Makar Sankranti is a harvest festival observed as the Sun enters the Capricorn, signalling the end of winter. This day is set up for the worship of the Sun God.
India is a land of celebrations and it takes great pride and joy in all its festivities. Makar Sankranti is one such festival which is very important to Indian history, culture, and spirituality and is celebrated annually on January 14 or 15th. This event is celebrated differently among several states in India which indeed shows the rich cultural diversity of India.
Makar Sankranti is a harvest festival observed as the Sun enters the Capricorn or Makara phase, signalling the end of winter. This day is set up specifically for the worship of the Sun God. Let us dive into the different ways in which it is celebrated in India.
– Orissa Celebrates Sankranti:
People here start their day with a holy dip in ponds and rivers, while Makara Chaula, or uncooked newly harvested rice, banana, coconut, jaggery, sesame, rasagola, Khai/Liaa, and chhena puddings, are prepared for naivedya to Gods and Goddesses. Adivasis constitute 40% of the population in the districts of Mayurbhanj, Sundargarh, and Keonjhar, where they sing, dance, and rejoice for a week. In the evening, kites colour the skies of Bhubaneshwar. It is astronomically significant for devotees of the sun god who worship at the vast Konark temple as the sun begins its annual swing northward.
Apart from the regular ceremonies, people in Orissa, particularly in Western Orissa, use this occasion to reaffirm the strength of their bond with their best friends, a practice which is known as ‘Makar Basiba’.
– Gujarat Celebrates Uttarayan:
The main feature of this event in Gujarat, popularly known as ‘Uttarayan’, is the flying of kites. The sky changes hues as millions of Gujaratis fly kites from their balconies and terraces. On this auspicious day, special delicacies such as Undhiyu, a tasty dish cooked with fresh winter vegetables, and delightful Gujarati sweets such as Chikkis and Jalebees are eaten.
Gujarat’s colours come alive with one-of-a-kind shows all around the state. The two-day festival opens with kites and coloured manjhi, while the food is in full bloom on the second day, or Vasi Uttarayan.
- Tamil Nadu Celebrates Pongal:
Makar Sankranti, also known as ‘Pongal’ in Tamil Nadu, is an auspicious holiday with deep cultural and spiritual roots. People commemorate this festival for four days by making a variety of delectable savouries and sweets made with rice, milk, jaggery, sesame, and other ingredients. A special boiling of rice in a pot marks the main celebration of Pongal. The event lasts four days, beginning on the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi and ending on the third day of the Tamil month Thai.
Day 1 is celebrated as Bhogi Pandigai, Day 2 is Thai Pongal, Day 3 is Maattu Pongal, and Day 4 is Kaanum Pongal. Tamil Nadu’s unique and peculiar Rangoli designs bring South India to life. Homes are cleaned, mango leaves are put on doors, and animal poojas are performed.
- Assam Celebrates Bihu:
Magh Bihu, also known as Bhogali Bihu, is an Assamese harvest festival that marks the conclusion of the harvesting season in the month of Maagha (January–February). Feasts and bonfires are held as part of the festival. Young people build improvised homes, known as meji, out of bamboo, leaves, and thatch, in which they devour the feast’s food before burning the huts the next morning. Traditional Assamese sports such as tekeli bhonga (pot-breaking) and buffalo fighting are also part of the festivities.
- Punjab Celebrates Lohri:
Makar Sankranti is known as ‘Lohri’ in Punjab and is celebrated with a plethora of colours, dance, music, bonfires, and vibrancy. Children sing ‘Dulhabhatti’ as they go door to door collecting their ‘loot’ (sweets and savouries such as popcorn, rewri, peanuts, jaggery, gajak, and so on). In the evening, men and women congregate in circles clothed in bright traditional colours to dance ‘Bhangra’ around a bonfire. Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, and other places in North India are illuminated by flaming bonfires. Communities gather in public places to eat, relax, and celebrate the change of seasons.
- Himachal Pradesh Celebrates Magha Saaji:
Makara Sankranti is known as Magha Saaji in the Himachal Pradesh district of Shimla. Sakranti, the first day of the month, is referred to as Saaji in Pahari. As a result, this day marks the beginning of the month of Magha. People rise up early on Magha Saaji to take ceremonial dips and showered in the springs or baolis. During the day, people visit their neighbours and share khichdi with ghee and chaas before donating it to temples. The festival concludes with singing and Naati (folk dance).
- Uttar Pradesh Celebrates Kicheri:
In Uttar Pradesh, the celebration is called ‘Kicheri,’ and it includes ritual bathing. Over two million people flock to sacred places such as Allahabad and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Haridwar in Uttarakhand for this holy bathing. While fasting, there is a strong need to bathe in the morning; after bathing, they eat sweets such as til ladoo and gud laddo (known as tillava in Bhojpuri). On this day, some people wear new clothes.
Kite flying is an essential part of the event in Uttar Pradesh, as it is in many other Indian states such as Gujarat and Maharashtra. Like other places in India, the references to sweets, til (sesame seeds) and gud (jaggery) are found in the songs sung on this day.
- West Bengal Celebrates Poush Sankranti:
Sankranti, also known as Poush Sankranti after the Bengali month in which it falls, is celebrated as a harvest festival Poush Parbon in West Bengal. Freshly harvested paddy and date palm syrup in the form of ‘Khejurer Gur’ and ‘Patali’ is used in the manufacture of a variety of traditional Bengali sweets known as ‘Pitha’, which are produced using rice flour, coconut, milk, and ‘khejurer gur’ (date palm jaggery). Everyone in the society takes part in a three-day festival that begins the day before Sankranti and finishes the day following. On Sankranti, the Goddess Lakshmi is usually worshipped.
In Bihar and Jharkhand, Khichdi Parv is celebrated by taking holy dips in rivers, flying kites, making bonfires, and feasting on special ‘Khichdi’ made with lentils, rice, cauliflower, peas, and potatoes, accompanied by ‘Chokha’ (roasted vegetable), achaar (pickle), papad, and ghee. Sesame seeds and jaggery Tilgud are also used to make a variety of sweets.
Karnataka Celebrates Makara Sankramana:
The harvest festival in Karnataka is decorated with universal love and generosity. Farmers celebrate this day to thank the Gods for a bountiful harvest. Ellu-Bella is the day’s special dish, consisting of mashed jaggery, fried groundnut, dry coconut, and white sesame. Women exchange haldi-kumkum, bananas, and sugarcane. People take their cows on a celebratory march and also make them jump through fire.