SOAS University of London

SOAS celebrates Pongal harvest festival

24 January 2022

The SOAS South Asia Institute hosted the Tamil harvest festival Pongal at SOAS University of London on Saturday 15 January 2022.

Pongal marks the new year for farmers and is celebrated by giving thanks to the sun. The word is derived from Tamil literature and means “to boil” and is also the name of a rice-based dish which is prepared for this festival.

Thai Pongal at SOAS 2022 dancing pic

The festival, which includes music, dance and food, was organised with the support of TamilStudies UK who donated £150,000 on the day for Tamil Studies at SOAS, which was presented to Professor Claire Ozanne, Deputy Director and Provost on the day.

Thai Pongal at SOAS group pic

Guests included the London Assembly Member Nicholas Rogers, who proposed Tamil Heritage Month motion in Greater London Assembly, the Minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Paul Scully MP, Cllr Jay Ganesh of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and Cllr Param Nandha of Sutton Council.

Thai Pongal at SOAS 2022 guest pic

London Assembly Member Nicholas Rogers (centre front) and Cllr Jay Ganesh of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council (right) join the Thai Pongal celebrations at SOAS

The event also marked Thiruvalluvar Day and The London Assembly-supported Tamil Heritage Month. Thiruvalluvar was a poet and philosopher. He is best known as the author of the Tirukkuṟaḷ, a collection of couplets on ethics, political and economical matters, and love.. The statue of the Tamil poet Sage Thiruvalluvar was gifted to the university in 1996 by the Government of Tamilnadu and sits at the entrance to SOAS.

The Director of SOAS South Asia Institute, Edward Simpson, said “Our partners at TamilStudies UK have become valued friends. They have worked tirelessly to plan these events and bring people together. The celebrations on the campus are always warm and welcoming, but this year was particularly special.”    

The celebrations were reported on BBC London evening news and radio.