Pongal festivities in Little India kick off on Jan 9 with cultural activities online and offline

SINGAPORE – Welcoming locals to rediscover Little India, the Indian Heritage Centre (IHC) will kick off this year’s Pongal festivities on Jan 9 with a programme featuring both virtual and physical cultural activities.

Hands-on urban gardening and harvesting workshops, as well as educational tours in Campbell Lane to soak in the sights and sounds of the annual harvest festival are some of the physical events in the Pongal Day Out programme which runs till Jan 17.

Those who join the educational tours can watch live demonstrations of how to create a kolam, which is a traditional floor mural made with rice flour, and catch the Pongal light-up in Serangoon Road. Capped at 20 people per session, the hour-long tour will take place from Jan 12 to Jan 15. Visitors will be split into smaller groups of five during the tour.

Online activities include an interactive learning portal targeted at students aged 10 to 14, which offers information on various aspects of the festival, a music video and Tik Tok dance challenge.

IHC general manager Maria Bhavani Dass said the centre has expanded its outreach and drawn in more participants through online activities organised since July last year.

“Usually Pongal is a very loud festival happening around Campbell Lane, with tents, and crowds pouring in, but this year, everything is a little quieter, and so we have got activities set up for people to continue learning about our heritage and experience the festival.

“We really hope that amid the uncertainty, this year’s festival will bring good luck and prosperity to everyone,” she added.

The festival is traditionally celebrated by farmers in India to give thanks for a year of bountiful harvest.

Preparations for Pongal Day Out began in November, and about 100 people are involved in the programme this year.

While the usual spectacle of cattle on the streets will not take place, visitors can pose at the colourful interactive photo booths at IHC showcasing life-like paintings of cattle and rice farming.

Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association chairman C. Sankaranathan said vendors hope the festival activities will attract more people to patronise shops and restaurants in Little India, where businesses like souvenir shops and travel agencies have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Said Mr Sankaranathan: “Many of the businesses in Little India cater to the Indian community and tourists. While footfall in the precinct has increased with each new phase of reopening, tourists are still missing in the area. Festivals like Pongal may attract more locals and lead to better revenue for vendors.”

Those who are interested can visit this website or IHC’s Facebook page for more information.

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