On 25th January, Orpington’s ‘Vidhainel’ Tamil Community put together a grand celebration for Pongal 2020.

Pongal is a festival celebrated by Hindus that is typically observed around January 14th. It is a festival to give thanks to the Sun God for the bountiful harvest, as well as to farm animals, especially cows, for their hard work during the harvest season. Ways of celebrating include: visiting each other, giving gifts, and most importantly, making the rice and milk dish ‘Pongal’ and offering it to the Sun God. Pongal is celebrated all over the world by Hindus, in places as far apart as Singapore, India, the UK and Canada.

In Orpington, this cultural identity is not lost, despite living in a western country, with the annual Vidhainel Pongal Vizha (programme). The entire community was involved in the event in some way or another, either helping with organising or setting up, or simply participating in the programme. Performances from the children ranged from traditional to contemporary, from Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam performances to the teens’ dance group and a performance of ‘Shotgun.’ The local Tamil school also put on a short performance demonstrating the traditional dances of the different states of India. The community’s adults didn’t hesitate to get involved either, as shown by the ladies’ and the men’s equally energetic and enthusiastic dance performances, as well as a mimicry skit in which the community's brilliant Mr Jayaraj Theenathayalan imitated several celebrities. As well as this, the backdrop for group photos was a traditional Pongal setup made by Orpington's very own Mrs Roseline Sophia Francis Xavier. It was extremely popular with all those who attended, and its authenticity brought back nostalgic memories for many of the adults. Entertainment also came in the form of a few games in between performances. Following the dinner, the dance floor was open to all. Surprisingly, the usually female-dominated dance floor also featured men and children this year, with everybody letting loose and enjoying themselves as one.

All in all, the celebration was greatly enjoyed by everyone who attended, and we are all looking forward to the Vidhainel Pongal Vizha 2021.

by Sanga Arivanantham