Harvest festivals – Sankranti
Sankranti is an annual celebration that occurs around the time of the main harvest of a given region. It also marks the beginning of the northward journey of the Sun from its southernmost-limit, a movement traditionally referred to as Uttarayana. This observance occurs annually around January 14 each year. Sankranti is celebrated across the country in different ways.
- In Uttar Pradesh, Sankranti is called ‘Khichiri’.
- Taking a dip in the holy rivers on this day is regarded as most auspicious.
- A big one-month long ‘Magha-Mela’ fair begins at Prayag (Allahabad) on this occasion. Apart from Triveni, ritual bathing also takes place at many places like Haridvar and Garh Mukteshwar in Uttar Pradesh, and Patna in Bihar.
- In Bengal every year a very big mela is held at Ganga Sagar where the river Ganga is believed to have dived into the nether region and vivified the ashes of the sixty thousand ancestors of King Bhagirath.
- This mela is attended by a large number of pilgrims from all over the country.
- In Tamil Nadu Sankrant is known by the name of ‘Pongal’, which takes its name from the surging of rice boiled in a pot of milk, and this festival has as much or more significance than even Diwali.
- It is very popular particularly amongst farmers. Rice and pulses cooked together in ghee and milk is offered to the family deity after the ritual worship.
- In essence in the South this Sankrant is a ‘Puja’ (worship) for the Sun God.
- It is a four day festival in Tamil Nadu:
Day 1: Bhogi Pandigai
Day 2: Thai Pongal
Day 3: Maattu Pongal
Day 4: Kaanum Pongal
- The festival is celebrated four days from the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi to the third day of the Tamil month Thai.
- Jallikattu, or taming the wild bull contest, is an event held on the day of Mattu Pongal and this is mostly seen in the villages.
- In Andhra Pradesh, it is celebrated as a three-day harvest festival Pongal.
- The Telugu people 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. While exchanging tilguls as tokens of goodwill people greet each other saying – ‘til-gul ghya, god god bola’ meaning ‘accept these tilguls and speak sweet words’.
- 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.
- The festival in Karnataka is also celebrated in the same way by exchanging ‘Ellu Bella’ (sesame seeds and Jaggery).
- In Gujarat Sankrant is observed more or less in the same manner as in Maharashtra but with a difference that in Gujarat there is a custom of giving gifts to relatives.
- The elders in the family give gifts to the younger members of the family. The Gujarati Pundits on this auspicious day grant scholarships to students for higher studies in astrology and philosophy. This festival thus helps the maintenance of social relationships within the family, caste and community.
- Kite flying has been associated with this festival in a big way. It has become an internationally well-known event.
- In Punjab huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Sankrant and which is celebrated as “Lohri”.
- Sweets, sugarcane and rice are thrown in the bonfires, around which friends and relatives gather together.
- The following day, which is Sankrant, is celebrated as “Maghi”.
- The Punjabi’s dance their famous Bhangra dance till they get exhausted.
- The 40 days anushthana by the devotees of Ayyappa ends on this day in Sabarimala with a big festival.
- In Bundelkhand and Madhya Pradesh Sankrant is known by the name ‘Sakarat’ and is celebrated with great pomp & merriment accompanied by lot of sweets.
Tribals of Orissa
- Many tribals in our country start their New Year from the day of Sankrant 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.
- In Assam, the festival is celebrated as Bhogali Bihu.
- Bhogali Bihu, also called Magh Bihu comes from the word Bhog that is eating and enjoyment. It is a harvest festival and marks the end of harvesting season.
New Year festivals
Different regions follow different cultures and so the New Year traditions also vary. Every Indian state has its own history behind the New Year celebrations. People in various parts of the country celebrate New Year as per their traditional calender.
- Ugadi is celebrated as New Year’s Day in Karnataka and Andhra pradesh.
- The name Ugadi is derived from the name “Yuga Adi”, which means ‘the beginning of a new age’.
- It is celebrated on the first day of the Hindu month Chaitra, which marks the onset of spring.
- It is believed that Lord Brahma, the creator according to Hindu tradition, began creation on this day.
- Preparations begin well ahead of the festival. Houses are given a thorough cleaning, people don new clothes and special dishes are prepared.
- Gudi Padwa is celebrated as New Year’s Day in Maharashtra.
- It is celebrated on the same day as Ugadi i.e., the first day of the month Chaitra.
- Lord Brahma is worshipped on this day and the gudi, Brahma’s flag (also called Brahmadhvaj), is hoisted in every house as a symbolic representation of Rama’s victory over Ravana.
- Puthandu, also known as Varuda pirappu, is celebrated as New Year’s Day in Tamil Nadu.
- It is celebrated on the first day of the Tamil month Chithirai, which falls on 14 April.
- Women draw patterns called kolams. A lamp called a kuttuvilaku is placed on the center of the kolam, to eradicate darkness. A ritual called kanni takes place. Kanni means ‘auspicious sight’.
- A car festival is held at Tiruvadamarudur, near Kumbakonam.
- Vishu is celebrated as New Year’s Day in Kerala.
- It is celebrated on the first day of the Malayalam month of Medam (mid-April on the Gregorian calendar).
- Offerings to the divine called Vishukanni are neatly arranged on the eve of the festival and consist of rice, linen, cucumber, betel leaves, holy texts, coins and yellow flowers called konna (Cassia fistula). It is considered auspicious to see the Vishukanni first thing in the morning. On this day, people read the Ramayana and go to temples, Hindu places of worship. Children burst crackers, people wear new clothes and prepare special dishes and the elders of the house give out money to the children, servants and tenants. The money given is called Vishukaineetam.
