India’s Winter Autumn Festival with many names

India’s Winter Autumn Festival with many names

The festival is celebrated to mark the beginning of the harvest season in the country and is probably the only one celebrated in all regions of India, on the same day, but with different manners and names

India is popularly known as the land of festivals and January 14 is particularly festive as different parts of the country celebrate the harvest festival under different names.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday greeted people on the occasion of these festivals associated with the harvest and the journey of the sun to the north, which were celebrated in different parts of the country.

Lohri Makar Sankranti Pongal and Bhogali Bihu India's Winter Autumn Festival with many names

Image credit: News18

We take a look at the different festivals that India celebrates today and the importance of an autumn festival.

Autumn parties

An autumn feast is a celebration of the food grown on the land. Due to the difference in climate and crops around the world, harvest festivals can be found at different times in different places.

In Britain, harvest festivals have been celebrated since pagan times. Autumn festivals are held in September or October depending on local tradition.

Autumn festivals in Asia include the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the most widespread autumn festivals in the world.

In Iran, Mehrgan was celebrated in an extravagant style in Persepolis.

Jews celebrate the week-long autumn festival Sukkot in the fall.

In India, Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Uttarayana, Lohri and Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu are celebrated in January, while Vaisakhi is celebrated in April and Onam is celebrated in August-September.

Lohri was celebrated in Punjab and the northern parts of India

Lohri Makar Sankranti Pongal and Bhogali Bihu India's Winter Autumn Festival with many names

People fly kites on the occasion of the Lohri festival in Amritsar. AFP

Observed by both Hindus and Sikhs in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Union Territory Jammu and Kashmir, Lohri traditionally marks the last of the coldest days of winter, and is therefore a festive welcome of longer days.

It marks the beginning of the harvest season.

Places like Ludhiana, Amritsar, Delhi, Chandigarh also celebrate this vibrant apartment with much enthusiasm and drive. To overcome the chills of winter, families gather around a campfire, sing together and have fun in the evenings.

Makhana, gajjak and rewri are offered by the fire and are also enjoyed by people as the festival’s most important prasad.

Some believe that the word Lohri comes from ‘loh’, which is a large iron belt where chapatis and rotis are made. Lohri therefore honors the grain from which these loaves are made.

Others believe Lohri is remembered for Dulla Bhatti, who was known as a Robin Hood figure during the Mughal Empire when he stole from the rich and gave to the poor.

Makar Sankranti

Lohri Makar Sankranti Pongal and Bhogali Bihu India's Winter Autumn Festival with many names

People buy sugar cane, which is widely used during the Makar Sankranti harvest festival, at a wholesale market in Bengaluru. The importance of sugar cane is also characterized by the fact that life is a mixture of both good and evil, pain and ecstasy, bitter and sweet. AFP

Referring to the Sanskrit term sankramana, which means “to begin to move”, Makar Sankranti is a sun holiday, denoting the sun’s northward transition to Makar (Capricorn) on its celestial path.

It is the oldest and most colorful harvest festival in India. It is also the most famous autumn festival in North India.

Observers usually fly kites, as a metaphor for someone hovering and jumping through life.

Pongal and Tamil Nadu

Lohri Makar Sankranti Pongal and Bhogali Bihu India's Winter Autumn Festival with many names

A devotee makes sweet dishes on the occasion of the Pongal Festival. PTI

Pongal is another name for Makar Sankranti and is celebrated in Tamil Nadu.

In Tamil, pongal translates to “spill over”, and then the festival gets its name from the tradition of cooking rice in a pan until it starts to overflow.

Pongal also happens to be the name of a dish consumed during this festive time, which is sweetened rice cooked with lentils. The festivities therefore often include cooking the season’s first rice with milk and jaggery (a cane sugar).

Pongal is a four-day festival where the first day is dedicated to Lord Indra for an abundance of rain. On the second day, freshly harvested rice and milk are prepared outdoors and sacrificed to the Sun God.

The third day is for the worship of cattle, and on the fourth day Pongal or traditional colored rice is offered with turmeric, betel leaves and betel nuts.

Bhogali Bihu and Assam

Lohri Makar Sankranti Pongal and Bhogali Bihu India's Winter Autumn Festival with many names

Villagers participate in community fishing as part of the Bhogali Bihu festivities in the village of Panbari, east of Guwahati in Assam. AP

The whole state of Assam shows enthusiasm and joy in celebrating Bhogali Bihu.

The celebration starts the night before with Uruka – the community party.

On the day of Bihu, the mejis or pavilion made of clay and hay are burned. Local women wear amazing mekhlas and participate in group songs and dance.

Also known as Magh Bihu, this is a lively festival marked in the east.

With input from agencies

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