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Leaders and communities mark Pongal in Parliament

Kiwi Nartakis at the Pongal in Parliament (Photo Rajesh Sukumar)

Dr Malini Yugendran

Auckland, February 23, 2023

The New Zealand Parliament hosted the Tamil Pongal festival, for the third consecutive year at the Executive Hall in Wellington on February 22, 2023.

Convened by the Minister for Immigration, Transport, Workplace Relations and Safety and Auckland Michael Wood and Member of Parliament from Upper Harbour Vanushi Walters, the event was organised by the Aotearoa New Zealand Federation of Tamil Sangams (ANTS).

Pongal is a four-day Thanksgiving harvest festival marked by Tamils.

A section of guests at Pongal in Parliament (from left) Mervin Singham (partially seen) Dr Siva Kumar, Rajeswary Kumar, Durga Dass, Deepa Dass, Melissa Lee, Karuna Muthu and Chris Penk (Photo Rajesh Sukumar)

Example of harmony

Mr Wood said that Pongal is a beautiful example of how humans and nature can exist in harmony.

“New Zealand has witnessed the flash floodings and cyclone Gabrielle because of what we do as humans to nature. Climate change is real. The celebration of Pongal is not just a religious or cultural event, but also a reminder of the essential relationship between humans and nature, and how we must protect and cherish our natural resources for future generations,” he said.

Tamils have made a significant contribution in the fields of IT, medicine, and education, he said.

“The Tamil community has enriched New Zealand’s diverse cultural fabric and played a vital role in the country’s growth and development,” Mr Wood said.

Transport, Immigration, Workplace Relations & Safety and Auckland Minister Michael Wood (Photo Rajesh Sukumar)

Pongal also recognises the importance of economic sustainability. The celebration involves the redistribution of wealth when well-to-do Tamil farmers gift food grains, new clothes, and bonuses to their workers, continuing the heritage and spirit of this ancient festival. Wealth generation, followed by the right sharing of it, is a key element in economic sustainability practices.

Social cohesion, as witnessed through Kaanum Pongal and communities coming together for an exchange of niceties and prayers, is key to social sustainability.

Ms Walters said, “The Tamil community in New Zealand has made significant contributions to the country’s cultural and economic landscape.”

Labour MP Vanushi Walters (Photo Rajesh Sukumar)

Among those who attended the event were National MPs Melissa Lee, Chris Penk, Toma Pataka and Ingrid Leary Second Secretaries at Indian High Commission Mukesh Ghiya, Manoj Kumar and Durga Dass, Ministry of Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic communities Chief Executive Mervin Singham, Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau,  Councillors  John Apanowicz and Ray Chung, Presidents of various associations and members of the Tamil Community

ANTS President Raveen Annamalai said, “our organisation is committed to building positive and mutually beneficial connections with the Māori community. To further this goal, we have planned a Tamil Hui in Auckland in July 2023 as a joint initiative.”

ANTS President Raveen Annamalai (Photo Rajesh Sukumar)

Performances

The event began with a choir performance by the Guru Krupa group, followed by The Natraj School of Dance which celebrated the Tamil language of the Sangam period (300 BC and 300 CE),

The Alaigal Band presented an item, paying tribute to the Tamil language with singers Ravikiran Subramanian, Dhaaran Ravindran and Ananya Dharmarajan. The arrangement of the score and keyboard was by Arvind Nedumaran, the lyrics were written by Suntheresan Thandavan, and the voiceover was by veteran Tamil Radio personality B H Abdul Hameed.

The Kiwi Nartakis then performed an interactive folk dance, and the event concluded with Chennai City Gangzta dancing to popular movie soundtracks. The hosts for the evening were Keerthanraj Vaidyalingam, Mathusha Paraneetharan, and Dr Malini Yugendran.

Dr Malini Yugendran is an Indian Newslink Reporter based in Auckland.

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