Makar Sankranti – an Indian festival that binds us together
“What’s in a name after all”? The festival of Makar Sanranti gets me thinking about this very seriously. Inspite of the diverse customs and traditions that we follow, there is so much unity that binds us all into one.
Taking a dip in the holy waters
Making Pongal in an earthern pot
Sweet Pongal - a delicious combination of rice, lentils and jaggery
Lighting the bonfire for Lohari
The festival of Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Kichri, Lohari, Bhogali Bihu or whatever other name you decide to call it by just goes to prove this. The festival by whatever name you call it is celebrated with great pomp and gaiety all across the country. It may be celebrated in different ways and known by a variety of names however the essence of the festival remains the same all across the length and breadth of the country.
The festival is a winter festival that marks the transition of the Sun God from Sagitarrius to Capricorn or “Makar”. Makar means “Capricorn” and “Sankranti” means “transition”. This trasition into the Northern hemisphere is celebrated all across and means all good things in all cultures.
In Punjab, it is known as “Lohari”, as “Bhogali Bihu” in the states of Assam and West Bengal, as “Pongal” in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil nadu, “Kichri” in Uttar Pradesh and Sankranti in the other parts. The harvest festival is celebrated in a variety of ways in different ways. A dip in the Ganges, praying to the Gods with special pujas or prayers are all a part of the celebrations. Essentially an early morning bath, pujas, festive rangolis and a delicious spread of mouthwatering dishes comprise the celebrations of the festival. It is a time for celebration and getting together. In the State of Maharashtra, the til laddu or a sweet made of white sesame seeds is the traditional dish made for the occasion. Bhogichi Bhaji , a mixed vegetable dish made with the winter vegetables is also made. Kite flying is one way of celebrating the festival and is very popular in the States of Maharashtra and Gujarat. In fact, nowadays it is no longer restricted by physical boundaries to these states alone. Here in Andhra Pradesh(down in South India) there were kite flying and kite making competitions held for school children.
“Pongal” is celebrated in Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh with an oil bath early morning followed by pujas and making the dish “Pongal”. The dish Pongal maybe either sweet or savory. It is a dish made of rice and lentils.It is offered to the Gods during the Puja or prayers.
In the South Indian state of Kerala, Sankranti holds special significance as it is related to the “Makara Sankranti” celebrations in the Sabarimala temple and the witnessing of the auspicious "Makara Jyothy". Special prayers are carried out in the temple that is visited by lakhs of devotees. After all the pujas in the evening a “Jyothi” or “light” is seen near the hills in Sabarimala(believed to be the blessing of the God himself).
No festival in India is complete without a mouthwatering spread of dishes and so tomorrow too would be yet another gastronomic journey in most Indian homes. With friends and families coming together to celebrate this colorful festival it is going to be a time for traditional recipes, merry- making and happy moments. Happy Sankranti/ Pongal/ Kichri/Bihu/ Lohari….
http://www.holidayforeveryday.com/wp-content/sa8.jpg http://www.kolkatahub.com/images/festivals-in-kolkata/makar-sankranti.jpg http://www.ifood.tv/recipe/sweet_pongal http://www.hindu.com/mp/2006/01/14/images/2006011402730401.jpg http://www.indianetzone.com/5/images/lohari_2126.jpg http://nalbari.nic.in/bihu2.jpg