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Jordan, February 16, 2020
Jordan’s Tamil expatriates remember home, heritage at harvest festival celebration

Commemorating an occasion to connect to their agrarian roots, expatriates from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu celebrated Pongal, their harvest festival, in Amman on Friday.

Clad in traditional attire, over 400 community members gathered at the Generations for Peace auditorium at Sports City, which was decked with cultural themes to mark the occasion, according to organisers.

In keeping with the Tamil calendar, the four-day harvest festival ran from January 15 to January 18, but the community decided to celebrate it on Friday to allow its members, who are mainly workers in the Kingdom’s garment and clothing industry, to participate, organisers said.

India’s Ambassador to Jordan Anwar Haleem inaugurated the cultural event, hailing “the strength, the greatness and the historicity of the Tamil language and culture”.

“Traditionally, India being an agricultural society, harvest festivals are celebrated by different names across the country. The manner in which it’s celebrated in Tamil Nadu for four days is an example of the richness of the Tamil culture,” the envoy said.

As the event progressed with an array of cultural activities, a group of women prepared the eponymously named dish Pongal — sweet rice made of jaggery, ghee and lentils — in a mud pot outside the auditorium.

“Pongal in Tamil means ‘overflowing’. It shows the overflowing of prosperity. It also shows the love between humans and nature,” nine-year-old Tanish Narisetty said, while narrating the customs and rituals of the festival to the audience.

Michael George, an organiser, highlighted the warmth this annual opportunity offers to the Indian community in the Kingdom, with this year witnessing the third consecutive gathering.

“We want to continue with our tradition and show it to Jordan and the wider world,” George said.

For Senthil Marithamuthu, who hails from an agrarian family, Pongal symbolises “everything close to my heart”.

“All my family members work in the field. The first thing that comes to my mind is them, our sugar cane fields, coconut palms and our livestock. It’s an occasion to be grateful for the fruits of our hard work.”