Makar Sankranti, pongal, Khichdi, maghi, celebration in India: How different states in India celebrate one Astro and Agriculture event.

Chances are that you can already feel the festivities in the air if you are in India. The New Year 2020 has begun and it is time to celebrate the first festival in the list of many more to come in the months that follow. Makar Sankranti, one of India’s most auspicious and popular festival, is just round the corner. Celebrated on January 14, Makar Sankranti is one of the country’s most widely celebrated festivals. It is actually the celebration of the first change in zodiac after the winter solstice. Most parts of India call it Makar Sankranti, but in south India it is celebrated as Pongal and in some parts of the country like Bihar, it is called Khichdi. In Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, it is called Maghi. Even though the names may differ, the rituals performed for Makar Sankranti are more or less similar.

Makar Sankranti is a solar event which falls on the same date, January 14, almost every year. It signifies the end of winter and arrival of summer season. It is a day of great importance for Hindus as it marks the Uttarayan period which was mentioned in the findings of epic Mahabharata. Bhishma Pitama is believed to have waited to Uttarayan to die peacefully. Makar Sankranti is celebrated with great zest across India. The two main forms of celebrations are Makar Sankaranti in West and north India and Pongal in south India. Gujarat’s Uttarayan is a unique Sankranti celebration which involves kite-flying.

Makar Sankranti celebrations in Maharashtra involves a sweet called tilgul south india (எல் உருண்டை) which is made of sesame seeds and jaggery. People exchange this seet with their friends and loved ones while greeting each other on the day of Makar Sankranti & Pongal It is the day to forget all bitter issues with one another and start on a fresh slate. The exchange of tilgul is accompanied with the phrase ‘tilgul ghya god god bola‘ which translated to ‘have tilgul and speak sweet words’.Another delicacy prepared during Makar Sankranti is puran poli which is a flat bread stuffed with jaggery and gram flour in it with pure ghee. These food items are meant to keep one warm and also to provide the necessary moisture during the season. One very important is never ever make sweets by using waste white crystal sugar, use only jaggery powder.

In south Indian states, especially Tamil Nadu, January 14 is celebrated as the festival of Pongal. The rituals are quite different here from north India. Pongal marks the beginning of the Tamil month of Thai and is therefore also referred to as Thai Pongal. This month is believed to bring good luck to people by taking away one’s problems. The harvest festival is celebrated over four days in Tamil Nadu with each day having a different ritual. The primary ritual of Pongal is one in which rice is boiled in milk in an earthen pot outside the house. Women draw wonderful rangolis outside their house using white powder in the morning. Other decorations include sugarcane sticks with banana leaves and turmeric plant. This rice prepared during Pongal is offered to the sun god who is obviously considered responsible for a good harvest.

In Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab, Maghi is celebrated on January 14 with great enthusiasm. Maghi is the Punjabi name for Makar Sankranti and follows Lohri celebrations in Punjab. Maghi is a celebrated as a lively cultural, seasonal and a religious festival that marks the solstice new year. It is the day which marks the beginning of increase in daylight. Sports competitions are held on this day with enthusiasts participating in large numbers. Delicacies eaten during Lohri and Maghi include kheer made of boiled milk and sugarcane juice, saag, sugarcane, jaggery, sweets made of sesame seeds, and khichdi. A famous Punjabi saying during this festival is “Poh ridhi, Magh khadi” which means Kheer is boiled on the last day of the preceding Punjabi month of Poh and is eaten on the first day of the next month of Magh.

In Gujarat, the International Kite Festival of Uttarayan springs life into the streets and lanes of cities on January 14. This day is celebrated with great enthusiasm by locals who rush to their rooftops to fly kites and battle against each other in friendly kite-flying competitions on the day of Makar Sankranti. The term Uttarayan comes from the Hindu calendar where it stands for the beginning of the sun’s northward journey resulting in the end of winter and beginning of its transformation into summer. The majestic Intertational kite festival which has been held in AHmedabad since 1989, is the envy of the world. During this period, the Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad transforms into a battlegorund for some of the most amazing, innovative, huge and unusual kites you will see in your life. The whole state of Gujarat transforms into a a hub of exciting activities. You can see families and friends gathering on the rooftop and looking out for each other’s kites. Delicacies like laddoos , undhyu or surati jamun are exchanged when people greet and wish each other during celebrations. No matter where you are in Gujarat, you will see some colorful kites in the sky during this period.

Makar Sankranti is a big deal outside India too. It is celebrated in Nepal for the same reason that it marks the beginning of longer, warmer days. Called Maghe Sankranti, the festival marks the end of the calendar month called Poush which is an inauspicious period. People perform rituals like taking a dip in the river and exchanging sweets with friends and relatives.

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