Tamil people living in Otago region came together on Sunday, February 3, to celebrate traditional Tamil harvest festival of Pongal.

Dunedin Tamil Society hosted its first event of the year in a much-relaxed environment, unlike some of their major events last year, like Diwali celebrations, which were more formal events, thus encouraging everyone to be more engaging in the entire event right from planning to the day of the festival.

In the lead up to the event, the organising committee had put their minds to encourage maximum participation from as many members of the society in the execution of the event, which included but was not limited to decorating the venue, organising meals and organising entertainment.

One direct outcome of this strategic thinking was that the responsibility of catering food for this event was taken up by committee members and volunteers who decided to cook food themselves at home rather than hiring caterers.

“The outcome was a huge success, with possibly the tastiest food ever provided in a DTS function. We continue to receive compliments for the food served to guests on that day,” Luxmanan Selvanesan, President DTS told The Indian Weekender.

“Huge thanks to the chefs Vignesh, Ruwaiz, Sadhana and Niv for this stellar effort,” Mr Selvanesan said.

Pattimandram and Isaiyum kathaiyum

Apart from food and normal cultural performances on the event day, a major attraction was the inclusion of a special debate program called Pattimandram in the event.

Pattimandram is an organised debate, where two groups come together to debate a topic of interest in Tamil. Teams usually consist of three people a-side, and a judge is present who would summarise the various points made by each team and deliver a verdict on who had the strongest arguments.

The Pattimandram is usually streaked with comedy and the judge plays a significant role in bringing the comedy to what is usually a serious topic.

The topic for this inaugural Pattimandram was "Is technology good for the community?" and the group that spoke in affirmative took the prize home.

Another traditional Tamil cultural activity Isaiyum kathaiyum included in the event was also well received by the audience. Isaiyum kathaiyum involves storytelling with words, music, singing and mimicry.

Ruwaiz Mohammed shone with his mimicry performances on the event night, which entertained one and all, particularly children.

The event was also a success in getting decent participation from the youngsters in the community.

“We always strive to encourage participation from youngsters in our community as educating them about Tamil culture and heritage is an important goal of the DTS,” Mr Selvanesan said.

Dampened mood due to an untimely death in community

However, the atmosphere at the beginning of the event was sombre due to the sudden death of Hareesh Gangadharan, a young Malayalee community member, a day before the DTS function.

As a mark of respect for Hareesh and his surviving family and the mourning community, DTS cancelled the main event which would have been the showcasing of the making of the Pongal traditionally.