The new year is already two weeks old and I hope it is going ‘so far so good’ for you.
Growing up in the north and being born into a devout and fairly conservative family, I always had the roots of culture firmly grounded in the soils of my rural background in the northern state of U.P.
We followed all the customary rituals and festivals living in the city like my grandparents did in their native village. Makar Sankranti for us was celebrated the simple old-fashioned way where bajra khichdi was prepared with lots of til and relished with homemade fresh white butter on top and enjoyed with a bite of fresh carrot pickle on the side and season’s freshly made jaggery from our village was savoured as sweet dish. As charity formed an important part of the ritual., we donated til, gud and the dry khichdi ingredients to Pandit ji in our neighbourhood temple and woollens and blankets to the less fortunate.
After getting married into a Maharashtrian family, I was gladsomely introduced to the rich customs of this exceptional state. Makar Sankranti is an important festival here and is commemorated by giving due significance to the harvested seasonal bounties combined with the goodness of traditional ingredients. The season’s first sugarcanes are ready to be harvested during this time of the year and are churned into jaggery and this is why jaggery makes its appearance in almost all the sweets prepared during the period.
A lot of value is given to til (sesame seeds) as tiny powerhouses of heat energy helpful in combating the cold winters. Sesame seeds and jaggery – both are said to be symbols of prosperity. On this ritualistic day, people exchange til guls or tilache ladoo and greet each other by exchanging the customary line: “til-gul ghya, godh godh bola” which means accept these sweets and speak sweet words. The underlying thought is to let go off any harsh feelings towards each other and resolve to speak lovingly and remain friendly. Exchanging these sweets among the community is a sign of goodwill and friendship.
Married women adorn each other;s forehead with haldi-kumkum or turmeric and vermillion powder to celebrate matrimonial bliss. They mostly wear black on this auspicious day. As per Hindu customs and traditions, it is believed that it is inauspicious for married women to wear black but since it is winter, it is worn to keep the body warm and to give importance to the beauty of this otherwise ill-omened colour.
Each region in India has a particular custom associated with Makar Sankranti and its roots can be traced to farming and the harvest season. Makar Sankranti or Pongal in the south, Uttarayan in Gujarat, Lohri in Punjab and Bihu in the East - is the first winter harvest festival of the Hindus. It is dedicated to the Sun God and is believed that from this day on, Sun begins to move towards the northern hemisphere of the earth. Since India lies in the northern hemisphere, this day rather holds a special significance in India. Itis perhaps the only Indian festival whose date falls on the same day every year. This is because the festival date is based on the Solar calendar unlike the other Indian festivals which follow the Lunar calendar.
Hope you have ordered the traditional tilgul ladoos and gul polis (gud rotis) from the flavourful SWAAD KITCHEN.
Enjoy this kite flying festival, spread sweetness and happiness and may the sunshine fill your life with brightness of knowledge and wisdom and warmth of great health and goodness!
HAPPY MAKAR SANKRANTI.
@ Vandana Oke