Makar Shankranti: How Indian states celebrate same festival with different traditions

The Uttarayan period finds mention in the epic Mahabharata. Bhishma Pitama is believed to have waited for Uttarayan to die peacefully.

India marks the arrival of the New Year or the farewell of the winters with the auspicious celebrations of Makar Sankranti, one of India’s most popular festival that is celebrated by every state in their own unique way and with traditions that impersonate their colorful culture.

The festival marks the first change in zodiac after the winter solstice. The date of Makar Sankranti is fixed. Makar means Capricorn and Sankranti is transition. Most parts of India call it Makar Sankranti, but in south India it is celebrated as Pongal and in some parts of the country like Bihar, it is called Khichdi. In Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, it is called Maghi. The eastern part celebrates it as Bongali Bihu in Assam and Poush Parbon in West Bengal.

Mythological importance of this time of the year goes back to the times of the Mahabharata and marks the end of the great war of Kurushetra. The Uttarayan period finds mention in the epic Mahabharata. Bhishma Pitama is believed to have waited for Uttarayan to die peacefully.

Lohri in Punjab

Lohri is considered as a knock of Makar Sankranti. A unique style to express the happiness of new crops. Generally, men and women gather at a crossroad of a village, in traditional outfits especially the clothes representing the Punjabi culture, and perform Bhangra. Women on this day dress up beautifully, apply mehndi on their hands and their faces glow with happiness. Delicacies eaten during Lohri include kheer made of Sarson ka saag, sugarcane, jaggery, sweets made of sesame seeds.

Poush Parbon In West Bengal

In West Bengal, Sankranti, also known as Poush Sankranti named after the Bengali month in which it falls, is celebrated as a harvest festival Poush Parbon (It falls on 14 January on the Western calendar.) The freshly harvested paddy and the date palm syrup in the form of Khejurer Gur and Patali is used in the preparation of a variety of traditional Bengali sweets made with rice flour, coconut, milk and `khejurer gur` (date palm jaggery) and known as `Pitha`

Uttarayan in Gujarat

Uttarayan is celebrated in Gujarat for two days.January 14 marks Uttarayan and January 15 marks Vasi-Uttarayan (Stale Uttarayan). Without the kite flying competition, Uttarayan is incomplete. The ‘patang’ for Uttarayan are made of special light-weight paper and bamboo and are mostly rhombus shaped with a central spine and a single bow. The competition is further intensified with sharp strings coated with abrasives to cut down other kites.

Undhiyu (spicy, baked mix of winter vegetables) and chikkis (made from til (sesame seeds), peanuts and jaggery) are the special festival recipes savoured on this day.

Khichri Parv in Uttar Pradesh

The festival day starts with an auspicious dip in the holy water of Ganga in Benaras or Haridwar now in Uttarakhand. is known as Kicheri in Uttar Pradesh and involves ritual bathing. At some places new clothes are worn on this day.

Kite flying is an inevitable part of the festival in Uttar Pradesh as with many states of India 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.

Pongal In Tamil Nadu

Pongal marks the beginning of the Tamil month of Thai and is therefore also referred to as Thai Pongal. This month is believed to bring good luck to people by taking away one’s problems. This rice prepared during Pongal is offered to the sun god who blesses the farmers with a good harvest. The Sun stands for "Pratyaksha Brahman" - the manifest God, who symbolizes the one, non-dual, self-effulgent, glorious divinity blessing one and all tirelessly. The Sun is the one who transcends time and also the one who rotates the proverbial wheel of time. Women draw wonderful rangolis outside their house dressed in white saris with a golden border using white powder in the morning. Pongal is prepared by the freshly harvested rice and served on banana leaf plates.

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