Friday, January 13, 2012

Makar Sankranthi


MAKAR SANKRANTHI

Dear Readers,

Welcome back and wish you a Happy New Year.

I feel very excited thinking about all the celebrations for Christmas and New Year. The merriment just doesn't seem to end what with all the relatives, friends, near and dear coming together and having a good time filled with fun and delicious food.

Ah! Food.

Food is essential for every festival. Almost all festivals have special dishes unique to them. No festival is complete without its share of gastronomic treats. In-fact, food has been the singlemost important ingredient to signify celebration throughout the ages.

Ever celebrated your birthday without cakes or chocolate?!!

Even otherwise too, food is the most important part of our lives because it is not just enough to eat right, but it is essential to enjoy what we eat.


 If somebody gives you a choice of all the delicacies on one side and the world's most nutritious but tasteless syrup, you would always choose the former. You know what I mean?

So, ever celebrated a food festival? A festival celebrating food? Well, Sankranthi is a festival of food, harvest and agriculture in general.

It was only reasonable that I should begin my web journey with a festival so important that it is aptly known as the BIG festival in some parts of India.

The festival of Sankranthi is celebrated for 3 or 4 days in various parts of the country. The festival usually falls on 14th of January. However, the festivities begin a month preceding the date.

The festival is celebrated in different ways throughout the country so I will be touching only on the most important aspects.

In the month leading to the festival, ladies adorn the entrance to their homes with beautiful rangoli everyday. Kite flying is part of the festival celebrations in many parts with the climate also aiding the activity.


The first day of the festival which usually falls on the 13th of January is called Bhogi. Early in the morning before sunrise, people collect the waste, old and unusable materials accumulated over the last year and light a bonfire in front of their homes. This is to signify discarding the old and accepting the new in life.

Good riddance I would say!!

As the festival is mainly important for the agricultural communities, this day is dedicated to Lord Indra for the bountiful harvest. Bhogi is another name for Lord Indra.

Also, in the south it is believed that it is on this day that Goda devi married Lord Krishna after observing a month long devotional practice and attained Bhogam or bliss. Hence, the name. To know more about Goda devi or Andal click here Sweets are prepared on this day to celebrate the event. Poli is an important sweet dish prepared on this day.

The second day of the festival is Sankranthi. This day the sun transits from Sagittarius (Dhanu) to Capricorn (Makar). Hence the name Makar Sankranthi. After this day the Sun transits northwards (Also known as Uttarayana) and is believed to be the daytime for the Gods. The days start to become longer and more warmer from now on giving a welcome respite from the harsh winter.

The fresh harvest is brought from fields on this day and delicious food is cooked which is specific to each region of India. In the south the treat on this day is cooked with the new rice from the fields and adding pulses, jaggery and other ingredients and is known as Pongal. 


The festival too is known by the same name due to the popularity of the dish. When the rice begins to boil in the vessel and overflows the people shout “Pongalo Pongal” and herald the festival. The vessel in which the dish is cooked is also decorated with beautiful designs and turmeric sticks. It is so important!

In front of each house you can find beautiful rangolis or Kolams on this day drawn with rice flour and natural colours. In the south rangoli competition is held to judge the most beautiful rangoli.

In various parts of India Kite flying fairs and competitions are held on this day. The most famous of them being in Ahmedabad and Jaipur. Kite fights are held on this day. The kites are flown with special thread which has glass powder on it. The kite flyers show their skills in maneouvering the kites and cutting the thread of other kite flyers. The last kite in the skies still remaining is declared the winner.

The Haridas or “god's man” visits houses with a vessel on his head and singing songs. People donate rice to him as he is supposed to be the representative of gods. This practice is prevelant in the south.

The third day of the festival is celebrated by meeting close relatives and exchanging goodies and gifts. It is known as Kanuma or Kaanum Pongal in the south, which literally means, “To see”.







On the fourth day of the festival the cattle, which are an indespansable part of agriculture are decorated and paraded in front of every house in the villages with great pomp and show.





If you would like to be a part of the celebrations and enjoy, there are a couple of things that you could do. Travel to the rural parts of India to get the real feel of the festival. Remember, this is mainly an agricultural festival and so it will be celebrated most vigourously in the villages and rural India.

Want to restrict to the urban India? Scoot to Ahmedabad where the International kite flying fair is held each year on this day and compete with fellow enthusiasts. Details here 
You may also check out other places like Jaipur for the same. Details here . 


You can try makemytrip, yatra or any number of other travel sites for travel bookings.

You could try some of the dishes yourselves at home. They are not difficult really. Here are the links to the Recipes:
 Pongal,
 Poli,
Undhiyu , 





Want to know more about the festival itself? Try this wikipedia article for a start. 

It is lengthy but detailed and will give you most of the details. 


So long for now. I promise to return with more exciting festivals for everybody to enjoy.
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