Hope you enjoyed reading the previous blog on the history of Tamil in Singapore. This week we will take you to a brief, yet interesting journey into the cultural practises of Tamizhians in the beautiful island country of Singapore. The Tamils that arrived here belonged to different religions, castes and communities, but the binding element that kept their Tamil identity together is the language. In the 1950s, there was a sudden resurgence of Tamil language and literary works with many Tamil organizations contributing towards the promotion of Tamil language and culture at large. The Tamil vernacular press played a huge role in establishing the Tamil language as a significant element of Tamil identity and culture.
Tamil language became mainstream as a medium of instruction in Government schools and was recognised as the mother tongue of the Indian Diaspora. It also earned its due honour as one of the official languages in the country.
With majority of the Tamils being Hindus, they celebrate many Hindu festivals of cultural significance including Theemithi and Thaipusam wherein devotees carry kavadi or semi-circular shaped wood or steel milk pots decorated with peacock feathers and flowers with great fervour and zest on their shoulders. These acts are done to ask the Hindu deity Lord Subramaniam (or Lord Murugan) his favours. Theemithi, Tamil for ‘fire-walking’ is a ritual in which devotees prepare the fire pit and walk across the coals barefoot to receive the blessings from the Goddess Draupadi.
Pongal, a popular four-day rice harvest, is one of the most significant festivals celebrated by Tamils in Singapore in January. This celebration is marked by the ceremonial boiling of Pongal, a rice dish made by mixing rice, milk and jaggery in a new pot until it overflows to symbolize prosperity.
The Tamil New Year or Tamil Puthandu that falls in the mid of April is another important festival when usually fruits, a mirror and bronze vessel are placed before Hindu deities and brightly lit lamps are set up the night before the dawn of a new Tamil year. According to the Tamil calendar, this day is quite auspicious and celebrated without religious divide the country all over.