When is Sankranti? Why is it celebrated? What flavour can it add in our contemporary lifestyle? And so a blog post is born!
Makar Sankranti is the first festival of the year and is celebrated all over India, albeit in various ways and different names. In the north (Punjab, Delhi, Haryana) it is called Lohri, in Gujarat and Maharashtra it known as Makar Sankranti, in Rajasthan it is Uttarayan, in the south it is known as Pongal and in Odia and Bengal it is popular as Bihu. Most of the legends revolve around the movement of the sun, the passage from the southern hemisphere towards the northern hemisphere. It is heralded as spring time in India and much festivities are tied around the first Rabi harvest of the year. A good harvest equals to good prosperity, abundance of nutrition and health. The warmer sunrays provide essential Vitamin D. India being mostly an agrarian country, farmers and cattle owners worship the sun to seek blessings on this auspicious day.
Aren’t our traditions scientific, eco friendly, revering Mother Nature and the celestial bodies?
The reference arises in Bhagwad Gita and the epic Mahabharat dating back to 3102 BC. It is believed that the great warrior of the Mahabharata, Grandsire or Pitamaha Bhishma, fell injured by the arrows of his beloved grandson prince Arjuna, during the battle in Kurukshetra. Bhishma had been granted a boon by his father to choose the time of his death according to his free will. After lying on the bed of arrows for almost a month, he chose the day of Makar Sankranti to leave his mortal self. That is why there is a belief that those who die during this period will have no rebirth.
Another folklore suggests that any boy or girl who takes a dip at the Triveni Sangam (confluence of sacred rivers) will get a beautiful partner graced by Lord Vishnu himself, as he had come down to take a dip on this day.
If Makar Sankranti means flying colourful kites to the Gujrati community, for the farming community of Andhra, Telengana and Tamil Nadu it means rest time and decorating their cattle, feeding them nutritious grains. To north Indians, revelry in lighting a bonfire and casting away symbolically old and negative thoughts (old cloth) and Maharashtrian women wear black saree with dotted white stars or prints, representing the night sky, and spread cheer and health by exchanging Til Gul. See recipe here
Doorsteps are decorated with tall sugarcane stalks, marigold garlands, auspicious mango leaf decors and colourful Muggulu or Kolam floor designs, drawn symmetrically around dots. Fresh rice paste or ground rice powder is used from the harvested paddy. Kheer or pongal is made, traditionally using a mud pot over fire using dry cow dung pieces. I remember my grandmother chanting Pongal O Pongal, as she uttered each family members name and dropped rice grains into the pot of boiling milk atop cow dung used for fire. Yes…..eeks…but well imagine a village farmer family outside their homes, in the midst of green acres and brown earth, birds flying in the sky and mooo…moooo goes the cow, decorated with bells, tassels and cotton spreads to keep warm.
Can we keep the art and cooking forms alive in this modern day lifestyle? Can we spend a weekend outdoors flying kites and away from TV and social media?
Lucky to meet this young villager and the old bullock in the city streets, each year as they come to collect charity and donations.
A festival adds colour and meaning to our lives. Most festivals are a way of showing gratitude to Mother Nature for her bounty. Let’s cherish these traditions in our own ways!
Every festival has some characteristic food, that is has meaning and is seasonal. As the winter months demand higher calories and nutrition the small, husky white sesame or Til (teel) seed, peanuts and jaggery (made after boiling sugarcane juice) are the seasonal remedies. Indians are mostly vegetarians and get their nutrition from seasonal crops, an Ayurvedic practice.
Once every year, I make a fresh batch of Til Gul (sesame seed combined with warm jaggery, dry coconut and ghee). In Hindu mythology sesame seeds are regarded as symbols of immortality, divinely blessed by Lord Yama(Lord of death). If you observe the power packed into them, one will realize its wonderfood! Incorporate it into your everyday diet, feel blessed by Nature, that such a small seed can contain a big gift for you! Calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, zinc, fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6 and folate, and proteins!
Tell me, which part of the festivities and food is not a complement to our living? What can we continue to absorb? Happy Makar Sankranti and healthy abundant life to all my readers. I do value your comments, so do leave a note.