Festive vibes as India celebrates Makar Sankranti, Lohri, Bihu and Pongal

In pictures: Festive spirit as India celebrates Makar Sankranti, Lohri, Bihu and Pongal

In pictures: Makar Sankranti lohri bihu pongal uttarayan food and festivities from across India 30 stades

The New Year heralds a whole new festival calendar in India. The Sun’s northward journey coincides with the harvest season, which is celebrated as Makar Sankranti, Lohri, Pongal, Ghughuti, Uttarayan and Bihu in various parts of the country.

Lohri is the first of the festivals, celebrated on January 13 when families and communities get together to feast, sing and dance around holy bonfire and thank Mother Nature for its bounty. Though the festival has its roots in Punjab and Haryana, Lohri is celebrated across the country now.

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It marks the end of the winter solstice, and provides respite from the biting cold in north India as days get longer and warmer. It is believed that Lohri is derived from the words til (sesame) and rohri (jaggery) and was originally called tilohri which over time got corrupted to Lohri.

Children visit houses in their locality and collect contribution for the bonfire. Sarson ka saag, makki ki roti and roh di kheer (rice pudding prepared with sugarcane juice) are the traditional items made on the day. Jaggery, sesame, peanuts, gajak and popcorn are the customary snacks eaten around the bonfire. These are also thrown into the bonfire as offerings to the Fire God for blessings. The bonfire signifies burning old conflicts, bitterness, jaded thoughts and ideas and celebrates fresh beginnings.

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The day after Lohri is called Maghi or Makar Sankranti, celebrated on January 14 or 15, when the Sun moves into the Makar or Capricorn constellation. Sankranti is considered an auspicious day for all rituals. The day honours Surya or the Sun God for bestowing his energy and enabling life on earth.

People take a dip in the holy rivers and offer prayers to the Sun. In many states, melas are organised and people give daan (charity). The festival, celebrated across India, is known by different names like Makar Sankranti in Rajashan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, Ghughuti in Uttarakhand, Pousha Sankranti in Bengal and the North East, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Makara Vilakku in Kerala, Magh Bihu in Assam, Maghi in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh and Uttarayan in Gujarat.

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People clean their houses, make rangolis (colourful designs on the floor) and pray to the Sun god. In Maharashtra and Goa, women apply haldikumkum (turmeric and vermilion) on each other’s foreheads.

In Uttar Pradesh, khichdi of black urad dal and rice is made as the Sun, represented by rice, meets his son Saturn (Shani), the ruler of Capricorn, represented by the black lentil. Khichdi is served with various accompaniments like dahi bhallas, potato mash, pickles and dollops of ghee. In Bihar, the main breakfast is dahi-chuda (curd mixed with soaked puffed rice, jaggery and dry fruits).

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In Rajasthan and Gujarat, the night time sky on Sankranti is lit with hundreds of tukals or sky lanterns. In Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa, laddoos made of jaggery and sesame (til ke laddoo), halwa, pooran poli, gajka, chikki and dal pakodi are made.

In Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, til-gud laddoos, sweet pongal, payasam or rice pudding, lemon rice, vadas poornalu (made by dipping jaggery and chana dal balls into rice and urad dal batter and frying), and appalu (sweet made with jaggery and rice flour) are part of the feast.

Makar Sankranti is also marked by kite-flying. Hundreds of colourful kites of different shapes and sizes take to the skies as people spend the entire day on their terraces, flying kites and enjoying dishes prepared for Sankranti. Here’s the festival in pictures from across India:

Lohri is a harvest festival with roots in Punjab and Haryana. Pic: Flickr
Lohri is a harvest festival with roots in Punjab and Haryana. Pic: Flickr
Rewadi, gajak, peanuts are eaten around Lohri bonfire. Pic: Flickr
Rewadi, gajak, peanuts are eaten around Lohri bonfire. Pic: Flickr
Roh di kheer - rice pudding in sugarcane juice - is made on Lohri. Pic: Flickr
Roh di kheer – rice pudding in sugarcane juice – is made on Lohri. Pic: Flickr

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Sarson ka saag and makki ki roti is another Lohri dish though it is eaten throughout winters. Pic: Flickr
Sarson ka saag and makki ki roti is another Lohri dish though it is eaten throughout winters. Pic: Flickr
Taking a dip in holy rivers is considered auspicious on Makar Sankranti. Pic: Flickr
Taking a dip in holy rivers is considered auspicious on Makar Sankranti. Pic: Flickr
Khichdi with curd and other accompaniments is made in Uttar Pradesh. Pic: Flickr

Khichdi with curd and other accompaniments is made in Uttar Pradesh. Pic: Flickr

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Bihar's breakfast on Sankranti - curd, puffed rice, jaggery and fruits. Pic: Flickr
Bihar’s breakfast on Sankranti – curd, puffed rice, jaggery and fruits. Pic: Flickr
Kite flying is at its peak on Sankranti across India. Pic: Flickr
Kite flying is at its peak on Sankranti across India. Pic: Flickr
People gather on rooftops and compete with their kites. Pic: Flickr
People gather on rooftops and compete with their kites. Pic: Flickr

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 In Rajasthan and Gujarat, the evening sky on Sankranti is lit with tukals or sky lanterns. Pic: Flickr
In Rajasthan and Gujarat, the evening sky on Sankranti is lit with tukals or sky lanterns. Pic: Flickr
Pongal is the harvest festival of Kerala and Tamil Nadu when fresh harvest is offered to the Gods. Pic: Wikimedia
Pongal is the harvest festival of Kerala and Tamil Nadu when fresh harvest is offered to the Gods. Pic: Wikimedia
Women make rangolis using rice flour and colours. Pic: Wikimedia
Women make rangolis using rice flour and colours. Pic: Wikimedia

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Til-gud laddoos are eaten in every household. Pic: Flickr
Til-gud laddoos are eaten in every household. Pic: Flickr
Sweet pongal is made using jaggery, rice and nuts. Pic: Flickr
Sweet pongal is made using jaggery, rice and nuts. Pic: Flickr
In Assam, Bihu dance is an integral part of Maghi Bihu celebrations. Pic: Flickr
In Assam, Bihu dance is an integral part of Maghi Bihu celebrations. Pic: Flickr
People get together for community feasts during the festival. Pic: Flickr
People get together for community feasts during the festival in Assam. Pic: Flickr

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