NEW MALAYSIA TIMES READERS