Kampung Pandan: The Kuala Lumpur Archbishop, His Grace Julian Leow joined Catholics at the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Health (OLGH) here in sub-urban Kuala Lumpur on Jan 18 to celebrate their annual ‘Ponggal ‘ festival.
Archbishop Leow presided at the evening Mass celebrated in Tamil, English and Bahasa Malaysia. Con-celebrants were OLGH Chapel Administrator Fr Christopher W. Soosaipillai, Fr Albet Arockiasamy from Christ The Light Chapel and visiting Myanmarese priest Fr Bernard. The chapel was packed for the Mass, with some Chinese parishioners also present.
Prior to the 5.30pm Mass, the congregation assembled at the main entrance to pray and witness the ‘boiling of ponggal’. Ponggal is a dish of sweet concoction of rice, cashew nut, raisin and milk. This harvest festival is also a time for communal thanksgiving, of being grateful to God for all the material processions especially the fruits of the earth and of our labour and also an opportunity to thank God for His abundant blessings for life and His guidance. Archbishop Leow also partake in the preparation of the ponggal by pouring in the milk into the pot, followed with the clergy and the religious sisters present. The prelate also blessed the ingredients in the pot.
The front entrance was also adored with a kolam, Agal Villaku, a light symbol made of a variety of coloured rice, which can mean light of Christ to brighten up our lives from darkness of sins. The colourful kolam was the efforts of the youths.
The homily was delivered by Fr Albet. He started first with his ponggal greetings and shared about the current situation in the country, followed with his preaching based on today’s Readings.
During the Presentation of Gifts, a variety of the land produces were brought up as a symbol of thanksgiving to our God Almighty for His marvelous blessings bestowed on His people.
In his short speech, Fr Chris welcome the Archbishop and thank him for his presence. Fr Chris told the assembly that the mere present of our beloved bishop is already a great blessing for this community, as he is our Shepherd. In return Archbishop Leow wished the community ‘Thai ponggal valtukal’ in Tamil which means ‘ Happy Ponggal’.
All present were also feted to a ‘banana left’ vegetarian meal with ponggal, after Mass, held at the chapel’s ground. The prelate also spent time mingling with the parishioners and happily talking to them. There was also traditional performance held during the fellowship.
The Catholic Church is unique. It caters and accommodates the various cultural practices of the different ethnicities who professed the same one faith. In Malaysia, the Church celebrates Chinese New Year, Ponggal and the Gawai, Keaamatan & Panen Harvest Festivals.
Several other parishes in the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur also held similar thanksgiving Masses and ‘boiling of ponggal’ to mark the harvest festival celebration.
Ponggal, a harvest festival, equivalent to Thanksgiving and falls on the first month (Thai) of the Tamil calendar (usually celebrated in mid-January of the Gregorian calendar) and is being celebrated by Tamils in particularly in South India and elsewhere is non-relevant to any particular religious faith.
ponggal, shj, tamilapostolate