Major Festivals in India Celebrated Alongside Bhogali Bihu
Multiple festivals are celebrated by different communities across India on January 14, 15 and 16.
India is a primarily agricultural country, so it is natural that most of the festivals across the country are somewhat related to farming and agriculture. Several festivals are organised on January 13, 14 and 15 in different parts of the country. Some of the major ones are Makar Sankranti across the country, Magh Bihu in Assam, Lohri in Punjab, Pongal in Tamil Nadu and Sankranti in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Makar Sankranti is a festival based on an astronomical event transition of the Sun from the Sagittarius to the Capricorn constellation. It marks the change of season and is organised by worshipping the Sun God. It is an important celebration of the Hindus and the Buddhists. Although it is celebrated in different forms in different parts of the country, Makar Sankranti Melas or Bazars are generally organised in many states.
Traditional Sweets and desserts are the essential cuisines of Makar Sankranti Celebrations across the country. Varieties of kheer, halwa and laddoos are prepared in households and small industries to be sold and consumed during the days of the festival.
Apart from worshipping the Gods, kite flying is also an important part of the celebration, especially in the western part of India. Special prayers and festive meals are common in the eastern states of West Bengal and Odisha.
Magh Bihu is the harvest festival of Assam. After the harvest of paddy and the seasonal vegetables following the local market, the Assamese public celebrates this event by organising feasts and community meals on the eve of Magh Bihu. Because it has to do with food and feasting, another name of this festival is Bhogali Bihu.
People prepare a variety of sweet and savoury Pitha and Laru to be consumed during this festive season. A heavy meal that usually includes a variety of nonvegetarian options including fish, poultry and other meat is prepared for dinner on Uruka. The day of Magh Bihu starts with the lighting of the Meji. Meji is a temporary structure prepared with hay and straw wrapped around a frame prepared from bamboo. People offer their thanks to the gods for a good harvest and pray for the same in the coming year during the event. Offering in form of lentils, sesame and other grains are offered to the fire god during the celebration.
Traditional games are also organised among the children and youth at several parts to mark the event as the women of the families continue the prayers. As the Meji fire dies down, prasad is offered to all the people present before they settle down for a heavy breakfast that usually consists of flattened rice with curd and cream. Jaggery, a variety of pitha and laru and a cup of tea usually go along with this loaded breakfast.
Organised mainly by the Punjabi community in the Northern part of India, Lohri is organised to celebrate the passion of the winter season and welcome the upcoming spring season. It is also an occasion when people meet their family members and celebrate together.
A bonfire is an essential part of the Lohri Celebration. People sing and dance near the fire to mark the occasion while bidding farewell to the winter. Food is also an important part of the celebration. A variety of cuisines including Gajak and Sarson da saag with Makki di roti are often part of the menu with several desserts.
Pongal is the main festival of the Tamil community of India and Sri Lanka. It is celebrated over three or four days to mark the end of the winter solstice. Bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal and Mattu Pongal are the first three days of the festival while some people celebrate the fourth day of Pongal known as Kanum Pongal.
The farmers and agriculturists of the region give their cattle a bath before polishing and colouring their horns on this event. Kolams are prepared with flour as well as different coloured powders in front of doors as a part of the celebration.
Pongal means 'to boil' and that refers to the main food prepared for the event. People boil rice in milk in a small earthen oven using wood, leaves and other natural sources. Jaggery and other ingredients are also added by some people to this festival's special dish.
Visiting places of religious importance and exchanging gifts among relatives are also common activities during the festival.
Sankranti celebration in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana is similar to the celebration in neighbouring Tamil Nadu. The first day of the celebration is Bhogi, a part of the celebration that involves the discarding and burning of several old and useless items present in the household. Bhogi Pallu is a custom of pouring a mixture of fruits, flowers, cash and valuables are poured over the children. The children accept the money and fruits as gifts.
Preparation and consumption of Ariselu, a traditional sweet dish is an essential part of the celebration. Washing and decorating of the livestock, especially cattle is another important part of the celebration of Sankranti. Family reunions and the exchange of gifts are also carried out during the festival.
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