- Navreh is the lunar New Year celebration in Kashmir.
- This coincides with the first day of the Chaitra (spring) Navratras.
- This day finds mention in Rajtarangini and Nilamat Purana of Kashmir and is regarded as sacred in Kashmir as the Shivratri.
- Navreh falls on the same day as Ugadi or Cheiraoba or Gudi Padwa.
Maha vishuva Sankranti
- Mahavishuva Sankranti is celebrated as the Oriya New Year.
- On this day, religious people offer delicious Pana, a sweet drink, to their deities.
- During the festival people will place water pots on the roadsides to help the thirsty souls. Water is as also offered to animals and birds. This day is also a celebration of Hanuman Jayanti.
- Mahabishuba Sankranti generally falls on 13 or 14 April. It is celebrated on same day as Puthandu in Tamil Nadu.
- Bestu Varas is the New Year’s Day for Gujaratis and this falls on the day next to Diwali.
- On this day, people greet each other on this day with “Nutan Varsha Abhinandan”.
- The day starts with the heavy fire works, to welcome New Year, in the early morning as Hindus believe morning starts at 4 am.
Chaitti and Basoa
- The festivals of Chaitti and Basoa are celebrated as New Year festivals in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
- Chaitti is celebrated on the first day of month of Chaitra. The first day of this month is considered very important and is celebrated all over the state. Chaitti is cebrated on the same day as Ugadi and Gudi Padwa.
- The festival of Basoa, also known as Bishu, is celebrated on the first day of the month of Baisakh. The aboriginal and the farming folk celebrate the Basoa festival.
- Baisakhi Festival, also called Vaisakhi, holds great importance for the Sikh community and farmers of Punjab and Haryana.
- Baisakhi falls on 13 or 14 April, the first day of the second month of the year according to the Nanakshahi Calendar.
- Sikhs also celebrate this day in honor of their tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh. Baisakhi commemorates the day when the Sikh Guru eliminated caste differences and founded Khalsa Panth in 1699.
- Nowruz is the name of the Iranian/Persian New Year in Iranian calendars.
- Originally being a Zoroastrian festival, and the holiest of them all, Nowruz is believed to have been invented by Zoroaster himself.
- It is celebrated on 21 March every year, a date originally determined by astronomical calculations.
- Nowruz is associated with various local traditions, such as the evocation of Jamshid, a mythological king of Iran, and numerous tales and legends.
- It is included in the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Other important festivals
- ‘Me-Dam-Me-Phi’ festival of the Tai Ahom community has been celebrated across Assam with religious fervour and traditional gaiety.
- The Tai-Ahoms offer oblations to their departed ancestors and offer sacrifices to Gods in traditional manner on this day. The Tai-Ahoms believe that their worthy ancestors are still living in the Heaven.
- The Ahom Kings, who ruled Assam for around six hundred years till 1826, performed this annual ‘ancestor worship’ initially at Charaideo, the erstwhile capital of the Ahom Kingdom, now at Sibsagar in Upper Assam.
Khajuraho dance festival
It is a one week long festival of classical dances held annually against the spectacular backdrop of the magnificently lit Khajuraho temples in Madhya Pradesh.
- From 2010 The Khajuraho Festival of Dance is conducted every year the first week of February from the 1st to the 7th.
- This cultural festival highlights the richness of the various Indian classical dance styles such as Kathak, Bharathanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Manipuri and Kathakali with performances of some of the best exponents in the field.
- It takes place at the open-air auditorium in front of the Chitragupta Temple dedicated to the Sun God and the Vishwanatha Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
- It is organized by Culture Department of Madhya Pradesh government and Ustad Allauddin Khan Sangeet and Kala Academy.
Surajkund Crafts Mela
- The Surajkund Crafts Mela is a week long event organized by the Haryana Tourism Department in the month of February in Faridabad since 1981.
- The Surajkund Crafts is an annual event that highlights some of the finest handloom and handicraft traditions of the country.
- Every year, the Surajkund Crafts Mela is planned by selecting a particular Indian state as a theme and entire ambience for the fair is designed accordingly.
- The Karnataka vibrant is the theme state for the year 2013. The craft persons from SAARC Nations are also participating in the Surajkund Crafts Mela.
Lathmaar holi of Barsana in Mathura
- It is a special form of traditional festivity. It is famous and Unique Holi with sticks wherein women beat up men with sticks and men protect themselves with shields.
- It takes place at Barsana near Mathura in the state of Uttar Pradesh and well before the actual Holi celebration.
- The main attraction is Radharani temple.
- Sarhul Festival is one of the most popular tribal festivals in Orissa, Jharkhand, Bengal and Bihar. The meaning of Sarhul is ‘Worship of Sal.’
- It is celebrated on the last day of Baisakh when the Sal trees bloom with flowers.
- The festival has resemblance of another Indian festival of Vasant-mahotsava which is a festival of flowers.
- In Sarhul festival, nature and the soil are worshiped; people worship the mother earth or Dharti Mata as Sita.
- The festival is observed by Mundas, Oraon and Santhal tribal communities, inhabiting in the regions of Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar.
- Traditional Sarhul Dance is also performed during Sarhul festival that lasts for several days.