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Sankranthi/ Pongal

            To all those who celebrate, wish you all a very happy Bhogi and Sankranthi. May the Sun God bless you with abundant prosperity. 

Makara Sankranthi is a harvest festival celebrated by Hindus across India. It is celebrated on the day on which Sun transitions into Makara (Capricorn) on its celestial path. This day marks the beginning of the spring season. Predominantly, Makara Sankranthi falls on 14th January every year and occasionally on 15th January. 

This festival is celebrated with different names and rituals in different parts of the country. In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana it is known as Sankranthi or Makara Sankranthi; Tamil Nadu as Pongal; Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Goa and West Bengal as Makara Sankranthi; Maghi in Punjab; Bihu in Assam etc. As it is a harvest festival, farmers worship the Sun God, as a way of saying "Thanks" for blessing them with good harvest and prosperity. Bonfires, rangoli, kite flying, bull taming, cock fighting are major attractions of this festival.

Generally Sankranthi is celebrated as a 4 days festival.

Day 1: Bhogi/ Lohri - People celebrate this day with a bonfire in the morning. They discard old and unused things into the bonfire, thus welcoming a new beginning. Children dance around the bonfire playing drums. In Punjab, bonfire is lit after sunset and food items like sesame, puffed rice, jaggery, peanuts etc. are thrown into the fire, symbolizing end of the old year and start of the new year.

Day 2: Makara Sankranthi/ Pongal/ Maghi - Usually colourful rangolis are drawn in front of the house. Chakkera/sakkara (sweet) pongal is cooked with newly harvested rice, jaggery and milk and is offered to Sun God. Sweets are distributed to near and dear. In Karnataka and Maharashtra, sweets made of till (sesame) are shared with friends and family.  


Day 3: Kanuma Panduga/ Mattu Pongal - On this day, farmers paint their cattle and decorate them with flowers. Then they offer food to cattle and worship them, for assisting them throughout the year. Bull taming, a popular sport is the highlight of celebrations on this day.

Day 4: Mukkanuma/ Kaanum Pongal - This marks the last day of festivities. Farmers offer prayers to earth, rain and fire for helping them in harvest. People enjoy kite flying and go on picnic with friends and family, to unwind themselves. 

This leaves me nostalgic with all the festivities at India, especially when I was a kid. It is a beautiful experience to witness Sankranthi celebrations in villages. 

During my childhood days, we used to celebrate Sankranthi with our grand parents, at our native place. Since schools were closed for holidays, all our cousins, uncles and aunts used to gather at our native. Our girls gang used to wake up before 4am and draw beautiful rangolis in front of the house and decorate them with colours, gobbemma (small cow dung balls) and flowers. After break fast, we take a stroll in the streets to take check up on others' rangolis, to see if they were better than ours.

Our grand mother and aunts used to prepare yummy sweets and snacks (ariselu, laddu, murkulu etc.). The aroma of the sweets will be so enticing and we sneak into the kitchen to grab some while the preparation is still on 😁 We start our preparation for bhogi by collecting logs, old/unused furniture and other solid fuels well in advance, to light up the biggest bonfire possible, competing with neighbours. On the day of Sankranthi, we dress up in our traditional best and visit relatives and enjoy a full course meal. Since the start of Dhanurmasam (mid December), until Sankranthi, haridasulu used to come and sing epic stories and hymns in front of all the houses; gangireddhulu (colourfully decorated cows) visit every house; and we used to offer them sweets, food, clothes and money. 

From the stories what I heard from my parents, the memories I made during my childhood and how we celebrate today, the grandeur of the festival has reduced drastically. While I try to preserve the traditions to the best possible, by celebrating all the festivals, I will share my cherished memories with my kid, to give him a sense of it.

What are your childhood memories of this festival? Do comment.

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