By Raj Agrawal
India is a nation that thrives on the motto of ‘unity in diversity. In this multicultural land, people from diverse communities live together. There is a well-known saying that “coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success”. And if this saying was to be personified, it would be India. The prime example of the Indian version of ‘unity in diversity is seen in the month of January when we celebrate three different festivals of three different states consecutively! These festivals are- Lohri. Pongal and Makar Sankranti.
Have you wondered why these three festivals are celebrated so closely with each other? Have you ever pondered whether this is a mere coincidence or is there a thread connecting them with each other? If not, then SKCF is here to enlighten you! Let’s get to know what each of the three festivals is about!
Image source – https://www.india.com/festivals-events/lohri
Celebrated on the 13th of January Every year, Lohri marks the end of the winter solstice and the beginning of a new cropping season. It extends a traditional welcome to longer days and celebrates the sun’s journey to the northern hemisphere. The big cultural festival is celebrated mainly by Punjabis but the fervor of it is seen throughout India including Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, and the Jammu region since Mughal times. On the day of the festival, people gather and light bonfires, eat festive food including popcorn, puffed rice, and so on, dance, and share gifts. Lohri rituals are performed, with the special Lohri songs. Sarson da saag and Makki di roti are usually served as the main course at a Lohri dinner.
Some folk tales also suggest that Lohri is celebrated in the memory of the legendary hero Dulla Bhatti. Also known as the son of Punjab, Dulla Bhatti is said to have fought fearlessly and fiercely against the Mughal emperors. However, there is no trace of this personality in the historical records. He exists only in the oral history of Punjabi culture and is considered an unsung hero of his time. Another legend associates this festival with the tale of Prahalad.
Pongal is one of the most important festivals celebrated in South India by Tamil Indians in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Puducherry in India. It is also known as the Thai Pongal and is a four-day long festival. This year it is beginning from the 14th of January and the celebrations will conclude on the 17th of January. The reason behind this festival is similar to that of Lohri. Pongal marks the end of harvesting season and is celebrated to pay gratitude to the Hindu solar god “Surya dev” for granting them a good agricultural season. The four days of the Pongal festival are Bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal, Mattu Pongal and Kaanum Pongal.
The festival begins on the day of Bhogi Pongal. On this day people clean their houses and surroundings and decorate them with a festive look. In the ceremony called Bhogi Pallu, many fruits such as Regi pallu and sugar cane are collected along with flowers during the winter season. Money is often given to the children.
Surya Pongal – also known as Suryan Pongal or Perum Pongal, is the second and main festive day and is dedicated to the God Sun or Surya dev. The day is celebrated with family and friends. Celebrators prepare the Pongal dish in the open space with a view of the sun.
Maatu or Mattu Pongal is celebrated after the day of Surya Pongal. The day is devoted to Mattus meaning cattle or cow as locals believe that they are the sources of wealth for providing dairy products among other things.
The fourth day marks the end of this festival on which the family and community sit together and strengthen their bond. Traditional meals are served in the chirping atmosphere of talks and festivities. On this day, often, traditional folk dance is also presented.
Pongal is also the name of a sweet dish of rice boiled in milk and jaggery that is ritually consumed on this day and is believed to bring good luck. The day is celebrated by making this sweet dish named Pongal. First, it is offered to the God and Goddess to seek their blessings and then served to the family members.
Image source – https://www.hindustantimes.com/more-lifestyle/happy-makar-sankranti
Makar Sankranti. also called Uttarayana is celebrated on the 14th of January every year. On this day people take a dip in the holy rivers like Yamuna and Ganga. Just like Pongal, the festival of Makar Sankranti is also dedicated to the Lord Sun or Surya as this day marks the entry of the sun in the zodiac sign of Capricorn. A shared cultural practice found amongst Hindus of various parts of India in this festival is making sticky, mouth-watering sweets particularly from sesame and a sugar base such as jaggery. On the day of Makar Sankranti people usually fly kites and pray to god for success and prosperity in their life.
So, aren’t you amazed? Three different festivals of three different parts of India are closely connected with each other. Isn’t it fascinating? We Indians have more in common than we believe it to be. All we need is a curious and open mind. In the end, India is a nation where every festival is celebrated with joy and excitement.