India is a country with diverse religions where people enjoy a lot of festivals. The country celebrates each and every festival with zeal and enthusiasm.
Let’s take a look at an important harvest festival that is celebrated in the month of January. This festival goes by different names in different parts of India.
|Makara Sankranthi||Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh|
|Sankranthi||Andhra Pradesh, Telangana|
|Uttarayana||Gujarat and Rajasthan|
|Maghi||Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab|
|Magh Bihu/Bhogali Bihu||Assam|
Lohri /Maghi is celebrated in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana. Lohri celebrations mark the beginning of the harvest season. It is celebrated to offer thanks for making a bounteous harvest possible. Lohri night traditionally falls on the longest night of the year known as the winter solstice. Lohri festival indicates that the biting cold of the winter is ending and happy sunny days are arriving.
The festival is celebrated by lighting bonfires, eating festive food, dancing and collecting gifts. Lohri is considered very auspicious for newlywed couples and parents with newborn babies.
Singing and dancing form an intrinsic part of the celebrations. People wear their brightest clothes and come to dance the bhangra and gidda to the beat of the dhol. It is traditional to eat Gajak, Sarson da saag with Makki di roti, radish, ground nuts, jaggery and sheaves of roasted corn from the new harvest. It is also traditional to eat “til rice” which is made by mixing jaggery, sesame seeds and puffed rice.
Suggi Habba/Sankranti in Karnataka – people clean their houses, tie mango leaves to the entrances of their homes, wear new clothes and offer prayers to God. Ellu bella which is a mixture of sesame seeds and jaggery is an integral part of the festival. Sugarcane, ellu bella and candy made of carmalized sugar are exchanged with neighbours, friends and family.
Also included in the festivity is colourful decorations, singing and dancing, kite flying, bonfires, rangoli making and sometimes even kusti (wrestling).
Sankranti in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana
Sankranti is a multi-day festival for the people of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. People decorate their houses with marigold flowers and mango leaves. People fill the frontyard of the house with rangolis and they keep cow dung balls called ‘Gobbemma’. They put turmeric, sugar cane, pulses and rice in the rangoli.
One could also witness kite flying, cockfights, bullfights. Men and women dress up in traditional outfits and they visit the nearest temples to offer prayers. On the festival day, people prepare delicious food items like ‘Chakkara Pongali’ which is made of rice, jaggery and milk. One could also see Haridasus and Basvannas on the day of Sankranti.
The first day of the festival is called Bhogi. On this day, people thank God Indra, the god of rains and clouds. Bhogi Mantalu will be performed where the old house items will be burned in a huge bonfire. The second day is Makar Sankranti. On this day, people wear new clothes and will cook rice in an earthen pot filled with milk. Also, lots of traditional snacks like chekkalu, chakralu, ariselu, buralu, gavvalu, purnalu etc are prepared. Kanuma is the third day and farmers pray to their cattle on this day. The fourth day is called Mukkanuma, and people eat non-veg recipes on this day.
Pongal is a multiday harvest festival in Tamil Nadu. The three days of the Pongal festival are called Bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal and Maattu Pongal. Some celebrate a fourth day of Pongal as Kaanum Pongal.
Festive celebrations include decorating cows and their horns, ritual bathing and processions. It is traditionally an occasion for decorating rice-powder based kolam artworks, offering prayers in the home, temples, getting together with family and friends, and exchanging gifts to renew social bonds of solidarity.
Bhogi Pongal – On this day people discard old belongings and celebrate new possessions. The people assemble and light a bonfire in order to burn the heaps of discards.
Surya Pongal – This is the main festive day – Pongal dish prepared in a traditional earthen pot in an open space in the view of the sun. The pot is typically decorated by tying a turmeric plant or flower garland, and near the cooking stove are placed two or more tall fresh sugarcane stalks. The pongal dish is traditionally prepared by boiling milk, in a group setting. When it starts to bubble, freshly harvested rice grains and cane sugar are added to the pot. As the dish begins to boil and overflow out of the vessel, one or more participants blow a conch called the sanggu while others shout with joy “Pongalo Pongal”! – lit. “may this rice boil over”. The dish is offered to the gods and goddesses, sometimes to the village cows, and then shared by the community.
Maattu Pongal – Mattu refers to “cow, bullock, cattle” – sometimes with flower garlands or painted horns, they are offered bananas, a special meal and worshipped. Some decorate their cows with manjalthanni (turmeric water) and oil. Paint their horns, and feed them a mixture of venn pongal, jaggery, honey, banana and other fruits. Others bathe their cattle and prostrate before them with words of thanks for the help with the harvest. Other events during Pongal include community sports and games such as cattle race, the Jallikattu.
Kaanum Pongal – The word kanum (kaanum) in this context means “to visit.” Many families hold reunions on this day. Communities organize social events to strengthen mutual bonds.
Pongala in Kerala
The rituals including the cooking of milk-rice-jaggery dish, social visits, and the reverence for cattle is observed in Kerala communities.
Uttarayana – Makar Sankranti, is celebrated as Uttarayan in Gujarat. Dedicated to the Sun god, Uttarayan marks the arrival of spring. Many cities in Gujarat organize kite competitions. During the festival, local food such as undhiyu (a mixed vegetable including yam and beans), chikki (sesame seed brittle) and jalebi are served to the crowds.
Bihu in Assam – The Bhogali Bihu or the Magh Bihu is a harvest festival. The festival is marked by feasts and bonfires. Young people erect makeshift huts, known as Meji and Bhelaghar, from bamboo, leaves and thatch, and in Bhelaghar they eat the food prepared for the feast, and then burn the huts the next morning. The celebrations also feature traditional Assamese games such as tekeli bhonga (pot-breaking) and buffalo fighting. People of Assam make rice cakes with various names such as Sunga Pitha, Til Pitha etc. and some other sweets of coconut called Laru.