Thai Pongal was celebrated by the Sri Lankan community in the Greater Washington area at a ceremony organized by the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington D.C. on 14th January 2007. A cross-section of the Sri Lankan Tamil community resident in the greater Washington area and representatives of the Sri Lanka related associations in the area were present at the event.

Thai Pongal is a thanks giving festival to the Sun God, who makes the universe prosper. Although Thai Pongal is generally celebrated by the Hindus in South India, and several other states in India as well as in Sri Lanka. The prayers offered on Pongal day are not confined to Hindus but to all living beings in the Universe. ‘Thai’means the first month of the Tamil calendar. So it is the belief that prosperity comes along with the first month of the year on the Pongal day.

In his remarks at the ceremony, Ambassador Bernard A.B. Goonetilleke, who traced the antecedents of the Thai Pongal festival in India and Sri Lanka said, such events are intended not only to help us appreciate our respective cultures and demonstrate the continued unity amongst us, but also to ensure that the Embassy is viewed as an inclusive institution, which caters to the cultural, social and religious needs of all Sri Lankans. Mrs. Kanaga Ranganthan gave an eloquent description of Hinduism and then spoke vividly about the impact of Thai Pongal on the Tamil community in Sri Lanka and South India, and conducted Hindu prayers. Following this, the traditional oil lamp was lighted by Ambassador and Mrs. Goonetilleke, while Ms Sahana Srikumar and Ms. Vishney Ambalavanar, along with a group of children and their elders, sang devotional songs to Lord Ganesh, Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, Lord Murugan and to mark Thai Pongal. The religious rituals ended with the offering of Pongal to Lord Ganesh and other deities.

At the reception that followed the religious ceremony, the refreshments served included an array of food traditionally associated with Thai Pongal.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

16 January 2007

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