Sri Lankans celebrate the Hindu harvest festival of Thai Pongal at
the embassy of Sri Lanka Washington DC
“Thai Pongal symbolizes the
importance of the earth and the gifts it has given us.”
Sri Lankan Americans
gathered at the Embassy of Sri Lanka on Friday, Jan. 13, to take part
in Thai Pongal, the harvest festival that celebrates the sun, the fruits
of the earth and the renewal of the spirit.
Guests including officials from the US State
Department filled the embassy’s salon for the traditional celebration of
giving thanks for the harvest. Swami Sivanatha Kurukkal offered Hindu
prayers, performed the lighting of the traditional oil lamp and also
presented the offering of Pongal to Lord Ganesh and Deities.
The program also featured a talk on “The significance
of Thai Pongal” by Mrs. J. Ranganthan, as well as devotional songs by a
Bajan made up of Pradosh Desai, his daughter Shirali, Ernie Dharma and
Thai Pongal was held in keeping with the embassy’s
tradition of celebrating the important religious festivals of Buddhists,
Hindus, Muslims and Christians.
During the ceremony, Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya
noted the importance of agriculture and the closeness that Sri Lankans
feel to the land. He also reported on efforts to renew the Northern Sri
Lankan agricultural areas, and the government’s work to expand services
and economic opportunity throughout all of Sri Lanka in the
“Today in Sri Lanka, we are seeing big changes that
fit with the essence of Thai Pongal,” the ambassador said. “Work in the
North is being done to restore the land to full production and provide
farmers with livelihoods that were interrupted by the conflict.
De-mining continues and more and more land is being occupied. The
government is spending $1 billion annually to improve roads, bridges,
rails lines, water systems, electricity and other public services.
Perhaps most importantly, there have been no deaths or injuries due to
terrorism in nearly three years since the conflict ended.
“Thai Pongal symbolizes the importance of the earth
and the gifts it has given us. It also reminds us of the importance of
the gift of each other – our community. Working together, we can help
those at home who are working hard to rebuild families, communities and
Thai Pongal is a national holiday in Sri Lanka that
recognizes the harvest as a time to give thanks to the earth, the bounty
it creates and the animals that work to produce the harvest. It is a
time of renewal when personal differences are forgiven.
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EMBASSY OF SRI LANKA WASHINGTON, D.C.