Significance of Pongal, Makar Sankranti, Lohri, Tusu, Uttarayan, Bihu, Makaravilakku – Why is it celebrated on 14th Jan
One of the many great things about India is that people of different cultures, castes, and races have been co-existing for ages beautifully. Because of the presence of people from different religions and castes, India gets to celebrate loads of festivals, one or more surely in each month of the year.
It wouldn’t be wrong to call India the land of festivals. Apart from the different gorgeous festivals that we get to celebrate here, there is one special day in the entire year on which lots of festivals are celebrated. That day is none other than the 14th/15th of January of every year. On this day, not one, not two, but a lot of festivals are celebrated. Festivals of almost people of every caste and religion belonging to the country happen on this day and are celebrated with extreme zeal and happiness.
On the 14th/15th of January, we have festivals like Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Bihu, Vaisakhi, Tusu, Uttarayan, Makaravilakku, and even a few more. All these festivals belong to the different castes of people living in India. For Makar Sankranti is a festival for people living in West Bengal, Maharashtra, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, etc. Tusu is a regional festival for the people living in Jharkhand. Uttarayan is a festival celebrated by the people living in Gujarat and Maharashtra and is mostly a Gujarati festival. Pongal is a South Indian festival.
Lohri is a festival celebrated grandly in Punjab and among Punjabis all over the world. Bihu is a festival celebrated by the people of East India or North East India. Makaravilakku is the harvest festival of the people of Kerala. All these festivals are celebrated in different ways as per the culture of the different castes and religions.
This one day is one of the most colourful and interesting days in India because different parts of the country are enjoying different festivals. Also, a unique thing is that all places of the country have people of all religions residing there so even one place witnesses different festivals being celebrated. This is the beauty of our country.
Most of us know the importance and the role these festivals play in our tradition but for the ones who aren’t completely aware of it, we bring a detailed story for you.
Let us see the significance of these festivals and the traditions associated with them.
Makar Sankranti is set by the solar cycle and it corresponds to the exact time of the astronomical event of the Sun entering Capricorn and is observed on a day that usually falls on 14 January of the Gregorian calendar, but on 15 January in leap years. Makar Sankranthi is associated with the harvest of winter crops. Makar Sankranti is the very first grand festival celebrated in India as per the English calendar and is one of the universally celebrated Hindu festivals. It is a festival of harvesting the rabi crops. This day marks the first day of the sun’s transition into the sun sign Capricorn or Makara in Hindi. The festival is dedicated to the Sun God.
There are different ways in which this festival is celebrated in the entire country. But, some prominent things observed everywhere are eating Til k Laddoo, moori k laddoo, Khichdi, and curd poha. People also wear new clothes on this day and visit temples and go to take a dip in the holy rivers as a part of the tradition.
On Makar Sankranthi, most people wear black clothes as well because this day is marked as the coldest day of the winter and the black colour absorbs all the heat in contrast to other colours.
Pongal is a very important festival celebrated by South Indians all over the world. The festival is a celebration to thank Lord Sun, Lord Indra, Mother Nature and the various farm animals that help to contribute to a bountiful harvest. This festival is also associated with the harvest of winter crops. Pongal is celebrated over four days and it marks the beginning of the Tamil month called Thai, which is considered an auspicious month. The three days of the Pongal festival are called Bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal, and Mattu Pongal. Some Tamils celebrate a fourth day of Pongal known as Kanum Pongal.
Pongal is also the name of a rice-based dish, which is prepared for this festival. This is the major tradition of the festival and everyone celebrating devours this dish. Activities like decorating cows and their horns, ritual bathing and processions, offering prayers in the home, and temples, getting together with family and friends, and exchanging gifts are done on this day. Different things are done on all the different days of this festival.
One prominent thing that people do throughout the celebration is that they reject old possessions and welcome new ones. This festival is a marking of new beginnings.
Lohri marks the passing of the winter solstice. It marks the end of winter. This festival is a traditional way to welcome the longer days and the sun’s journey to the northern hemisphere by people in the northern region of the Indian subcontinent. This festival is very important for the farmers. The first Lohri is considered very auspicious for a new bride and a newborn baby, as it marks fertility.
On the day of Lohri, Til and rorhi (jaggery) are eaten as traditional festive foods. The words til and rorhi together make ’tilorhi’, which eventually got rechristened Lohri and this is how the festival was named. As per the traditional belief, these foods are eaten to cleanse our bodies and instil renewed vigour as we step into a seasonal change.
