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Indian Kitchen By Veena
-- Veena Bhavanam

Makara Sankranti or Pongal

04 Jan 02

Hello Everybody,


As the new year begins, lets start to celebrate our first festival which is “Makara Sankranti” or commonly called as “Pongal” in South India. Makara literally means 'Capricorn' and ‘Sankranti’ is the day when the sun passes from one sign of the zodiac to the other and enters the house of Makara. On this day the sun enters the constellation of Makara (Crocodile) and begins to move towards the north. Throughout the year the sun passes through twelve constellations: Mesha (Ram, Aries), Vrishabha (Bull, Taurus), Mithuna (Couple, Gemini), Karka (Crab, Cancer), Sinha (Lion, Leo), Kanya (Girl, Virgo), Tula (Balance, Libra), Vrishchiak (Scorpion), Dhanu (Bow, Sagittarius), Makara (Crocodile, Capricorn), Kumbha (Wateijar, Aquarius), Mina (Fish, Pisces). When the sun does not cross any constellation then there is an extra month called Adhika Mas. The crossing of the Makara constellation takes place in the month of Paush corresponding to the month of January in English.

Makara Sankranti generally falls between 12th and 14th of January of every year.

A very special dish called “Khichadi” is prepared on this occasion with the dal and rice, which is newly harvested. On Sankranti day, til(Sesame Seeds) is given great importance, for in this season it is considered to have special nutritive and medicinal qualities. So in most part of Karnataka a very special savory called “Yellu” is prepared with Till being the main ingredient. Other ingredients include jagerry pieces, peanuts, dry coconut and small sugar cubes. This is prepared with great interest and is distributed to all friends, neighbors and relatives by young girls.

Sankranti is also called as “Pongal” in Tamil Nadu and is celebrated for continuous three days.

First day is Bhogi Pongal, the Pongal of Joy. On this day people exchange visits sweets and presents.

The second day is Surya Pongal. This day is dedicated to Sun, which is the main festival. On this day people get up early in the morning and first have their baths. Married women then put rice to boil in the milk. This is then offered to sun and Lord Ganesh and a portion of it is also given to cows.

On the third day of Pongal the cows and oxen are worshipped. Their horns are painted in various colors and garlands of flowers are hung around their necks.

In Assam, the festival is celebrated as "Bhogali Bihu", and in Punjab it is called "Lohri". In North India, a ritual bath in the river is important on this day. In fact, bathing is considered mandatory on this day, and according to a popular local belief in the hills of Uttar Pradesh, one who does not bathe on Makara Sankranti is born a donkey in his next birth. The belief probably originated in cold climates to compel some of the more reluctant people to observe certain rules of hygiene.

A big fair is held at the confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the Sarasvati rivers at Triveni in Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh) on this occasion. Being the month of Magha, this fair is also called Magha Mela. Apart from Triveni, ritual bathing also takes place at many places like Haridvar and Garh Mukteshwar in Uttar Pradesh, and Patna in Bihar. Since it is also the season to fly kites, the evening sky is awash with colorful kites of all shapes and sizes.

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