Makar Sankranti: The Festival of Harvest
Every year, the end of January observes the winter solstice and the start of longer days. Since time immemorial, this occasion is celebrated in India and Nepal as the festival of harvest or Makar Sankranti. Also known as Maghi, this festival day is dedicated to the worship of the sun. Unlike most festivals that follow the lunar cycle, Makar Sankranti follows the solar cycle and thus, is celebrated almost on the same day every year. Marking the sun’s transit into the Makara Rashi or Capricorn sign, Makar Sankranti 2021 will be celebrated on the 14th of January.
Makar Sankranti in Karnataka
With the state gearing up for the festivities, “Ellu bella thindu olle mathaadi” is the Kannada saying that will make its rounds. This saying means “eat the mixture of sesame seeds and jaggery and speak good words”. This saying follows a very important tradition called ‘Ellu Birodhu’. Women and children go door-to-door exchanging plates containing a piece of sugarcane, a mixture of sesame seeds and jaggery and candy made out of caramelised sugar. This tradition symbolizes the virtues of sharing and spreading happiness. People also clean their houses, tie mango leaves to the entrances of their homes, wear new clothes and pray to God. The prayers are not only offered at home but also in temples.
Other Activities during Makar Sankranti
The social festivities associated with Sankranti are colourful decorations, singing and dancing, kite flying, bonfires, rangoli making and sometimes even kusti (wrestling). Another age-old ritual in Karnataka is where people adorn their cattle with vibrant costumes and jewels and make them jump across a big pit of fire. This showcase of cattle is locally known as ‘Kicchu Haisodu’. These activities create an atmosphere of cheer and merry-making.
Delicacies of Makar Sankranti
No Indian festival is complete without its special delicacies, such is Makar Sankranti. Pongal, a dish of rice mixed with boiled milk and sugar is a treat prepared by all during this festival. Other festive dishes include lemon and tamarind rice, vadas, vegetable gravies and Payasa (a sweet rice pudding).
‘To be grateful for the land on which our food grows and to unite and rejoice’ is the essence of Sankranti. This festival brings forth generosity, harmony, gratitude and love among people.