Makara sankranthi is one Hindu festival celebrated all over India together following solar calendar. Farming is not an easy job or interdependent job. It’s a farmer who cultivates his piece of land depending on his cattle, rain and the Sun. So during the harvest he expresses his gratitude by thanking each one on each day. The first day of the month Makara (i.e., sun enters Capricorn) is the festival day. And it is known as Pongal in Tamilnadu, Lohri for Punjabis and sankranthi in rest of India.
There is a popular Tamil saying that “Thai piranthal Vazhi Pirakkum”. Means the month of Thai will be a month of peace and prosperity. All the members of the Family unite to rejoice and share their joy of harvests of with each other by preparing and offering pongal to sun god.
Similarly, Lohri is celebrated in punjab where December and January are the coldest months of the year, so huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Makar Sankranti and celebrated as “Lohri“with larger significance. The family arranges a feast and merry-making with the traditional bangara dance along with rhythm instruments, like the dhol and the gidda is played around bonfire. The first Lohri of a new bride or a newborn baby is considered extremely important.
And in Sankaranthi people exchanges multi-coloured sweets made of Til (sesame seeds) and sugar like Til-ladoos made of til and jaggery.
But this festival is grandly celebrated in Tamilnadu and Andhra with 3-4 days of celebrations
Significance of this festival
- According to the Puranas on this day Surya(Sun) visits the house of his son Shani(Saturn), who is the lord of the Makar rashi(Zodiac Capricorn). Though the father and son duo did not get along well, the Surya made it a point to meet his son on this day. He, in fact, comes to his son’s house, for a month. This day thus symbolizes the importance of the special relationship between father and son.
- It was on this day when Lord Vishnu ended the ever increasing terror of the Asuras (Demons) by finishing them off and burying their heads under the Mandara Parvata. So this occasion also represents the end of ‘negativities’ and beginning of an era of righteous living.
- Maharaja Bhagiratha performed great penance to bring Gangadown to the earth for the redemption of 60,000 sons of Maharaj Sagar, who were burnt to ashes at the Kapil MuniAshram, near the present day Ganga Sagar. It was on this day that Bhagirath finally did rituals with the Ganges water for his unfortunate ancestors and thereby liberated them from their curse. After visiting the Pataala (underworld) for the redemption of the curse of Bhagirath’s ancestors the Ganges finally merged into the sea. A very big Ganga Sagar Mela is organized every year on this day at the confluence of River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal. Thousands of Hindus take a dip in the water and perform rituals for their ancestors.
- Another well-known reference of this day came when the great grand-sire of Mahabharata fame, Bhishma, declared his intent to leave his mortal coil on this day. He had the boon of Ichha-Mrityu (death at his will) from his father, so he kept lying on the bed of arrows till this day and then left his mortal coil on Makar Sankranti day. It is believed that the person, who dies during the period of Uttarayana, becomes free from transmigration (rebirth). So this day was seen as a definite auspicious day to start a journey or endeavours to the higher realms beyond.
Rituals followed in Harvest festival
Preparations of the festival start a day before. Normally, the festival is celebrated for four days.
Bhogi – In the early morning around 3 Am, people light a bonfire with logs of wood and all the unused items like old clothes and waste materials are throwed away from house and fired, and to mark the new beginning. After this, everybody in the house takes bath and prays to God for upcoming year. In the evening, there is a ritual that everybody has to take their dinner before 6 Pm.
Second day –
Makar Sankranti is one of the main festival for North Indians, where everyone wears new clothes and prays to God by making their offerings in their own traditional way. Rangoli are made in their front of their house. In Maharashtra, people buy two pots, one in Red colour and the other in Black colour. In the red colour pot, all the cut down vegetables, pieces of sugarcane, turmeric powder , kumkum and coins and whereas the black colour pot is used to close the mouth of red one in the upside-down manner. Til revadi, Til ka laddoo, puran poli are some of the exotic dishes prepared on the day of sankranthi.
On the Second day i.e., Pongal, the courtyard is cleaned and rangoli called ‘Kolam’ is done with lump of cow-dung, which holds a five-petal pumpkin flower-its a symbol of fertility. It’s a symbol of welcoming the guest to entrance of the house. Fresh mango leaves are hung at the front of the house to remove negative energy and evil eye from entering the home. And arrange the place where pongal is going to be done with sugarcane and the earthen pot tied with fresh turmeric and ginger.
The Sweet pongal is made with rice, dal, jaggery, dry fruits and milk. In a clay /earthen pot fresh milk with rice and jaggery is boiled in a new clay pot in the open air facing east (to welcome Sun) early in the morning when sun rises and allowing the boil to flow over the vessel. When it boils over everyone together shout PONGALO PONGAL!!! , with a specific kind of holy sound called KURAVAI signifying plenty and prosperity of the year ahead. The Pongal is then served onto the fresh plantain leaf and is offered to the Sun God and partaken as prasadam with crispy vadas and chutneys signifying the prosperity of upcoming year.
And, similarly the third day of Pongal is Mattu Pongal, it is dedicated mainly to cattle to thank cows, buffaloes, and goats as they are main dependants for the farmer to plough the lands. . People clean and dress up their cattle’s like bulls, cows and other farm animals. The cattle’s are washed, and their horns are painted and decorated with bells, and colour papers. Pooja is done for them and they are fed with Pongal and taken all-around. And on the same day Jallikattu, a violent taming the bull contests conducted. Mattu Pongal. Some of the non-vegetarian community, prepare non-vegetarian food and served onto the fresh plantain leaf to pray to their ancestors also.
A festival called Jallikattu is held at Madurai, Tiruchirapalli and Tanjavur on this day. Bundles of money are tied onto the horns of ferocious bulls which the villagers try to retrieve. And the person win are considered to be the brave men. Everyone joins the community meal where the food is made of freshly harvested grain. This day is also called as Tamizhar Thirunal
On the last day, Kanum Pongal, people go out for picnic.
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