Saturday, January 16, 2010

Makara Sankranthi Festival

  Makara Sankranti is a major harvest festival celebrated in various parts of India. According to the lunar calendar, when the sun moves from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn or from Dakshinayana to Uttarayana, in mid-January, it commemorates the beginning of the harvest season and cessation of the northeast monsoon in South India. The movement of the earth from one zodiac sign into another is called Sankranti and as the Sun moves into the Capricorn zodiac known as Makar in Hindi, this occasion is named as Makara Sankranti in the Indian context. It is one of the few Hindu Indian festivals which are celebrated on a fixed date i.e. 14th January every year.

All over the country, Makara Sankranti is observed with great fanfare. However, it is celebrated with distinct names and rituals in different parts of the country. In the states of northern and western India, the festival is celebrated as the Sankranti day with special zeal and fervor. The importance of this day has been signified in the ancient epics like Mahabharata also. So, apart from socio-geographical importance, this day also holds a historical and religious significance. As, it is the festival of Sun God and he is regarded as the symbol divinity and wisdom, the festival also holds an eternal meaning to it.

So Jan 14th was Sankranthi festival and I tried my best to follow the traditions here, and like to share what we, South Indians, do on this festival day!

 Pongal,Yellu,Sugarcane, these 3 are the highlights of this festival.  We make sweet pongal, which is also called as "sakkar pongal",and we make Yellu,which has five ingredients in it,peanuts,raw coconut,jaggery,sesame seeds,roasted gram. And since this is the harvesting season we get sugarcane.

  On this auspicious day, young females (kids & teenagers) wear new clothes to visit near and dear ones with a Sankranti offering in a plate, and exchange the same with other families. This ritual is called "Ellu Birodhu." Here the plate would normally contain yellu, bananas,coconut,sugarcane. The plate will also contain sugar candy moulds of various forms (Sakkare Acchu,)  with a piece of sugarcane. This signifies the harvest of the season, since sugarcane is predominant in these parts. In some parts of Karnataka, a newly married woman is required to give away bananas for a period of five years to married women (muthaidhe) from the first year, but increase the number of bananas in multiples of five.

  For yellu making, we need to cut the jaggery into fine pieces,which needs a special kind of scissors,which you can see in the above picture! The raw coconut's black skin is to be scraped and then cut the white raw coconut into fine pieces,as jaggery,with the knife. Peanuts should be dry roasted and the skin has to be taken out. Sesame seeds need to be dry fry,until the aroma arises. And all these has to be mixed with the roasted gram which tastes awesome!

  I tried to keep up the tradition of making yellu and pongal at home and this time we got sugarcane in Patel brothers! Since my 5 years of giving yellu is over, I just gave to 3 of my friends here!

  Well, my friends said that, you have done the festival so nicely not missing out any traditions!! Yeah, may be........but I feel that I missed out something!! The festival day, it was only me,kids,my mother-in-law and my husband celebrated! There was no knocking on doors,no near ones, dear ones, neighbours coming in to give yellu and in return I could have give the yellu and celebrate the festival more colourful by spreading the happiness and joy.......!

 Well, Wishing you all Happy Makara Sankranthi! Hoping that you enjoyed reading about the festival and hoping that you will give a try to make yellu!


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