MP SPEAKS | It is a pleasure to be part of the Pongal celebration tomorrow, Jan 14. Pongal is a harvest festival dedicated to the Sun God.
Thai Pongal is one of the most important festivals celebrated by Tamil people in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and other countries with a Tamil diaspora.
The importance of the sun for crops has great cultural significance because it provides the necessary light for agriculture that is critical for the social and economic wellbeing of farmers.
It brings us environmentally closer to our roots which are Mother Earth and the common bond of identity and language.
Learning from the Pongal festival
Pongal should be a day to remember our ancestors who came to Malaysia after a dangerous journey in which many died along the way. They left their homes in India to come to Malaysia to give their children a better life.
They cleared the virgin jungles and worked under the sun tapping rubber trees, and contributing to the Malaysian economy. The nation would not be where it is today if not for the sacrifices of the Indian community.
The Pongal festival which signifies the productive work of farmers is an opportunity to reaffirm and appreciate the many significant sacrifices of our ancestors.
Community solidarity, environmental concern
The celebration of Pongal is beyond religion where it is celebrated by the Indians and other communities. We find such celebration in churches also.
Pongal should reignite our cultural origins that unite us rather than divide us. The rich should celebrate it with the poor, and Christian and Hindus should celebrate Pongal together with solidarity and unity in mind.
Being a harvest festival, Pongal should propel us to reflect on climate change which is increasingly destroying the income of farmers. Many low-land areas are affected by climate change where extreme heat is destroying crops and, in turn, affecting the livelihood of farmers.
As a community, we should be environmentally aware of our surrounding nature and seek to protect it from industries that produce extreme heat.
Valuing the Tamil language
Pongal celebrations should propel us to speak more of the Tamil language. It is the language that unites us Indians and gives us an identity.
Many parents no longer speak Tamil to their children, and the proficiency of the language has deteriorated among the young. Tamil educated parents are now speaking English to their children at home.
Let’s bring the Tamil language to the core as we reflect on a cultural festival like Pongal.
Our ancestor came to toil on the soil to ensure we had enough to eat. Thus, besides enjoying the fruits of labour, the Pongal festival should guide us to reflect on our current social economic position, and work together to improve our social economic well being.
The awareness level is still weak among most of us which leads us to lag behind other ethnic groups in the economic sector. Cultural awareness should empower us to produce more by learning new skills and competencies to survive in the global world.
Therefore, may the Pongal festival bring us closer together to reflect on our history, language, social economic conditions and the environment. We need to reach out to each other in solidarity, enhance our identity and language, and be more aware of our social and economic status.
Cultural celebrations should be a time of reflection and building bonds of solidarity that would propel us to be shining contributors to the nation.
M KULASEGARAN is the MP for Ipoh Barat.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.