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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Makar Sankranti and associated festivals of India

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The occasion of Makar Sankranti is reflected in many forms through different Indian festivals falling in winter. All these forms of the Makar Sankranti celebrations reflect different cultures, rituals and festivities. Principally, the Makar Sankranti is important for bathing in sacred waters and helping the poor by donating something to them, but the specific forms of this festival in different parts of India enhance its importance. Some important forms of this festival celebrated in different parts of the country are being introduced here.
Lohadi is basically celebrated in Haryana and Punjab states of India. People offer til, jaggery, rice and heated maize on the occasion of this festival. These things are together called as Tilchowri. People distribute groundnuts, and preparations containing till as main ingredient. Brides move from home to home singing songs of Lohadi. This festival is considered to be more important for new brides and infants. People eat vegetables of mustard leaves and the bread of maize flour.
People of Tamilnadu celebrate Makar Sankranti in the form of Pongal for four days. The first day is called Bhogi- Pongal, the second day is called as Surya-Pongal, the third day is called as Mattoo- Pongal or Kenu -Pongal and the 4th day is called as Kanya -Pongal.
The garbage of the locality is collected and burnt on the first day. Thus the festival of Pongal starts with sanitation of the locality. Goddess Laxmi is worshipped on the second day and the “cattle - wealth” is worshipped on the 3rd day. After taking bath, Khir is cooked in a clay pot in the open campus. This dish is called as Pongal. After it, the sun God is worshipped and the Pongal is distributed as Prasad. Daughters are especially welcomed and respected on this day.
A Festival of Bathing and Offerings
Makar Sankranti is celebrated as a festival of “Dan” or donations in Uttar Pradesh of India. In Allahabad, this festival is known a Magh- Mela. The Magh- Mela in Allahabad starts on 14th January every year. The whole state of Uttar Pradesh calls this festival as Khichadi. Eating Khichadi and distributing it is more important on this day. A fair is organised every year on the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati for the whole month of Magh.
This festival is celebrated as “Uttarayani” in Uttarakhand state. Like eastern Uttar Pradesh, it is known as Khichadi in Garhwal too. This festival is known as Dhudhutia in local Kumauni language. A special dish known as Dhudhutia is prepared on this day. It is kept for the next day for feeding crows.
The Santhals of Jharkhand are nature worshippers by nature and behaviour. They celebrate every festival with dance, songs and music taking nature and its components as Gods and Goddesses. Every festival of Santhals is meant for expressing gratitude to nature for its protection and blessings. All of their festivals are based on trust and respect for nature.
Santhals love and respect their cattle wealth and offer special treatments like washing, oiling, and decorating them on this day. The Soharai festival is especially devoted to the cattle wealth of Santhals. Santhals inhabiting Dumka and adjacent areas celebrate Soharai on 14th January. The festival starts a week ago. Cattle, ancestors, crop- fields and Sun are worshipped and groups of young ladies and boys move from door to door singing songs of the festival. Dances and sound of mandar (specific musical instrument of tribals) declare the onset of this festival.
MAKAR SANKRANTI - The Festival of the Sun-Worship
The tradition of daily worship of sun in Indian Sun-culture has been continuous since epic period. The Uttarayan Parva or the Makar Sankranti in India is celebrated as the worship of sun. In stories related to Lord Rama of Hindus we see the reference of daily sun -worship by him. According to Hindu religious texts Rama was Suryavanshi and king Bhagirath too was of the same section. King Bhagirath had brought Ganga to the earth for gaining Moksha for his ancestors. The concept of Moksha in Hindu mythology means getting rid of birth and death. The day on which Ganga appeared on the earth near the Ashram of Kapil Muni was the day of Makar Sankranti when the sacred water of Ganga passed through the area where the ancestors of Bhagirath used to live, and the ancestors of Bhagirath got Moksha. On that day king Bhagirath had worshipped his ancestors by offering Akshat or unbroken rice, til and the sacred water of the Ganga. Since then, the tradition of bathing in the sacred water of Ganga River on Magh Sankranti and offering to ancestors on the day of Makar Sankranti is very popular among Hindus.

The sun enters into Makar Rashi on this day. The Sankranti or a revolutionary change occurs in the external world as well as in the internal environment of living beings on this day. The inner sun of a man, according to the Hindu mythology, is “atma” or the spirit. The external kranti is commonly seen in the form of violence in which power is utilized but the spiritual kranti means for the good of all the creatures inhabiting this planet. The message of Makar Sankranti is - let everyone live together, let everyone earn his/ her living without any obstacle, whatever we gain through our good deeds should contribute to our power and energy.
The sun is symbolic to the divinity inside human beings. The sun is the symbol of knowledge, intelligence and spiritual light. It enlightens the whole world. Makar Sankranti is the festival which is celebrated by Hindus to develop this type of awareness and alertness. It is the festival of increasing the intensity of energy of the sun inside every human being. As the sun in the sky gets sometimes covered by clouds, the sun inside human beings too gets often covered by Kama, krodh and ahamkar (sex, anger and pride). The external sun rises and sets, but the sun inside human beings never passes through these phases.
Key Words : Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Soharai, Hindu- tribal festivals

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