SRI LANKA EMBASSY CELEBRATES THAI PONGAL
WITH THE SRI LANKANS IN WASHINGTON DC
The Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington DC together
with the Sri Lankan community in the Greater Washington area,
celebrated Thai Pongal at a colorful ceremony at the Embassy on
January 13, 2008. 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
Ambassador Bernard Goonetilleke who addressed
the gathering, said that the Washington Embassy, during the past
three years, had celebrated important religious festivals of the
four major religions practiced in Sri Lanka. The Ambassador created
the mood for the evening’s program with his speech on the
existence of Hinduism during pre-Buddhist times in Sri Lanka,
the blending of Hinduism with Buddhism from the Polonnaruwa period
onward, and its absorption into the religious fabric of Sri Lanka.
He enriched his speech with colorful descriptions of ancient pre-Buddhist
Hindu temples such as Thiruketheeshwaram, Munneshwaram,Thondeeshwaram,
Thirukoneeshwaram and Naguleshwaram, that existed in all four
corners of the island.
Mrs. Kanaga Ranganathan who conducted the Hindu
prayers, spoke eloquently about the significance of Thai Pongal
to Hindus and described in poignant detail how the Tamils of Sri
Lanka celebrate the festival in traditional Sri Lankan style.
As a thanks giving festival to the Sun God, who brings prosperity
to the universe, Thai Pongal is not confined to Hindus but to
all living beings in the universe, she said. ‘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. Mrs Ranganathan expressed her appreciation at the
tireless efforts the Ambassador has made during the past three
years to celebrate all religions with all Sri Lankan communities
in Washington DC, a small step that will, in its own significant
way, boost the giant step needed to unify the communities in Sri
Following this, the traditional Hindu oil lamp
was lighted by Ambassador, followed by a program of 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.
As an unusual feature to the traditional program,
a former South Indian actress Kasturi spoke to the gathering about
her perspective of Thai Pongal as celebrated in South India.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
14 January 2008