14 January 2019
Bhubaneswar: On January 14 every year, we celebrate Makar Sankranti, the only Indian festival celebrated on a fixed calendric day of the solar calendar. A seasonal observance as well as a religious celebration in India, it is celebrated throughout the country as Maghi, Bihu, Uttarayan, Pongal, Sakraant, etc in various States.
It is also a festival of celestial significance as the sun begins its northward journey; and enters the sign of Makar from the Tropic of Cancer. The festival is dedicated to Surya, the Sun God. People offer prayers by taking a dip in the holy Ganges. It is also believed that Surya visits his son, Shani, on this day, leaving behind all their differences.
It is a festival for farmers as it is related to harvesting of food grains and they come together to celebrate it. The entire nation welcomes the new season of harvest in different styles, according to their region, culture and tradition.
1: Pongal in South India
Tamil Nadu also celebrates the festival of harvest in a grand fashion. The festival of harvest is known as Pongal in the State. And, it is considered a way of thanking God for the harvest of the season.
This occasion is observed within four days. The first day of Pongal is celebrated as the Bhogi festival. It is observed to celebrate the existence of Lord Indra, the lord of rain. On this day, bonfire is made from wood and cow dung cakes in which the unused items of the home are burnt.
The second day is celebrated as Thai Pongal. On this day, milk and rice are boiled together in an earthen pot. And, it is offered to the Sun by tying a turmeric plant to it. Kolam at the entrance of the home are also designed on this day.
The third day is celebrated as Mattu Pongal. This day of Pongal is particularly to celebrate cows and their holiness. Cows are ornamented with garlands, bells, and sheaves of corn and are then worshipped.
The fourth day is observed as Kaanum Pongal. This is the last day of Pongal! On this day, women of the household perform a special kind of ritual. According to this ritual, the Sweet Pongal leftover are placed on a turmeric leaf in the courtyard.
In villages of Madurai, Tirunelveli, and Ramanathapuram, Jellikattu is an important event, which is a contest for taming the wild bulls.
2.) Maghi in Punjab
The Punjabi festival Lohri is celebrated by the people on January 13, every year. The festival is associated with the harvest of the winter crops. The day after Lohri, also known as Makar Sankranti (Maghi), is observed as the financial new year by the farmers in Punjab.
On the night of Lohri, people light bonfires to worship the god of fire and perform rituals. They perform “bhangra” their famous folk dance and make merry.
A major Mela is held at Sri Muktsar Sahib on Maghi which commemorates a historical event in Sikh history.
3.) Poush Parbon in West Bengal
In West Bengal, Sankranti, also known as Poush Sankranti named after the Bengali month in which it falls (last date of that month), is celebrated as a harvest festival Poush Parbon.
This month brings different opportunities for the Bengalis to enjoy on to their favorite sweet delicacies. The freshly harvested paddy and the date palm syrup in the form of Khejurer Gur and Patali is used in the preparation of a variety of traditional Bengali sweets made with rice flour, coconut, milk and ‘khejurer gur’ (date palm jaggery) and known as ‘Pitha’.
On this day, Hindus and pilgrims from different parts of the country gather at Gangasagar, the point where Ganga river meets the Bay of Bengal.
4.) Sakraant in Bihar and Jharkhand
In Bihar and Jharkhand, the festival is celebrated on 14–15 January. Flying festivals are organized on a small scale.
People take baths in rivers and ponds and feast upon seasonal delicacies as a celebration of good harvest. The delicacies include chura, gur (jaggery), sweets made of til (sesame seeds) such as tilgul, tilwa, maska, etc., curd, milk and seasonal vegetables. Kite flying festivals are organized, albeit on a small scale.
On 15 January, it is celebrated as Makraat (in some parts of the state) when people relish special khichdi.
People start their day by worshiping and putting til (sesame seeds) into fire followed by eating “dahi-chuda”, a dish made of beaten rice (chuda or poha, in Hindi, or avalakki, in Kannada) served with a larger serving of dahi (curd), with cooked kohada (red pumpkin) that is prepared especially with sugar and salt but no water. At night a special khichdi is made and served with its four traditional companions, “char yaar” (four friends) — chokha (roasted vegetable), papad, Ghee and achaar.
5.) Uttarayan in Gujarat
Uttarayan is synonymous with kite flying. The International Kite Festival (Uttarayan) is regarded as one of the biggest festivals celebrated. Months before the festival, homes in Gujarat begin to manufacture kites for the festival.
Every street and corner of the state are filled with enthusiastic people looking forward to celebrations.
In Gujarat, the festival celebrations include flying kites, right from around 5 am. This is in order to absorb as much as early morning sun as possible before the summer heat gets intolerable.
During the festival, local food such as Undhiyu (a mixed vegetable including yam and beans), sesame seed brittle and Jalebi is served to the crowds.