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Festival Indian Mythology

The festival of Makar sankranti

First major festival of the year

14th January is very auspicious from Hindu religion point of view. On this day, sun transits into capricorn(makar) rashi. Makar Sankranti thus means – transition to capricorn. On this day, new things are started and believed that new endeavours will be successful. This day is one of the harvest days for indians.

Kite flying is a major activity of this festival

Almost all of India celebrate this festival with different culture and different names. Khichdi,  Uttarayan, Magh Bihu and Maghi are few of them. In neighbouring countries, this is celebrated as Magho or Maghe Sankranti (Nepal),  Songkarn (Thailand),  Thingyan (Myanmar) and Moha Sangkarn (cambodia).

Historical and cultural importance of this festival

This day is important for the following reasons:

1. Surya visits his son Shani, on Sankranti day. Though father and son do not go along well, but still, father visits his son’s house.

Sun god visits his son, Shani

2. Bhagirath liberated his ancestors from curse after bringing Ganga on this day. Big celebrations are made on this day as Ganga sagar mela in west bengal. Sage Kapil ashram attracts lot of visitors on this auspicious day.

Sage Kapil ashram – Gangasagar

3. Bhishma left this earth on this day. He had the boon of iccha mrityu and he chose this auspicious day to depart from earth.

Bhishma leaving his body in presence of Shri Krishna on the day of Makar Sankranti

4. Lord Vishnu buried the asuras under Mandara parvata on this day.

 

Celebrations of this festival

Bihar

This day is celebrated as sankranti or Sakrat. People start doing new things from this day as this is believed to be auspicious day. People take bath in rivers and ponds and feast upon seasonal delicacies as a celebration of good harvest. The delicacies include Chura dahi, Gur(jaggery), various sweets made of til (Sesame seeds) such as Tilkut, Tilwa, Maska, etc., curd, milk and seasonal vegetables. Khichdi is consumed in the night. Rajgir is a holy place where devotees bath in brahma kund.

Devotees at Brahma kund

Uttar Pradesh

In hindu calendar, this is the first of the big bathing days. Over two million people gather at their respective sacred places for this holy bathing such as Allahabad,Haridwar(now in Uttarakhand) and Varanasi. Kites are flown on this day.

Punjab

In punjab, with Makar Sankranti, the advent of the new year is celebrated by lighting a bonfire. This festival is “maghi”. The bonfire signifies the burning away of all evils for a bright and auspicious new year.  Lohri is the harvest festival celebrated on 13th January, is an important festival of Punjab.

Gujarat

This festival is celebrated as Uttarayan. Kite flying is a major activity of this day. The delicacies undhiyu and chikkis are consumed all through december and january.

Andhra Pradesh

This is celebrated across four days, Bhogi, Pedda Panduga (“the big festival”),  Kanuma and Mukkanuma. People discard old things on the day of Bhogi.

Next day is Makara Sankrant, also called “Pedda Panduga” (పెద్ద పండుగ). Everyone wears new clothes on this day, prays to God, and make offerings of traditional food to ancestors.

Rajasthan

This is a major festival of Rajasthan. Makar Sakrat is celebrated with delicacies such as Ghevar, til paati, ghajak and kheer.

A delicay of Makar Sankranti

Tamilnadu

it is celebrated across four days.  The second day, Thai pongal is the most important.

  • Bhogi Pandigai (Bhogi)
  •  Thai Pongal
  •  Maattu Pongal
  •  Kaanum Pongal
Pongal

Thai pongal is the first day of tamil month Thai.  It is celebrated by boiling rice with fresh milk and jaggery in new pots, which are later topped with brown sugar, cashew nuts and raisins early in the morning and allowing it to boil over the vessel. This tradition gives Pongal its name. The moment the rice boils over and bubbles out of the vessel, the tradition is to shout of “Ponggalo Ponggal!” and blowing the sangu (a conch), a custom practiced during the festival to announce it was going to be a year blessed with good tidings.

