India is a land of festivals, where people from different religions synchronize harmoniously. The wide variety of festivals celebrated in India is a true demonstration of its rich culture and traditions. India is famous for a lot of things around the world from yoga to its diversity from its travel destinations to its heritage, but one thing that this country is better at doing than most is celebrating festivals, lots of festivals. While the celebrations happen all over the year, January is the time when the country can be seen at its vibrant best.With the majority of our population dependent on farming, India is primarily an agrarian society. We welcome the new harvest with a variety of celebrations. The practice of thanksgiving for a successful harvest is ancient and mandatory. There are several harvest festivals celebrated throughout the country, and many are even celebrated on the same day with different names for each region. The celebrations are marked by pray prayers and offerings to gods for more plentiful harvests, feasting, visiting with family, wearing traditional attire, dancing, and singing.
Let’s take a look at the fun ways that people around the country to mark this date!
Makar Sankranti is a major harvest festival marking the onset of spring season in India. It is celebrated to let go of our differences with each other and increase love in us. The festival is very significant because it refers to the transition of the sun into the zodiac house of Capricorn. Makar Sankranti promotes a feeling of a sense of unity among peoples. People forget their past grievances and forgive one another. The festival is considered to be a day from where onwards all the auspicious ritualistic ceremonies can be solemnized in any Hindu family.On this auspicious day, also called the Kite Flying festival in India, you can see various colors and shapes of kites decorating the sky. Preparing and exchanging sweets made with Jaggery is one more custom that is followed on Makar Sankranti. It is especially popular in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Maharashtrians wear black colored clothing on this day. It is considered auspicious for women to wear a black colored saree on this day and perform the ceremony of ‘haldi-kumkum’ in Maharastrian culture. Gujratis love to wear vibrant lehenga choli, sarees, and kurta pajamas.In a nutshell, it can be said that Makar Sankranti is a day that marks the inception of enlightenment, peace, prosperity, goodwill, happiness and the closure of the winter season.
Winter may have skipped parts of India this year but with Lohri, it’s time to slip into the festive mode once again. Festivals of Punjab are larger than life. Traditionally, the festival of Lohri celebrates the onset of the harvest season in Punjab. People offer thanksgiving to nature as represented by the Sun god and in the process, the festivities embody a spirit of brotherhood, unity and gratitude, with family reunions creating a lot of happiness, goodwill and cheer. It is also believed that the Lohri night is the longest night of the year known as the winter solstice. It marks the end of the coldest month of the year as the earth now starts to turn towards the sun.This is particularly a happy occasion for the couples and for new born babies. The wood crackles and burns, the fire blazes high, a circle of warmth on a cold winter’s night. Lohri is a joyous time to eat gur and peanuts, singing songs and share the warmth with your family and loved ones. Lohri is an important festival which brings the entire community together, each family contributing sweets made of til and gur, peanuts, tilchowli and many other delicious home-made delicacies. Women dons bright and multicoloured patiala salwar kameez with chand tikkas and beautiful parandis. Men are brilliantly dressed in salwar and kurta complemented with colourful turbans.
Celebrated as a harvest festival or a thanksgiving ceremony, Pongal is the auspicious occasion when the farmers express their thanks to the spirits of nature including sun and animals for bestowing a good harvest. The festival is celebrated in four days – Bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal, Mattu Pongal and Kanum Pongal in which each day has its own cultural and religious significance. This festival marks the beginning of the end of the winter season and corresponds to the time when the sun is moving towards Uttarayanam (north) from Dakshinayanam (south). The new and freshly reaped rice is cooked with milk and Jaggery and offered to the Sun God for its blessing of the good harvest of the season.Some of the rituals which are a must on Pongal are cleaning the house and wearing new clothes. The young girls and women wear a lehanga and half sari respectively, whereas the men are attired in lungi and angavastram on this occasion. Even kids are given keen attention in the clothing, they wore traditional dress called Pattu paavadai made out of pure silk fabric and young boys wore dhoti and shirt.
Bihu harvest festival is the traditional new year celebration of Assamese when all differences are forgotten and people unite. This is the time when the hard working farmers of the State sit down to reap the benefits of their labor. The seven day festival is celebrated with the feeling of joy, worship, traditional cuisines and folk dance. In the villages, people also witness bullfights and bird fights.Amid the enchanting notes of flutes and buffalo horns, the youths sing the Bihu songs with lyrics of a good harvest, perform traditional dance styles and play games around the meji to commemorate a new season. The day is spent by visiting relatives and friends along with distributing home-made sweets. A community feast is held with a lot of fanfare.
During the month-long celebrations, young men and women wear their traditional clothes. Assamese women look tremendously beautiful in cotton and silk sarees. They wear a special three piece sari is known as Mekhla Chadhor or a shawl like attire which is wrapped around their waist known as puan. The Assamese men also tie a ‘gamcha’ headgear around their head and at times also tie it around their waist over kurtis.