On Lohri, a bonfire is a must. People gather around the bonfire in new clothes and sing and dance to folklore. The bonfire symbolises Lord Agni. People offer food to Lord Agni by placing the food on the bonfire and then they seek blessings, prosperity and happiness from him. It is also believed that if one walks around the fire on Lohri, it helps in bringing prosperity. Lohri is a fun-filled night around the bonfire.
Uttarayan is another festival celebrated on this day in India. This festival is majorly celebrated by Gujaratis all over the world. Hence, it is an important festival in Gujarat. The festival of Uttarayan marks the day when winter begins to turn into summer. This festival is a sign for the farmers that the sun is back and that harvest season, Makara Sankranti/Mahasankranti, is approaching. The motion of the sun transitioning from south to north is called Uttarayana (the sun is moving towards north). Once the sun reaches north, it begins moving south and is called Dakshinayana – the sun is moving towards south. This causes seasons which are dependent on equinoxes and solstices.
The most common activity of Uttarayan is flying kites. Just like on Diwali, there is a tradition of bursting crackers and on Holi, there is a tradition of applying colours, on Uttarayan, there is a tradition of flying kites. But, there is a traditional belief behind this as well. It is believed that on this day, the gods awaken from their six-month-long slumber and handmade kites are flown as an act of gratitude to them for bringing good luck and prosperity. Major kite festivals and competitions are organised these days at this festival and the sky is filled with colourful kites all over.
People also consider doing donations, charities, yagyas, austerities, marriages, mundan, etc. as these are considered auspicious if done on this day.
Tusu is majorly celebrated in the Southwest of West Bengal, Southeast of Jharkhand, Northeastern Odisha and Assam. This festival is also related to crop harvesting and worshipping of the harvest. People worship Goddess Tusu or Goddess Tusmani at this festival. The word ‘ tusu’ is believed to have its origin in the Bengali word for rice bran which is ‘tush’. The Goddess Tusu is visualized as a young girl and a cosmic goddess. The rituals performed in the Tusu Puja revolve around tribal devotional songs sung by women folk and around the harvest. Tusu also means the final or highest position of the sun.
In Jharkhand and most of the tribal zone areas, there are processions, fairs, and melas organised on this day around the rivers which are called Tusu mela. People visit these melas to have a fun time.
The Kurmi tribal community is also famous for doing the tribal dance on the Tusu festival and this dance is famously called as Tusu dance. This dance is the celebration of the arrival of an auspicious and pleasant season. Roti pitha, gud pitha, mudhi lai and tilkut are the famous food items devoured on this festival.
The people of the North East celebrate the Bihu festival. Farmers from Assam thank the gods for abundance and healthy crops. This festival is celebrated for 7 long days. The different activities involved in this festival are bonfires, Assamese games like pot breaking, egg fights, buffalo fights and more. Each day of the seven days includes different activities. The Bohag Bihu marks the New Year at the advent of seeding time, the Kati Bihu marks the completion of sowing and transplanting of paddies, and the Magh Bihu marks the end of the harvesting period.
Pitha, a sweet rice pancake or dumpling is the major item that is devoured on this festival. Different types of pittas are made like jaggery pitha, til pitha, Gila pitha, nariyal pitha, and more. Another Bihu special is Laai Xaak Khaar, a sabzi made of mustard greens, Khar (baking soda) and spices.
The other food items prepared and devoured on this festival are Xaak, a green leafy vegetable preparation made with colocasia leaves, fiddlehead ferns, aloo pitika (mashed potato topped with coriander leaves, onion and green chillies), masor Tenga (tangy fish curry made with souring agents like local limes, tomatoes or the elephant apple), and mangsho (mutton curry), and payokh (rice pudding). People also sing and dance to the Bihu songs.
This is a traditional festival of Kerala and all the Keralites living all over the world. Thousands of devotees take an arduous pilgrimage in the days leading up to the festival on 14 January while following a strict diet throughout. People only eat Satvik Bhojan throughout this diet. Consuming rice is limited to once a day and no meat or addictive substances are consumed during this time.
A local dish called puzhukku is prepared and devoured on this day. Aravana payasam is another famous delicacy prepared on this day and it is a dessert made by boiling one portion of rice with four portions of jaggery.
So, now we all got to know about the significance of these festivals. The common thing about all these festivals is that they mark the end of the winter and the beginning of the harvest season. In all these festivals, Sun God and Mother Earth are worshipped in different ways. It is one of the most enjoyable days in India for sure. It is truly a unique experience to see how people from different cultures come together to celebrate the same thing but in different ways as per their traditional beliefs.
One of the many great things about India is that people of different cultures, castes, and races have been co-existing for ages beautifully. Because of the presence of people from different religions and castes, India gets to celebrate loads of festivals, one or more surely in each month of the year. It wouldn’t be wrong…