(The writer is the Faculty of Geography in Biswanath College.
He can be reached at email@example.com)
A harvest festival is an annual celebration, which occurs around the time of the main harvest of food crops of a given region. Given the regional differences in climates and crops, harvest festivals can be found at various times throughout the world.
India is famously known as the land of festivals, all throughout the world and rightly so. The festivities not only bring people from different backgrounds and ethnicities closer but also turn the country in to an allowing carnival, always having something new to offer to its tourists and visitors.
India is basically an agrarian country with its regions growing different food grains and crops throughout the year. This has given the country its true essence and to celebrate this essence with merriment, various harvest festivals are celebrated in several parts of India during the harvest season. The harvest festivals of India involve customary traditions and joyous celebrations.
Makar Sankranti is one of the most widely celebrated harvest festivals of India. This harvest festival of India is the most celebrated harvest festival in the month of mid-January in whole Northern India. It is also known as Pongal, Uttarayana, Lohri, Khichdi, Shishur Saenkraat, and Magh Bihu in the country. It is celebrated in different parts with different names.
The day of Makar Sankranti is also a major kite-flying festival in Gujrat, where a lot of competitions are held to entertain old and young as well. One of the biggest attractions in the country during Makar Asnkranti is the 'Kumbh Mela' at the confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna.
Makar Sankranti marks the first day of the Sun's movement to Capricorn known as Makara, which further marks the end of short winter day. The foods majority make from sesame seeds, like Til-laddoo, Til Chikki, is enjoyed as the festival along with delicacies, colorful rice cakes etc.
Every year in January, the entire state of Assam showcases enthusiasms and delight in celebrating Bhogali Bihu. The farmers of Assam celebrate and cherish the efforts of cultivation and reap the benefits. It is marked with prayers to God, making of traditional dishes and get-together. The festival is marked by feasts and bonfires. The village people make huts, known as Meji and Bhelaghar from bamboo, leaves and thatch. In Bhelaghar they eat food prepared for the feast, and then burn the hut next morning. On the day of Uruka, women folks get ready for the next day with food items like chira, pitha, laru, card etc. The day of Bihu starts in the morning, bonfires are burnt in fields and people pray to their ancestral Gods for blessings. The bonfires are usually made with firewood, bamboo, hay, and dry banana leaves. People take bath before setting up bonfire, as a tradition. In breakfast and lunch, people consume various traditional dishes, like various fishes, mutton, duck curries with new rice and rice beer. Bhogali Bihu also known as Magh Bihu, this is an exotic and most vibrant name on the list of harvest festivals of India. A lot of delicacies, pithas and cakes are prepared from the variety of Assamese traditional rice newly harvested.
The festival of Lohri is celebrated all over North India, to celebrate the end of winters and beginning of a new harvest season. Lohiri is a famous harvest festival of Punjab that features customary move and tunes. Generally falling the day before Makar Sankranti, people setup huge bonfires and gather around it to perform small rituals and express their gratitude to the Lord. This harvest festival of Punjab is celebrated relatively differently in urban areas on a grander level especially, if there has been a childbirth or marriage in the house.
Nabanna is amongst one of the crop festivals of India, which is famous for paddy plantation harvest. This is one of the most important celebrated traditions of Bengal, where new rice is harvested with sheer joy and stoked at home. Farmers from Bengal cheerfully participate in the harvest ritual in the Bengali month of Agrahayan and offer the first grains to Goddess Lakhmi, while thanking her for all blessings. West Bengal Tourism has taken initiative to welcome tourists from around the country.
Nuakhai is an age old harvest celebration in Odisha. Locally 'Nua' means new and Khai means food. This is not only popular festival in India , but also celebrated to appreciate the passing away of the past evil days, while welcoming new and beautiful with open arms. The festival is also known as Nuakhai Parab.
The festival of Wangala is the merriment of 100 drums played by Gaor Tribes of the northeast India. This is one of the popular harvest festivals of India, marking the onset of winter. During this festival, Sun-God is worshiped with immense devotion and zeal. The women wear their traditional colourful clothes and dance during this harvesting festival, while men rhythmically dram their fingers on the traditional dram pad.
In South India, Pongal is another name for Makar Sankranti, which is celebrated during the same time in various cities of Tamil Nadu. This is a thank-giving celebration, where people express their deep gratitude to nature for the produce of the New Year. This is one of the most colorful honest festivals of India celebrated four days. It is amongst the most popular festivals of Tamil Nadu.
The first day is the Bhogi festival devoted to Lord Indra for an abundance of rain. On the second day, newly harvested rice and milk are cooked outdoor and offered to the Sun-God. The third day is for cattle worship and on the fourth day, Pongal or traditional colored rice is offered with turmeric, betel leaf, and betel-nuts.
Onam festival is a legendary harvest festival of Kerala, celebrated with great enthusiasm in different parts of Kerala. The festival is celebrated 10 days with arrival of Mahabali. To relish the successful harvest, Malayalee people decorate their house entrance with floral Rangoli, wear new traditional clothes, women cook delicious foods and celebrate with traditional music and dance. Traditional Kerala cuisine recipes are offered to guests in traditional green leaf, snake-boat race are exciting to watch for the tourists.
Uagdi is a regional new year celebration for the people of Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka. This harvest festival is considered as auspicious to start new work and venture. On the day, local people take an oil bath, wear traditional cloths, decorate homes, with earthen lamps, Rangoli and perform Ugadi puja at home. The Ugadi delicacies like various cakes are prepared at home.
Harvest festivals are believed to be the oldest form of festivals around the world. They are a way of thanking the nature for bounty it offers in the form of new crops. Since, India is a land of great biodiversity, different states celebrate a large number of harvest festivals. Now the winter season is drawing to close, it is time to reap the harvest and so is the time to celebrate and entertain. For a country largely dependent on agriculture, harvest becomes are of the most important events across the nation India.