Monday, October 18, 2021

Happy End to Winter!

Whether it’s called Uttarayan, Lohri, Pongal or Bihu, all over India it is a festival celebrating the end of winter

Makar Sankranti or Maghi, is a festival dedicated to the deity Surya. It is observed each year in January. It is always on January 14, as this is the only Indian festival which is based on the solar calendar; the exception is this year when it falls on the 15th. 

Makar refers to Capricorn, the sign of the zodiac, and Sankranta means transition, in this case from Dakshinayan to the more auspicious Uttarayan. 

It conjures up images of sweets made with til and jaggery, kite flying, bonfires, fairs, celebration of harvests all over India.  It marks the first day of the sun’s transit into Makara, marking the end of the winter solstice and the start of longer days. People take a “dip in sacred rivers and pray to Surya and Saraswati too.

This is the only day when Surya visits his son Shani at Makar rashi or the house if Capricorn. It’s a reminder to forget past grievances and spread goodwill. Uttarayan is also considered an auspicious time to die. Bheesmacharya lay on a bed of arrows till the sun entered Uttarayan and then gave up his life.

To Maharashtrians, Sankranta means making tilgool and halwa and distributing it to friends and family. Sesame is good to eat in the winter as it nourishes the body and provides warmth. Women will have haldi-kunku for friends and children. Among Maharashtrians there are two occasions on which ladies will wear black saris -one is for the naming ceremony or barsa of a newborn baby, the other is for Sankranta haldi-kunku. The black colour is probably used as it absorbs the sun’s rays and retains heat. Suhagan ladies offer wheat, sugarcane pieces, cotton, halkunda or whole dried haldi, to friends and priests. 

Besides the til laddus Gool Poli or chapatis stuffed with a mixture of sesame, jaggery and dried coconut are made.

Healthwise, sesame is good for your body, be it in the form of oil massage or eating it for the natural calcium in it. Eating a handful of till every day is much better for bones than popping calcium pills. Sprinkle it on salads, put it in baked goods or use it in your tadka.

Whether it’s called Uttarayan,Lohri, Pongal or Bihu, it is a festival celebrating the end of winter.

In Maharashtra, we say “Tilgool ghya, gode bola,” meaning take til gool from me and let your vani, or speech be sweet.

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