Auckland Tamil Association celebrated the Tamil harvest festival of Pongal with traditional gaiety and enthusiasm with a gathering of special guests and the Tamil community on Saturday, February 9, at the Mt. Eden War Memorial Hall.

Pongal is a highly revered three days long festival, dedicated to the Sun god which according to the Tamil calendar is usually celebrated from January 14 to January 17.

Celebrated by Tamil people in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and countries such as Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mauritius, South Africa, Singapore, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, the festival of Pongal is increasingly becoming popular in New Zealand in recent years.

Continuing the long tradition of celebrating this festival, along with showcasing elements and nuances of the Tamil culture to the wider community, the Auckland Tamil Association event included traditional Tamil games like Pallanguli, Bambaram, Undi Vil, and Choppu Saaman.

The hall was decorated with colourful kolams and the centre stage was beautifully decorated with Pongal pot to reflect the Pongal celebration.

Several cultural performances such as the renowned Karagam or Karagattam and Kumiattam were also enacted by enthusiastic artists. Karagattam is popularly known as water pot dance and is performed with decorated pots on the head in praise of the rain goddess Mariamman to seek blessings for rain.

Kumiattam – another traditional Tamil folk dance where women gather in large circle gently dancing on rhythmic clapping - was an instant hit with the audience for giving an unrestricted opportunity to everyone for immersing themselves in a joyous experience

Besides hosting cultural dance and musical performances, ATA presented the top three winners of both Kolam (Rangoli) contest and traditional food cooking contest with gold studs, silver lamp and a silk sari Notably, ATA had started Pongal celebrations a week before the main event last weekend by hosting a special cultural event whereby encouraging younger members, especially those born in NZ to compete with each other in exhibiting their skills about the selected Tamil-cultural activity.

Labour MP Michael Wood, Hon. Consul of India Bhav Dhillon and National MP Paramjit Parmar were the chief guests at the event.

Several prominent community leaders such as Jeet Suchdev from Bhartiya Samaj Charitable Trust, Senthil Kumar from Waikato Tamil Society, Nilima Venkat from Shanti Niwas Charitable Trust, Jyoti Mallikarjun Reddy from Telangana Jagruthi New Zealand, Srilatha Magatala from the New Zealand Telugu Association, and Ray Annamalai of Multicultural Council of New Zealand were also in attendance at the event.

Vai Ravindran, the President of ATA gave the welcome speech and honoured chief guests on behalf of the Association, and the evening was concluded with a vote of thanks by Vice President Mr. Velmuruga.

Speaking to The Indian Weekender, Mr Ravindran said, “The purpose of this beautiful cultural event in Auckland was to pass on supreme rich culture and heritage to our next generation of children and to celebrate the full cultural ethos at a land away from the home country.”

Tamil language classes to start soon in Auckland

However, the highlight of the event was the announcement of launching a Tamil language classes in Auckland.

“Auckland Tamil Association is starting Tamil language classes in Auckland from next month with intentions of educating youngsters in the community, along with promoting one of the longest-surviving classical languages of the world, in New Zealand,” Mr Ravindran said. 

The classes are scheduled to be held every week, starting from Saturday, March 2, at the Onehunga Community Centre. Anyone keen to take the opportunity to learn the Tamil language should contact Auckland Tamil Association directly at aucklandtamilassociation@gmail.com