India is a land of diverse culture, traditions, and festivals, where people are divided on varied religions and still united harmoniously over festivals and their celebrations with the same zeal and enthusiasm.
Indian festivals are celebrated state-wise, religion-wise, and community-wise. Entering into the New Year 2022 with joy, hope, and an abundance of positivity brings the cause for celebration through festivals.
Let’s have a look at the cultural festivals of India – Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Lohri and Bihu – that are going to be celebrated in January 2022 across different regions of the country:
1. Makar Sankranti
It is one of the major festivals celebrated all over India. The tradition of celebrating the festival may differ across India, but the essence of the festival remains the same. This festival is determined based on the solar calendar which marks the beginning of the new harvest season.
Makar Sankranti is dedicated to Lord Sun when the sun enters the Makar Rashi (Capricorn Zodiac). It marks the beginning of Hindu month Magh. The day of Makar Sankranti is considered to be an auspicious day for Hindus when taking a holy dip at the confluence of Ganga and Jamuna called Sangam is considered to be a holy ritual for the forgiveness of past sins.
Makar Sankranti is also marked by the kite flying festival and the ritual of eating peanuts and sesame seeds. Makar Sankranti is celebrated with different names across India like Uttarayan in Gujarat, Makara Sankramana in Karnataka, Sankranti in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, etc.
In Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, Sankranti is celebrated for four days. The certain rituals that are followed during each of the four days are as below:
Day 1 – Bhogi which is also known as Bhogi Pandigai
Day 2 – Makara Sankranti which is known as Pedda Panduga in Andhra Pradesh and Pongal in Tamil Nadu
Day 3 – Kanuma Panduga in Andhra Pradesh and Mattu Pongal in Tamil Nadu
Day 4 – Mukkanuma in Andhra Pradesh and Kaanum Pongal in Tamil Nadu
Lohri is a winter folk festival celebrated primarily in the Punjab region of the Indian Subcontinent by Sikhs and Hindus on the night before Makar Sankranti. Lohri festival marks the ending of the winter season and the beginning of the harvest season of rabi crops. The night of Lohri is the longest night of the year which is known as the winter solstice.
People gather at a commonplace and set a huge bonfire with sweets and delicacies to eat and enjoy together. No Lohri festival is ever complete without people dancing their hearts out n traditional folklore and moves of Bhangra and Gidda.
In Punjab, people celebrate by eating sheaves of roasted corn from the new harvest. Gur rewri, peanuts, and corns have their significance in this festival. Traditionally people eat sweetened rice with sesame seeds, makki roti, and saag on this auspicious festival.
Date: Thursday, 13 Jan 2022
Now we know that Makar Sankranti is celebrated all over India with different names, Pongal is one of them. Pongal is celebrated in Tamil Nadu which marks the entry of the sun to the tropic of Capricorn (Makar Rashi) from the Tropic of Cancer. The festival is celebrated by worshipping gods and seeking their blessings for a prosperous future.
Bhogi or Bhogi Pandigai is the first day of one of the Pongal Celebrations. Bhogi is a festival preceding the day of Makar Sankranti day of the year, more popular in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the celebration of which festival dates back more than 1000 years. Primarily, Bhogi celebrations revolve around building the bonfire popularly known as Bhogimantalu, wherein people come together to make the fire with wood and old things that are no longer in use and set it ablaze on the night before Pongal.
This symbolizes letting go of the bad past and unfolding the new and bright future. They also burn agricultural waste in the bonfires and women decked in new clothes sing songs and make offerings to the Sun God and Mother Earth with sandalwood paste and kumkum.
In many Telugu families in Andhra and Telangana, kids between the age group of three to six are showered with Indian jujube fruit known as Regi Pallu. Children are dressed up in colourful traditional attires, especially the girls, for the occasion. A potpourri of Regi Pallu, Senagalu (soaked and drained black grams), flower petals (particularly Marigold), pieces of sugarcane, jaggery and coins are showered on them. It is believed that the ritual of Bhogi Pallu protects children from the evil eye, bless the children with goodness and long life.
On Bhogi day and the following three days, the homes will wear a festive look, front yards decorated with rangoli, in the midst of which yellow flowers (marigold) are kept, to give fragrances and colour. Sugar Cane plants are tied in front of the house, so also the green plants with the roots of turmeric, indicating the sweetness and auspiciousness of the season.
The second day of the festival is on the day of Sakranti known as Thai Pongal. It is basically a harvesting festival or it can be considered as the ‘thanksgiving’ festival because this festival is celebrated to thank the Sun God and Lord Indra for helping farmers in getting better-yielding crops.
Hence, it is the main festival dedicated to the worship of Lord Surya. Traditionally freshly cooked rice (Pongal) cooked at sunrise in an open place is first offered to Lord Sun and then served to the family and friends present in the home for ritual on banana leaves.
The third day is celebrated as Mattu Pongal, where cattle are decorated and worshipped for the parts played by them in the agricultural process. The Pongal offered to God is then offered to cattles and birds as a thanksgiving.
Date: Friday, 14 Jan 2022
Bihu is one of the major festivals celebrated in the north-eastern state of Assam. Bihu is celebrated as the set of three festivals which are Bohag Bihu, Kati Bihu, and Magh Bihu. However, Bohag Bihu is celebrated in April as the Spring festival and Kati Bihu is an animistic festival observed in October.
Magh Bihu is celebrated in the month of January marking the beginning of harvest season. It is also known as Bhogali Bihu, where “Bhog” means eating and that’s what the festival is about, feasting with the community and bonfires known as “Meji”. Later the next day the ashes of the Meji are scattered on the agricultural lands to endure their fertility. During the festival, the people make sweets of coconut called Lura rice cakes which are known by different names like Sunga Pitha, Til Patha, etc.
Date: Friday, 14 Jan 2022