Harvests Harmony

From Lohri in the North to Pongal in the South, Uttarayan in the West to Bihu in the East — it is a season that marks new beginnings.
Image used for representational purposes only.
Image used for representational purposes only.Image illustration | Sourav Roy

Pongal,Tamil Nadu

Sandhya Ramesh, student

In my hometown, Villupuram, Pongal is celebrated with traditional rituals for four days. Day one is Bhogi. We burn old furniture, dolls, and wooden boxes, spread warmth, and mark the end of winter. Since I live in an apartment in Chennai, burning is restricted. So, each household burns one piece of cloth behind the flat. For Surya Pongal, usually in the village, we cook Pongal with the first harvest’s rice and worship the Sun god. In the city, it is just a regular day, and when Pongal is cooked in our kitchen, we often spend the day watching TV. The third day is Mattu Pongal. The villagers get together to bathe and decorate the cows by painting their horns, adorning them with anklets and balloons. It’s a beautiful sight. Here, I see cattle owners walk around with their cows. On the last day, Kaanum Pongal, I visit the beach or go to the movies with my friends and family. In my village, we used to pay a visit to our relatives’ houses, but here, we have numerous public places to go to. I would say we have many ways to lift the spirit of our celebration.

MakarSankranti, Andhra Pradesh

Sushma CH, MCA graduate

Makar Sankranti in Andhra Pradesh is a festival marking the end of the winter season and the beginning of harvest season. It is usually celebrated a day before Pongal in Tamil Nadu. The first day is the same as Bhogi, where family members decorate the house with thoranais, painted pots, sugarcanes, and kolams, on which cow manure is sprinkled. This is followed by burning wood, and it is believed that doing this will keep the evil spirit away. But in Chennai, due to the pollution concerns, we don’t celebrate Bhogi. On the second day, friends and family join together to cook Pongal in the front yard, whereas in Chennai, the preparation is done in our kitchen. On the third day, Pandem Kodi (cock fight) is held. The whole town gathers to witness the competition and the winner is announced at the end of the day, similar to Jallikattu. It sets the mood of celebration. This tradition is not followed in Tamil Nadu. So, we spend time with our close ones.

Lohri, Punjab

Jasmindar Rooprang, homemaker

Unlike the Pongal festival here, Lohri is a gathering to share joy when a boy is born and to welcome a new bride into the family. The first celebration after the birth and the wedding is Lal Loi or Lohadi. Sharing this happiness with the neighbourhood, laddoos, boiled corn, channa, peanuts, rabdi, and jaggery from the profit of that year’s sugarcane harvest are distributed. The sugarcanes are also used to prepare kheer. The extracts of sugarcane and rice are cooked together and served. In the evening, family and friends come together to burn cow dung and some wood, in which rice and some poha (flattened rice) are thrown into the fire. Everybody gathers around the fire singing ‘Sundar Mundariye ho!’ and prays for good health. In Chennai, none of these traditions are followed. Instead, female friends and family members meet up to sing and dance. A sangeet-like programme is planned and celebrated.

Sankranti (Karnataka)

Abhishek Bharadwaj, student

Sankranti is a two-day festival of Bhogi and Makar Sankranti with a habbada anveshane (a festive quest). Bhogi welcomes the harvest season. We wake up early and shower by applying sesame seed oil. Following the tradition, fresh rice, jaggery, and lentils are given to the elderly married women. The festival is embraced with the making of kumbla kai, a white pumpkin sweet and sajji roti, a bread of pearl millet with brinjal curry. Sankranti is a day of visiting relatives and sharing delicacies. Every house in Karnataka makes the ellu bella, a mixture of sesame seeds with jaggery and peanuts. These are the ingredients that regulate the oil pigments of the body during the shifting climate. Believed as the homecoming of a goddess, young girls bless people, carrying the ellu bella through the streets. Here in Chennai, instead of ellu bella, we make khara huggi, a dish similar to Pongal, and visit temples seeking blessing from Lord Shiva. We get dressed in dhotis and jubba and cook huggi together.

Uttarayan, Gujarat

Neelam R Shah, homemaker

The jewel of the West, Gujarat celebrates Uttarayan worshipping the Sun god for the onset of summer. The festival is marked by welcoming the sun’s movement towards the northern hemisphere. Water is offered to the Sun deity in a kalash (pitcher), a ritual known as Jal Arpan. It is believed that doing so, especially on this day, keeps us disease-free and blessed. People gather on rooftops for a kite-flying competition, which is followed by savouring snacks — Undhiyu and til ka laddu. Having lived Chennai for the past 20 years, we have found a new way to celebrate the festival to keep our spirits high. Uttarayan is a festival of giving to the less fortunate. As flying kites are not allowed in Chennai, we go to the goshala (cow shed) at Dadawadi, Ayanavaram, to feed the cattle. Being a much-awaited trip for the whole family, we look forward to the day to provide charity and gather with our loved ones while preparing the local delicacies of Gujarat.

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