Festival of Makar Sankranti
The festival of Makar Sankranti will be celebrated on the 14th of January, 2018.
This is one festival which recurs on the same day every year, barring a few exceptions, as it is based on the solar calendar. Most of the other Hindu festivals follow the lunar calendar and thus fall on different days every year. It also marks the end of the winter season and the beginning or onset of the summer season. The days become longer, while the nights get shorter.
This festival is considered very auspicious for the Hindus and is celebrated all over India, although with different names and in different ways. Makar Sankranti is regarded as the harvest festival and is celebrated with great enthusiasm and gaiety under this name in western India and likewise, as Lohri in the north and Pongal in the south. This festival is also called Uttarayan, Maghi and Khichdi in some other places. It is supposedly a time for peace and prosperity and so people observe spritiual practices, say a thanksgiving prayer to the Sun God and take a dip in holy rivers like the Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery. This symbolic gesture is believed to wash away all sins.
On this day, people celebrate with colourful decorations, singing, dancing, kite flying, bonfires, fairs (melas) and sumptuous feasts. Every twelve years, this festival is observed with one of the world’s biggest mass pilgrimage, the Kumb Mela. This day also marks the end of Shabrimala, one of the most severe and tough pilgrimages of the South, in Kerala.
Since this festival is celebrated around winter time, the food prepared is meant to keep the body warm and energetic. Sesame (Til) laddoos prepared with Jaggery is a traditional sweet made during this festival and is distributed with the saying ‘til gud ghya….ani god, god bola’! It is a belief that distribution of these sweets is equivalent to spreading joy around and burying any old grudges and bitterness towards one another. In some states, the Makar Sankranti festivities are extended over a few days and certain traditional rituals are observed.
Sankranti is celebrated over a period of 4 days in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The day before Sankranti is called Bhoghi, which is when people light a bonfire at dawn with logs of wood, various solid fuels and old and useless wooden furniture. They also dispose of their old and tattered things and procure new items, indicating a change or transformation.
The second day is the actual Makar Sankranti day, when people pray to God, make offerings in the name of their deceased ancestors, make colourful and artistic patterns called ‘muggu’ on the floor in front of their houses, with flowers, chalk or flour and dress up in new clothes. Families make various delicacies like Gare Appalu or Katte Appalu or Nuvvula Appalu, Chakinalu, Appalu ( a sweet made of jiggery and rice flour ), dappalam (a mixed vegetable dish with pumpkin) and many other dishes.
Kanuma, is the name of the third day festivity and is very dear to the farmers, because on this day they pray and showcase their cattle with pride, which is symbolic of their prosperity. Cows, in particular, are revered on this day and girls feed various animals, birds and fish to represent sharing. The fourth day is Mukkanuma, which is anxiously awaited by the non-vegetarians. Farmers pray to the elements of soil, rain and fire and the goddesses for assisting with the harvest and make their offerings which mostly include animals on this day. In some sections of Andhra Pradesh, people do not eat any meat or fish during the first three days of the festival and finally feast on Mukkanuma. On this and the next day, families celebrate with relatives and friends and enjoy flying kites together.
Another example would be Bihar and Jharkhand who celebrate this festival on the 14th and 15th of January. The 1st day is celebrated as Makar Sankranti or Sakraat or Khichdi in their colloquial language. People celebrate in pretty much the same way, as across the country, with the holy bath, feasting on seasonal delicacies and kite flying. On the 2nd day, the festival is celebrated as Makraat, where people enjoy a special ‘khichdi’ (rice-dal, prepared with cauliflower, peas n potatoes), served traditionally with its four companions : friends, chokha (roasted vegetable), papad, ghee and pickle. And this is the reason, the festival is called ‘Khichdi’ in local dialect.
Likewise, a few other states celebrate the same festival with different names, number of days and traditions observed. However, the intent and general festivities remain the same.
We wish everyone “Happy Makar Sankranti! Til – gud ghya…..ani god, god bola.’
Picture Credits: The Indian Express, jokesfunnyshayari.com