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Indian Harvest Festivals: Sankranti, Pongal, Lohri


India  •  15 Jan, 2024  •  84,442 Views  •  ⭐ 2.7

Written by Shivani Chourasia


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Embark on a journey through the rich tapestry of India's harvest festivals, a kaleidoscope of cultural and spiritual celebrations that paint a vivid picture of the nation's heritage. Prominent among these are Makar Sankranti, Pongal, and Lohri, each a harbinger of the transition from the chilly embrace of winter to the welcoming warmth of the coming months. Intricately tied to the sun's northward sojourn, these festivals are deeply rooted in Hindu cosmology and are celebrated with fervour across the subcontinent. While typically observed on January 14th, the leap year phenomenon shifts the festivities to January 15th in years like 2024, adding a unique rhythm to the annual calendar.

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The Astronomical Significance

SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook messages to wish Lohri, Makar Sankranti, Pongal
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These festivals hold a special place in the astronomical landscape of India. The Earth’s elliptical orbit around the Sun, along with its axial tilt, brings about the change in seasons. The Northern Hemisphere, where India is located, experiences the sun tilting towards it in June and away in December, marking the solstices.

Celebrating the Seasonal Shift

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Makar Sankranti and Pongal symbolize the end of winter’s dormancy. The northward movement of the sun, or Uttarayan, is believed to bring longer days, signalling a time of activity and renewal.

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Rituals and Customs: Honoring the Sun and Nature

Pongal Festival 2020 - South Tourism Blog
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Devotees engage in various rituals such as holy baths, offerings to the Sun deity, charity, and ancestral rites during the auspicious period of Punya Kaal. If Makar Sankranti occurs post-sunset, these activities are deferred to the following sunrise.

Sacred Bathing: A Ritual for Purification and Prosperity

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Pilgrims flock to sacred rivers like the Ganges and Yamuna for a ritualistic bath at dawn, a practice thought to wash away sins and bring about a period of peace and affluence.

Unique Regional Celebrations Across India

Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Lohri 2024 dates: List of winter harvest festivals  - Hindustan Times
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  • Pongal in Tamil Nadu: A Festival of Cleansing and Cooking: The festival starts with house cleaning and doorway decorating with kolams. Special dishes like Pongal, a rice, milk, and sugar concoction, are prepared.
  • Karnataka's Tradition of Kind Words and Sesame Seeds: The local saying, promoting the consumption of sesame-jaggery mix and speaking kindly, encapsulates the tradition of 'Ellu Birodhu'.
  • Northern India's Festive Flavors: Sesame Sweets and Kite Flying: Distribution of sesame-jaggery sweets and engaging in kite-flying are prevalent, with Ahmedabad hosting an annual International Kite Festival.
  • Bihar's Khichdi: Culinary Delights and Bonfires: The eponymous festival dish is prepared and enjoyed amidst communal bonfires.
  • Punjab's Lohri: A Night of Fire and Festivity: Bonfires, where snacks like peanuts and popcorn are offered to the flames, mark this celebration.

The Significance of Offering and Cultural Diversity

Different cultures, one country: Pongal, Lohri and Makar Sankranti  celebrated across India
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Offerings to the Sun god, charitable acts, and performing spiritual activities are essential aspects of these festivals, signifying gratitude and devotion. These festivals are a beautiful tapestry of India’s cultural diversity and unity. Each region, with its unique customs and traditions, contributes to the rich mosaic of Indian culture. From the colourful kolams in Tamil Nadu to the vibrant kite flying in Gujarat, each practice reflects the local ethos and communal spirit.

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Conclusion

The festivals of Makar Sankranti, Pongal, and Lohri transcend mere seasonal markers, embodying the profound spiritual and cultural ethos of India. They are not just occasions for celebration but are pivotal in reinforcing the bonds of community, showcasing the diverse yet harmonious fabric of Indian society. Each festival, with its distinctive rituals, foods, and customs, serves as a window into the nation's rich cultural diversity. As they bring together people from all walks of life in a shared spirit of joy and renewal, these festivals underscore the timeless nature of India's cultural heritage, weaving together past, present, and future in an enduring tapestry of unity amidst diversity.


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