Call it Makar Sankranti, Lohri, Maghi, Bihu, Uttarayan, or Pongal — the harvest festival is around the corner and is celebrated in every nook and corner of India. A festival celebrated by people whole way across the nation, Makar Sankranti marks the start of the harvest season and the move of the Sun to Makara or Capricorn. The festival symbolizes the end of the winter season (long foggy nights) and marks the beginning of sunny days.
According to legends, on this special day, Lord Sun meets his son Sani for the first time. Another story says that on the day of Makar Sankranti, Lord Krishna demolished the terror of Ashuras. Hence this period symbolizes the ending of evil power and the beginning of a peaceful new era. In different regions of India, this festival is known by different regional names, and the festivities are performed with varied rituals amidst fun and merriment.
Amidst the fun and varying rituals, Makar Sankranti is observed in almost all parts of India by different regional names. Let us delve deeper to know its unique ways of celebration in different regions of India.
Makar Sankranti is observed as Uttarayan or International Kite Festival in Gujarat. The sky changes colors as millions of kite enthusiasts pitch themselves from rooftops and open fields. Waves of kites’ overwhelm the otherwise deep blue sky. Figurative and geometric designs on kites are common. Fun-loving rivalry to outdo each other in kite flying skills and the delicious traditional Gujarati feast of Undhiyo and Jalebee are the hallmarks of the day.
Known as Lohri in Punjab, it is believed to be the coldest day of the year. The day is celebrated by dancing and singing folk songs around the fire. On Lohri, people worship the new crop, light a fire outside their homes, express their gratitude to the Sun God (Surya Devta) and Fire God (Agni Devta), and wish for good crop production in the upcoming year. They also offer bhog made with the harvested crops, rewadi, groundnut, jaggery, gajak, and peanuts to the Lohri bonfire.
Assamese people celebrate the harvest festival by the name of Bihu in which a variety of sweets are prepared from rice, coconut, and til. On this day, after the burning of ‘Mejis’ (made of bamboo, dry leaves, and hay), people sit together and celebrate this day by eating traditional Assamese food and chanting hymns.
Another name by which Sankrant is celebrated in Tamil Nadu is Bhogi. It is a Thanksgiving celebration in which people express their gratitude to Sun for a whopping harvest. The first day is in the honor of Indra (god of rain) which starts with a til (sesame) oil bath and bonfire in the evening. On this day all the unnecessary items at home are disposed of. After that, houses are cleaned and decorated with mango leaves and kolam.
Pongal is the harvest festival celebrated by the Tamil community. It is a celebration to thank the Sun, Mother Nature, and the various farm animals that help to contribute to a bountiful harvest. Celebrated over four days, Pongal also marks the beginning of the Tamil month called Thai, which is considered an auspicious month. It usually falls on the 14th or 15th of January each year.
Maharashtrians celebrate this festival by the name of Hadaga in which people pray to god for a good monsoon and harvest. To please the god of the rain (Indra), people pray and sing songs. Pictures of the elephant (Indra’s vehicle) are drawn hoping for the rain.
In some places, the day of Makar Sankranti often starts with a holy dip at sacred places like Allahabad, Varanasi, Haridwar, Ujjain, Nashik, and Sagar Island. It also signifies that after taking bathe in holy water people get rid of all their misdeeds and negativity.
Let us all celebrate Makar Sankranti with utmost zeal and enthusiasm, take out all the negative energy within ourselves and start afresh with the belief of good emerging victorious over all evil.