In Assam, it is celebrated as Bhogali Bihu. In Goa, women celebrate haldi-kumkum. In Himachal Pradesh, this festival is called Magha Saaja i.e. onset of  month magha (by Hindi calendar). People enjoy khichdi with chaas. In Karnataka, this is suggi. The ritual of Ellu Birodhu is observed here. Kite flying is also a major activity. In Uttarakhand, this festival is celebrated as Ghughuti and welcomes the migratory birds back from the plains.

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Festival

The festival of Lohri (The bonfire festival)

Lohri – The Bonfire festival of India

Lohri is the time when harvesting is celebrated. It is the Indian festival of bonfire, other being Holi.

Lohri is celebrated on winter solstice and it coincides with the festival of Makar Sankranti. This is an important festival of Punjabi’s.

According to the Hindu calendar, Lohri falls in mid-January (normally on January 13). The earth, farthest from the sun at this point of time, starts its journey towards the sun, thus ending the coldest month of the year, Paush. This festival announces the start of the month of Magh and the auspicious period of Uttarayan.

It is a harvest festival and especially important for farmers, but it is celebrated with great fervour by everyone. On this day, a bonfire is lit  people dance around it.

People throw rewaries, sugar-candy, popcorn, sesame seeds, gur, etc into the fire and sing and dance around it. People wear their colourful and brightest clothes and dance the Bhangra or Giddha to the beat of the Dhol. Lohri to farmers signifies the commencement of a new financial year.

According to the Bhagawad Gita, Lord Krishna manifests himself in his full magnificence during this time. The Hindus ‘nullify’ their sins by bathing in the Ganges and other pious rivers.

The ritual of Bonfire

A bonfire is an important activity of this festival. In night, after sun settles down, bonfires are lit in the harvested fields and in the front yards of houses. People assemble around the rising flames, pay respect by doing  parikrama of  the bonfire and throw puffed rice, popcorn and other stuff into the fire, shouting “Aadar aye dilather jaye” (May honor come and poverty vanish!), and sing popular folk songs.

Lohri bonfire

This is a sort of prayer to Agni, the fire god, to bless the land with abundance and prosperity. After the parikrama, people meet friends and relatives, exchange greetings and gifts, and distribute prasad (offerings made to god). The prasad comprises five main items: til, gajak, jaggery, peanuts, and popcorn. Winter savories are served around the bonfire with the traditional dinner of makki-di-roti (multi-millet hand-rolled bread) and sarson-da-saag (cooked mustard herbs).

Sweets offered on Lohri

 First Lohri of a New Bride

The newly married women wear bangles, new clothes, wear a colourful bindi, apply mehendi on their hands and try to look their best. The husband also dresses up and wears new clothes and a colourful turban. The bride’s in-laws gift her with new clothes and beautiful jewellery.

Lohri festival bonfire dance

 

A grand celebration is arranged for the newly wed couple where a lot of guests are invited. The bride is made to sit along with her husband and the parents-in-law gift her clothes and jewellery during this ceremony. Other guests like family, neighbours and friends also come and present clothes or cash to the newly wed. The couple also seeks blessings of the elders on this day.

First Lohri of a New Born Baby

The first Lohri of a new born baby is also considered to be an important occasion. The new mother sits decked up in heavy clothes, a lot of jewellery and with mehendi applied on her hands. She sits with the baby in her hands and the family and close ones gift her with clothes or cash. The baby’s maternal grandparents also send gifts of clothes, fruits, sweets, peanuts, etc.

The legend of Dulha Batti (our Robinhood)

Lohri is celebrated in remembrance and praise of Dulha Batti. Dulha Batti was a Muslim robber who lived during the era of King Akbar. He was a robber but a good person. He would steal from the rich and distribute the wealth among the poor. He rescued girls who were being forcibly taken away. He arranged marriages of young girls with Hindu Boys and paid the dowries. He was a hero among the local Punjabis there who loved and respected him. Most Lohri songs are sung in praise of Dulha Batti which expresses their gratitude to him.

This festival is immediately followed by another important festival – Makar Sankranti.