India is truly known as the ‘Land of Festivals’. With each region and state, comes a beautiful and colourful festival. These not only have religious connotations, but are also backed by scientific facts and occurrences. One such festival is Makar Sankranti. It falls on the 14th of January every year. It commemorates the nothward journey of the sun, when it leaves the Tropic of Cancer to enter the Tropic of Capricorn. Thus the name ‘Makar’, which literally means Capricorn.
Makar Sankranti takes on different flavours in the different regions of India. Let’s us look at some of the unique customs and traditions that are observed on this day.
Buffalo-Fight, Cock-Fight, Bulbuli Sorai(Bulbul Bird) Fights,Tekeli Bhonga(Pot-Breaking) in Assam.
This festival is celebrated as Bhogali Bihu in Assam. Bhogali literally means ‘feast’. Since I come from this beautiful state myself, I really looked forward to this festival (mostly because of the sumptuous feast). On the eve of Makar Sankranti, called Uruka, people organise community feasts. They cook, eat, sing and make merry together. Next day, people offer their prayers to the God of Fire to thank him for the harvesting year. Mostly in the villages, buffalo-fights (known as Moho’r jooj), Bulbuli Sorai Jooj(bird fights) and pot-breaking(tekeli bhonga) events are really popular. Playing of traditional instruments like Dhool(dhol), Pepa(a kind of flute made up of a buffalo horn) are also integral parts of the ceremonies.
Kite-Flying in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh
In Gujarat, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Uttarayan. It is serious business as many kite flying competitions are held. People can be seen in open grounds or on their terraces, challenging other players. An International Kite Festival is also organised on this day.
In Uttar Pradesh too, kite-flying is an intergral part of this festival. Also, khichdi(made of rice and lentils) and Ti(sesame) is eaten and donated on this day.
Wearing Black in Maharashtra
Although wearing black is considered inauspicious amongst married Hindu women, on this day, married Maharashtrian women wear a particular black saree known as ‘Chandrakala’. Sweets such as Til-Gul (sesame and jaggery) are served.
Holy Bath in rivers in West Bengal, Bihar Region and Uttar Pradesh
People in West Bengal, Bihar region and Uttar Pradesh, mark this day by having baths in holy rivers such as Ganga. In places such as Allahabad, people take a dip in the Sangam(culmination of the three rivers: Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati).
Taming Bulls In Tamil Nadu
This festival is called Surya Pongal in Tamil Nadu. In many areas in Tamil Nadu, especially in the villages, money is tied to the horns of the bulls and people are dared to take it off.
Cock-Fights in Andhra Pradesh
This festival is celebrated over four days. The particular days are known as Bhogi, Makar Sankranti, Kanuma and Mukkanuma. Cock-fighting is very popular during these days.
Kale Kauve(black crow) festival in Kumaon Region
Children wear necklaces made of flour and sugar along with an orange in the middle. Portions of this necklace is fed to birds and animals.
Friendship Shackles in Odisha
There is a unique tradition that is observed in this state, during Makar Sankranti. Women tie friendship chain to other women and men to other men. Once two such persons are joined together, they cannot utter each other’s name until the next Makar Sankranti.
Presents for 13 married women.
In Rajasthan and parts of Madhya Pradesh, presents are given to 13 married women. Kite Flying is also quite popular in some parts of Rajasthan.
Festivals such as these symbolise the rich culture, tradition and customs of our land. People get together, share happiness and feasts and spread the cheer. The beauty of such occasions is that the customs and traditions associated with them change with each region and community.
Wishing you all a very happy Makar Sankranti.