Makar Sankranti is one of the ancient festivals in India. It is the only Indian festival that is based on the Solar cycle 🌞 instead of Lunar cycles 🌙 and this is why Makar Sankranti almost always falls on the same date in January every year. In the year 2020, Makar Sankranti is being observed on Jan 15th.
On this auspicious day, people take a dip in sacred rivers or lakes & thank Sun for giving success & prosperity to them. On Makar Sankranti, People wear new clothes 👗, fly kites 🪁 & distribute a special sweet made with Til & Gud. This sweet symbolically represents Peace, Harmony & Joyfulness among the people. It also marks the start of new harvesting year🌾.
In India, Makar Sankranti is celebrated in different ways and with different names across the country, but all celebrations are tied to the basic fact of welcoming Sun’s northward motion (also called as “Uttarayan”) and marking an end to the winter solstice ❄️ 🥶. Let’s take a ride through North, South, East & West to see how this harvesting festival is celebrated throughout the country.
One Festival, Different Celebrations Across India
Lohri in Punjab – Lohri is a Punjabi folk festival celebrated with a Bonfire 🔥 & Sweets. It is a tradition to start the harvesting festival by eating the roasted Corn cob 🌽 from the new harvest & sharing sweets with friends & family. During the day, children go door to door singing folk songs. People give sweets made of Til & Gud to the kids and sometimes money, as sending them back empty handed is considered to be inauspicious 😇
All the things that children gathered during the day is called “Lohri” which consist of Til, Gachchak, Crystal Sugar, Jaggery, Peanuts, Popcorn & Money. People lit up the Bonfire at sunset and sing & dance around it until the fire dies out.
Pongal in South India – Pongal is a very special festival in South India. It is named after the popular dish of “Pongal” wherein the freshly harvested Rice is cooked with milk and jaggery. On this auspicious day, people decorate their homes with a special rice powder based rangoli called “Kolam”. Festive celebrations also include decorating Cows & their horns, ritual bathing & processions!
During the day women’s gather at a town center or temples and prepare the dish “Pongal” in a nicely decorated clay pot which is then shared with friends & family 👨👨👧👦
In some parts of South India like Tamil Nadu & Karnataka, people celebrate Makar Sankranti as a 4 Day Festival –
Day 1 – Bhogi Pongal – On this day, people discard their old belongings & celebrate new possessions. Bonfire is lit in town centers and people gather to burn the heap of discards.
Day 2 – Thai Pongal – Thai Pongal Or Surya Pongal is the main festive day. It is considered to be the first day of Tamil Calendar month “Tai” 📅. People decorate their homes with Kolam’s (rangoli made with rice powder) & Flowers. Women’s make Pongal which is cherished by everyone in the presence of Sunlight.
Day 3 – Mattu Pongal – In Tamil, Mattu means Cow, Buffalo or cattle. Hence, on Mattu Pongal day all the cattles are decorated with colors and flowers 🌼🐄. They are also offered with a special meal & fruits. This is to signify the importance of cattles in providing dairy products, fertilizers, transportation & agriculture aid.
Day 4 – Kaanum Pongal – This marks the last day & the end of Pongal festivities. Kannum in this context means “to visit” hence on this day people hold reunions with their friends and families👨👩👧. Fresh harvest of sugarcane and rice is used in the form of sweets in these gatherings.
Uttarayan in Gujarat – Makar Sankranti is also known as Uttarayan in Gujarat. On this day, “The international Kite Festival” 🪁 is held in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. There are many other kite flying competitions as well across the state. The best place to enjoy this kite flying festival is the “Sabarmati Riverfront” Or Ahmedabad police station.
People make dishes like Undhiyu, which is a mix of winter vegetables🥕🍆 and Chikki (sweet made of sesame seeds, peanuts & jaggery) to celebrate the festival!
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Poush Parbon in West Bengal – Similar to Tamil community, Bengali community also consider Makar Sankranti as their start of fresh year. Mouthwatering sweets like puli pithe, maalpua, til nadu and many more are prepared using the freshly cut harvest of rice 🍚 & sugarcane.
In Bengal, Ganga Sagar carnival is held on this day when many devotees across the country come to take a holy dip in river ganga and worship lord Shiva & goddess Ganga.
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