India - Sankranti Festival

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

Sankranti Festival

Sankranti is one of the most auspicious days for the Hindus, and is celebrated in almost all parts of the country, with great devotion, fervor & gaiety. Lakhs of people take a dip in places like Ganga Sagar and Prayag and pray to the Sun God, much like the ancient Egyptians.

It is celebrated with pomp in southern parts of the country as Pongal, and in Punjab it is celebrated as Lohri & Magh. In Gujarat, the people revere the sun god and also offer thousands of colorful oblations by fling kites. It is believed that the kites try to reach up to their glorious God and try to be as close as possible to him.

In Bengal thousands congregate every year to celebrate the occasion. Every year at Ganga Sagar where the river Ganga is believed to have dived, this mela is attended by a large number of pilgrims from all over the country.

In Tamil Nadu Sankranti is known as ‘Pongal’, which means rice boiled in a pot of milk, and this festival has more significance than Diwali in this state. It is very famous amongst farmers. Rice and pulses are cooked together in ghee and milk and offered to the family deity after the ritual worship.

In Andhra Pradesh, it is celebrated as a three-day harvest festival called Pongal. The Telugus like to call it 'Pedda Panduga' meaning ‘big festival’. The whole event lasts for four days, the first day Bhogi, the second day Sankranti, the third day Kanuma and the fourth day, Mukkanuma.

In Maharashtra on the Sankranti day people exchange multi-colored tilguds made from til (sesame seeds) and sugar and til-laddus made from til and jaggery. Til-polis is offered for lunch. While exchanging tilguds as tokens of goodwill people greet each other saying – ‘til-gul ghya, god bola’ meaning ‘accept these tilguds and speak sweet words’. The under-lying thought in the exchange of tilguds is to forget the past ill-feelings and hostilities and resolve to speak sweetly and remain friends. This is a special day for the women in Maharashtra when married women are invited for a get-together called ‘Haldi-Kumkum’ and given gifts of any utensil, which the woman of the house purchases on that day.

In Punjab where December and January are the coldest months of the year, huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Sankranti and are celebrated as "Lohri". Sweets, sugarcane and rice are thrown in the bonfires, around which friends and relatives gather together. The Punjabi's dance their famous Bhangra dance to the vigorous beats of the traditional drums. After the dance there is a sumptuous feast which is specially prepared for the occasion.

In Kerala the 40 days anushthana by the devotees of Ayyappa ends on this day with a big festival. Many tribals in our country start their New Year from the day of Sankranti by lighting bonfires, dancing and eating their particular dishes sitting together. The Bhuya tribals of Orissa have their Maghyatra in which small home-made articles are put for sale. They also prepare laddus and other sweets of til and gur and share it with friends and relatives. Thus ends the festival of Sankranti which has a very deep religious meaning for Indians.


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