Monday, January 9, 2012

Sankranti, the Indian Harvest Festival !!!

Makara Sankranti is one of the auspicious days of the Hindu calendar. Sankranti is one of the few Hindu festivals that is based on the solar calendar. It signifies the transition of the Sun from Sagittarius(Dhanus) to Capricorn (Makara) and is therefore almost always on the same day in the English calendar Januray 14 or 15th . Traditionally, this has been one of many harvest days in India.

It is celebrated with distinct names and rituals in different parts of India. In the states of Andhrapradesh and Tamilnadu, it is celebrated as Pongal and is a 4 day festival. While in Karnataka (my home state), it is called as Sankranti. Read more about Makara Sankranti on Wikipedia.

In villages, people celebrate it their new harvest. They buy new earthern pots, decorate it and cook the rice and lentil mixture dish called as 'Pongal' in the new pots. They allow it overflow and shout "Pongal-O-pongal" as it does. They do hope their joy overflows in the same way in their lives too. 
                                                Nithya has some great pongal photos with recipes of the dish.

Jennifer Kumar of Alaivani website shares more on Pongal here. Love this beautiful pulses rangoli that she has made. It shows a pot filled with pongal overflowing from it(a rice and lentil dish).

Since the festival is celebrated in mid winter, food prepared for this festival is such that it keeps the body warm and gives high energy. Sweet balls called as laddu of sesame made with Jaggery is a specialty of the festival. In Maharashtra it is called 'Tilgul'. In Karnataka it is called 'ellu-bella' which is a mixture of sesame seeds, dry coconut, peanuts, jaggery etc. People exchange this 'ellu bella' mixture with family and friends and say "ellu bella tindu olle maatadi" meaning 'eat sesame and jaggery and talk sweet' :)

Also little figurines made of sugar is exchanged. Love this photo from Chittara made with ellu-bella, sugar figurines and filed beans.

In some states, especially in villages cattle are decorated with various colours and are made to jump over a bon-fire. Sankranti is also famous for kite flying. Love this cute kites card made by little P for sankranti.

As it is the festival of Sun God who is regarded as the symbol divinity and wisdom, we had made this lovely 'Sun Bunting' made of coffee filters last year. The how to is coming up soon....

It is customary to decorate the kids in new cloths and necklaces made of sugar balls. But since we do not get those sugar balls here in USA, last year had made fruit loop necklaces.
And in the evening the kids are made to sit and a mixture of ziziphus berries, pieces of sugarcane, coins and  flowers are mixed and poured over their head and an aarati is performed.  The neighbors are invited to participate in this ritual.  This is done to drive away the evil eye. This showering ritual is called as 'Bhogi Pallu' in telugu and there is a lot of variations in the things being showered. Some people add soaked chickpeas, while others add rice or puffed rice too. Read more about it here and here.

Any celebration in India is not complete without a colorful rangoli design in front of the house. I really miss making them. Rangoli with the drawing of Lord Surya(Sun), sugarcane picture, boiling Pongal pot etc are the most preferred Rangolis during Makara Sankranti. These are some the rangolis that depicts the importance of Sankranti from the web !!
via Kavin


 Love this handmade pongal card made by Ramya

Another beautiful craft by Daydreams...

And simply love this photo...

Please stay tuned for Sankranti related kids activities ......
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