The phrase “man’s best friend” often brings loyal pet dogs to mind, but Mattu Pongal actually bestows that title on cattle! Having worked the ground alongside humans for centuries, these beasts are the backbone of agricultural India, contributing their strength to the harvest and their milk to nourish our families.
In India, many famers celebrate Mattu Pongal by adorning their beloved cattle with colourful, painted horns and lavish garlands. In non-agricultural Singapore, we have other creative ways to honour these majestic creatures.
1. Pay tribute at the Sri Mariamman Temple
You’ve probably heard the exclaimation “holy cow!”, but did you know that cows really are sacred animals to the Hindus? At the Sri Mariamman Temple, arguably Singapore’s most famous Hindu temple, they even sit alongside deities and gaze down from the boundary wall.
For a complete Mattu Pongal experience, join the many devotees that flock to the temple to offer prayers of thanksgiving. Or if you prefer to obesrve from the outside, have a go at counting cows and see how many cattle sculptures you can spot!
2. Embark on a Cattle Art Trail in Little India
With cattle holding such a sacred place in Hindu culture, it’s no surprise that they feature in the art around Little India too. For art afficionados, this is the perfect way to celebrate Mattu Pongal – embark on your own Cattle-themed Art Trail! Must-see stops include the colourful fibreglass cows by Marthalia Budiman at Poli@Clive (pictured above), murals Cattleland 1 and Cattleland 2 (cover image) by Eunice Lim, and the newly unveiled heritage statue of a man pulling a bullock cart along Buffalo Road. So strap on your walking shoes; it’s time to get moo-vin’!
3. Make your own DIY Cattle-themed Decor
If you have kids, here’s a surefire way to get in the festive moo-d: Cattle-themed DIY decor! Drawing and decorating their own cows is a great way to introduce children to the history and traditions of Pongal. Challenge your older children and more nimble-fingered family and friends with coloured cow origami, or even try your hand at traditional pichwai plate art! Using just simple and affordable materials, this is a meaningful way to pass on an age-old tradition and give thanks as a family.
Pongal may just be the only time of the year we get to see live cattle in the city centre! If you’re heading to Little India to experience the annual highlights of this festive season, do remember to observe the appropriate social distancing and health safety measures.