TRUE TO its glorious tradition the beginning of ascendance of the Sun and entry into the Northern Hemisphere on Sunday brought a chill giving a sense of déjà vu on Makar Sankranti.
As the minimum temperature dipped below nine degree Celsius, the auspicious day or rather a three-day festivity covering Pongal of south Indian, Makar Sankranti in Hindi heartland and Lohri in Punjab reflected a cosmopolitan culture in the City.
Initially, there was some confusion as to whether Makar Sankranti should be observed on Sunday or Monday as the Sun would move into tropic of Capricorn around midnight on Sunday. But, people in consultation with pundits decided to observe the festival on both days.
In temples where fairs are organised on the occasion and special prayers offered to Lord Shiva, like the Bhojpur temple or the Gufa Mandir, festivities will continue for two days from Sunday.
Special trains for Hoshangabad to let devotees take a dip in holy Narmada will also be available on Monday as well, with the first train leaving Bhopal at 3.45 am. People with Til in their hands took a dip in upper lake and other lakes of the City and offered prayer to Sun God before joining their families and near and dear ones to savour Til Ka Ladoo.
Although kite flying was witnessed in Bhopal too, it was markedly on a lesser scale than previous years. Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly Jamuna Devi also participated in one such festival at Kolar road and also flew kites. Another kite festival was organised at Bhadbhada.
From this day begins the six-month long Uttarayana, considered very auspicious for attaining higher worlds hereafter. While the traditional Indian calendar is basically based on lunar positions, but Sankranti is a solar event, so while dates of all festivals keep changing, the English calendar date of Makar Sankranti is always same.
The Puranas say that on this day Sun visits the house of his son Shani, who is the swami of Makar Rashi. The father and son do not ordinarily get along nicely, but despite of difference the Father comes to his son’s house for a month. This day symbolized importance of special relationship of father & son.
From Uttarayana starts the ‘day’ of Devatas, while dakshinayana is said to be the ‘night’ of devatas, so most of the auspicious things are done during this time. Uttarayana is also called as Devayana, and the next half is called Pitrayana.
Lohri a festival to worship fire is celebrated every year on January 13 with great pomp in North India, specially Punjab. The first Lohri is very important for the newly wed and the new born baby as it marks fertility. At night, people gather around the bonfire and throw til, puffed rice and popcorns into the flames of the bonfire. Prayers are offered to the bonfire seeking abundance & prosperity. People make merry by dancing & singing traditional folk songs.
Tamils observed the day as Pongal, the festival of thanksgiving to God. Special prayers were organised and traditional Tamil delicacies were prepared on the occasion. Shree Ayappa Samaj, Kolar road, celebrated the festival at Jawaharlal Nehru Public School. A large number of people participated in the special pujas performed on the occasion. Bhagawata Parayana and Bhajans were also performed on the occasion.
Pongal is a harvest festival. The farmer cultivating his land depends on cattle, timely rain and the Sun. Once a year, he expresses his gratitude to these during the harvest festival. With the end of the wet month of Margazhi (mid December to mid January) the new Tamil month of Thai heralds a series of festivals.
The first day of this month is a festival day known as `Pongal Day’. Pongal means the ‘boiling over’ of milk and rice during the month of Thai. The four day celebration of Pongal marks a period of plenty, peace and happiness. The Sun is offered a ‘Pongal’ of rice and milk.
Preparations for this festival start early and the first thing that is always found in Hindu homes before the start of Pongal is the ‘kolam’. This is a form of decoration for the Hindus’ homes. This decorative pattern is made with rice flour and is usually drawn on the floor outside the door.
The kolams serve as a symbol of welcoming guests to the entrance of the house. At the centre of the Kolam is a lump of cow-dung, which holds a five-petaled pumpkin flower-a symbol of fertility and an offering of love to the presiding deity.
Houses are cleaned and decorated to prepare for Pongal. For the festival, the Hindus buy new clothes and the ladies of the households prepare sweetmeats. There is also a belief in the Hindus that the harvest festival will bring great wealth and goodness to their homes. All the four days of Pongal have their own significance as separate deities are worshiped each day.
The first day is celebrated as the Bhogi Pongal. The second day is known as ‘Pongal’ the most important day of the entire festival, where prayers are offered to the Sun. The third day is known as Mattu Pongal, the day of Pongal for cows.