Pongal, Makar Sakranti – Festival of harvest & kites   Leave a comment

Today is 14 Jan, a day for many different festivals in each different region of India.

Makara Sankranti, celebrated at the beginning of Uttarayana उत्तरायण, is the only Hindu festival which is based on the celestial calendar rather than the lunar calendar. The zodiac having drifted from the solar calendar has caused the festival to now occur in mid-January (see precession of equinoxes). In Tamil Nadu it is celebrated as the festival of Pongal. The day before Pongal, the last day of the previous year, they celebrate Bhogi. In Assam it is called Magh Bihu (the First day of Magh), in Punjab Lohri and in Hindi speaking states and Maharshtra it is observed as Makar Sankranti and is celebrated by exchanging balls of sesame candy (Til Gur) and requesting each other to be as sweet as the candy balls for the next year. It is called Makara Sankrant because the sun enters the zodiacal sign of Capricorn on 14 January (Makar meaning Capricorn). It is celebrated with much pomp in Andhra Pradesh, where the festival is celebrated for three days and is more of a cultural festival than an auspicious day as in other parts of India. In some parts of India, the festival is celebrated by taking dips in the Ganga or another river and offering water to the Sun god. The dip is said to purify the self and bestow punya. In many states, mainly in Gujarat, families fly bright colorful kites from their roofs all day and into the night. It is a form of celebrating and welcoming the longer days. It is also very common to feed grass to the cows on this day. In Assam on Bihu Eve or Uruka families build house-like structures called bhelaghar and separate large bhelaghar are built by the community as a whole. Different sorts of twine are tied around fruit trees. Traditionally, fuel is stolen for the final ceremony, when all the bhelaghar are burned. Their remains are then placed at the fruit trees. Special puja is offered as a thanksgiving for good harvest. Since the festival is celebrated in midwinter, the foods prepared for this festival are such that they keep the body warm and give high energy. Laddu of til made with jaggery is specialty of the festival.

Makara Sankranti is referred to in the Surya Siddhanta. The Dharma Shastras mention Makara Sankranti. January 14 represents the climax of the Kumbh and Ardh Kumbh Mela. It is a traditional holiday/harvest in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bengal, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, Maharashtra, Nepal, Punjab, Rajasthan, TamilNadu,Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

Thai Pongal is a harvest festival event celebrated by Tamils across the world. Pongal coincides with the festival Makara Sankranthi celebrated in various other parts of India. Pongal in Tamil means “boiling over or spill over.”

Traditionally celebrated at harvest time, it’s a celebration of the prosperity associated with the harvest by thanking the sun god, rain and the farm animals that have helped in the harvest. In villages, new clothes are worn and people owning cows find this festival more important. Pongal is celebrated by the Indian state of Tamil Nadu as well as Tamils in Sri Lanka.

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Posted January 14, 2010 by Rajesh_Gandhi in action, festival, food, happiness

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