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Pongalo Pongal! Tamil harvest festival marked around the world

Tamils around the world marked Thai Pongal, the traditional Tamil harvest festival, today as celebrations shone despite coronavirus restrictions.

In Jaffna, university students set up traditional clay pots, as homes around the world marked the occasion.

See more photographs from the Tamil homeland here: Tamil Eelam celebrates Thai Pongal

The secular Tamil festival gives thanks to the sun and for the harvest and dates back in its current form to at least as far back as the Medieval Chola empire. The occasion is marked by boiling milk and rice - the eponymous 'pongal' - in a clay pot, often accompanied by various other treats and seasonal fruits.

The overflow of the milk symbolises abundance and prosperity for the year to come.

Politicians across the world also marked the occasion by paying tribute to Tamil communities and also raising concerns about the human right situation in the Tamil homeland.

In his Thai Pongal message, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed support Tamil Canadian protesters responding to the destruction of a Mullivaikkal memorial at Jaffna university.

In his statement he noted:

Recently, we saw Tamil-Canadians from coast to coast to coast come together in solidarity to condemn the destruction of the Mullivaikkal memorial at the University of Jaffna, in Sri Lanka, and call for its reinstatement. It is a reminder for all of us that commemoration is essential for reconciliation.

Read more: Canada’s Prime Minister supports protests against Mullivaikkal memorial destruction during Thai Pongal message


UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute to the British Tamil community and thanked them for their contribution towards the coronavirus pandemic response in the country, in a message to mark Thai Pongal.

Johnson said he wanted to “thank you for everything you’re doing in our struggle against COVID, because throughout this crisis your values of hard work, discipline and community spirit have really shone brightly”.

Read more: UK Prime Minister praises Tamils for COVID response in Thai Pongal message


UK Labour leader Kier Starmer raised deep concerns over Sri Lanka’s human rights record and called upon the government to be “a strong voice on international accountability” during his Thai Pongal message.

In his message, he highlights Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from the 2015 UN Human Rights Council Resolution on accountability, justice, and reconciliation. He further called on the UK to show leadership on issues of international accountability and reaffirmed Labours commitment “to call for justice and human rights”.

Read more: UK Labour leader raises ‘deep concerns’ over Sri Lanka during Thai Pongal message


British politicians from across the political spectrum expressed their gratitude to the Tamil community in the UK for their invaluable contributions, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats thanked British Tamils for their "exemplary contributions"  and stated that "the contribution of British Tamils to our country has been exemplary, with the hard work, intelligence and dedication of so many amazing British Tamils."

Read more: UK politicians praise Tamil community in Thai Pongal wishes


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