Pongal at heart of Tamil Heritage Month festivities in UK

Pongal at heart of Tamil Heritage Month festivities in UK

Celebrating the triumphs and recognising the immense accomplishments of the Tamil community in the UK, the London Assembly, Mayor of London and London boroughs have collectively been celebrating the month of January as the Tamil Heritage Month.

With its launch to coincide with the Harvest Festival of Pongal in mid-January, the Heritage Month was backed up by a landmark resolution.

Assembly Member Nicholas Rogers said: “There are an estimated 15,000 Tamils working for NHS England as doctors, nurses and front-line health professionals, thousands of Tamils serving as teachers and teaching assistants in our schools. Over a hundred adult social care facilities are operated by Tamils in and around London, caring for some of the most vulnerable in our society.

“Tamils have made significant contributions to the social, economic, cultural and political fabric of the UK; from serving in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War to Tamil scientists working on the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

The London Assembly declared Tamil Heritage Month an opportunity to celebrate the history of London's Tamil community and their invaluable contribution to the city.

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One festival, multiple names

Pongal, a Hindu harvest festival devoted to the worship of the Sun God Surya, is popularly celebrated across Indian states in varying forms – Makar Sankranti, Kanumu, Lohri, Bihu and others. As per the Tamil ritual, the festivities begin with the sweetness of the rice porridge, after which the festival is named, which is traditionally made from the freshly harvested rice crop.

On the occasion of Thai Pongal, Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed his greetings and nandri (gratitude) to the Tamil community, who he said “have long been woven into the very fabric of British life and without which our country would be so diminished”.

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Celebrations in the UK

The Pongal in Westminster cultural evening, attended by Rogers and Assembly Member Tony Devenish, concluded with performances by native dancers and traditional sweets. The members of the South Asian Society at SOAS University of London commemorated the statue of the legendary Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar, which has pride of place on their campus since 1996.

India’s Tamil Minister of External Affairs Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar took to his Twitter handle to pay tribute to the philosopher for his signature ethical pieces like ‘Thirukkural’ which “will continue to inspire us to live with morality and ethics.”

The Noble Sage gallery, a London-based contemporary gallery, showcased the niche artworks of Tamil artists from Chennai, India, namely A.P. Santhanaraj, G. Gurunathan, G. Raman, Ganesh Selvaraj, K.M. Adimoolam, M. Natesh, P. Jayakani and T. Athiveerapandian.

The organisers said: “British Tamils have enriched, and continue to enrich, our diverse multi-ethnic society of the United Kingdom through the achievements of business, sports, education, healthcare, and politics, to name a few areas.

“We are proud to celebrate the month of January as Tamil Heritage Month; this will help bring the richness of the Tamil language and culture to the British public and let them embrace the cultural heritage of British Tamils.”

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