KUCHING: The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture will look into the feasibility of inserting Pongal Harvest Festival into the state’s tourism calendar.
Its minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah stated that he would like to see the festival lifted to a higher level with the condition that the Indian community must come up with a proposal and lay out the plans to him.
“It depends on the community and the persons-in-charge of the Pongal Festival on how to come up with a proposal and bring the matter up to the ministry.
“We will see how this event can be held on a bigger scale as I don’t see any reason why it should not be accepted in the tourism calendar,” he said when officiating at the 5th Annual Pongal Harvest Festival held at Kuching Waterfront, yesterday.
Abdul Karim commended the event which was organised by the Malaysia Hindu Sangam Sarawak State Council and hoped that the latter can take part in the planning of the festival for the coming years.
“I don’t know if it is held annually by your side but we can get it done bigger where the state government through the ministry can be part of it in organising the celebration,” he said.
Abdul Karim further mentioned that although the festival may not be well-known since the Hindu community is a minority in Sarawak, but this year’s festival was definitely livelier with the involvement of other communities.
He also noted that there is tend to be some stream of extremism within the community in Malaya against other religions such as the display of a Christian cross issue and the banning of Pongal celebration among Muslims.
“We hope Malaya can learn from us and see how Sarawak can tackle this kind of problem despite our small number of population of 2.8 million,” he said, adding that Sarawak is very tolerant when it comes to understanding the various religious faiths.
Abdul Karim announced his contribution of RM20,000 for the Malaysia Hindu Sangam Sarawak State Council to ease the burden of organising the event and other coming events.
The Pongal Harvest Festival included colourful activities such as a children’s colouring contest, kolam drawing (Indian traditional art), kabaddi (Indian traditional endurance game) demonstration, urmi melam (traditional drum team) and many more.
Pongal is a Hindu harvest festival celebrated on Jan 14 every year, dedicated to the Hindu sun god whereby a traditional dish — pongal sweet dish — is prepared from the new harvest of rice boiled in milk with jaggery (raw sugar).
It is traditionally an occasion for decorating rice-powder based kolam artworks, offering prayers, getting together with family and friends, and exchanging gifts to renew social bonds of solidarity and celebrated for good health and prosperity.
Amongst those present were Batu Kitang assemblyman Lo Khere Chiang, Malaysia Hindu Sangam president Datuk Mohan Shan, Malaysia Hindu Sangam Sarawak State Council chairman Thondarmani Krishnarao (Prabhu), Penghulu Lucy Lingam, Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) Working Committee Datin Jennifer Alice Chee Moinie, and Association of Churches Sarawak secretary Ambrose Linang.
Photos: Ramidi Subari
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