After the fun time of New Year celebrations, it is Sun time. Makar Sankranti, Pongal, and Lohri mark the beginning of festivities for the year. During these festivities one thing that remains common is worshipping of the Sun God. When the sun moves from east to north, the rays signify the improvement in health and peace in life, marking the beginning of a new morning of hope. From this day, the mornings are likely to be longer and nights shorter.
Amidst the ongoing pandemic and various measures adopted to bring back normalcy in health and overall life of the masses, these festivities mark a great ray of hope to start the year for many who see it much more than annual celebrations this time.
“Presence of the sun in our lives holds not just religious significance, but also that of great protector and healer. Every year, my family and I offer prayers to the sun during Makar Sankranti. This year too, we will continue with the tradition, but with a different approach and wish for the entire mankind,” says Purva Bhave, an architect from Nagpur. This year the Bhave family plans to light a bonfire at their ancestral house for four days, starting from Makar Sankranti — the bonfire is also a symbol for getting rid of all evils, including the virus.
“Festivals are the best way to revive our social ties, which we have been missing the most during corona times. They not only bind us together as a society, but also bring a lot of happiness into our lives,” says Swarali Puranik, a homemaker, from Bengaluru.
“I have missed all the gup-shup and friendly banters we used to have while getting together to celebrate the festival. It’s a mixture of keeping up with our culture and bonding together as a society,” adds Swarali, who plans to carry out a few activities for a social cause as her way of worshipping the sun (Surya Devta as she loves to address).
Sesame seeds (til) is one of the primary elements in sweets made and distributed during Makar Sankranti. Even this traditional delicacy is today looked upon as a medicinal component to wage a war against virus in a festive way. “We all know that sesame seeds are heaty in nature with several medicinal properties. This year I have decided to distribute more til ladoos as a part of tradition, and also to ensure my loved ones increase their body’s resistance to combat virus,” says Umakant Parsekar, who runs a garment shop in Mumbai.
While adults this year have more of a philosophical outlook on Makar Sankranti, for 12-year-old Atul Gaikwad, a resident of Bhandup, Mumbai, flying kites is the sole reason to celebrate the festival. “Kites is what I can think of right now. I have already started making them at home, since I don’t know if I will get new ones this year in the market. My friends from the building and I will go to the terrace early in the morning to fly kites,” he happily adds.
On the eve of Makar Sankranti, the north gets into festive mode for Lohri, which marks the end of winter, extending a traditional welcome to longer days and shorter nights. “Finally, we have something to cheer about and celebrate. It has been a tough year for all of us, but now with Lohri round the corner we have already started prepping for the festival,” says Kirpal Bhasin, an automobile engineer from Jalandhar. “We are a joint family, so this year we have decided to enjoy to the fullest and gear-up for the year ahead. No point in thinking of the past, it is time to remember the almighty and participate in the festivities of Lohri,” says Kirpal.
Echoing similar sentiments, Yachna Bhatia, a resident of NOIDA, adds, “Come Lohri and it is time for ‘Tricholi’, a dish made of rice, sesame seeds and jaggery. This year, women in our colony have decided to make it collectively in large quantities and distribute it after the traditional bonfire is lit. We are also going to sing and offer our prayers to the Sun God once the bonfire is lit. For me it is like returning to the cheerful days right at the start of the year,” Yachna says.
According to folklore, the flames of the bonfire carry the messages and prayers of the people to the Sun God to bring warmth to the planet to help crops grow. In exchange, the Sun God blesses the land and ends the days of gloom and cold.
“Popcorn is what comes to my mind first when I think of Lohri. My mother makes them only during this festival and gives me to eat; we also throw some in the fire. All my school friends come to my place and we have lots of fun,” says seven-year-old Reetu Nanda from Chandigarh. For her, Lohri this year is about reconnecting with her school friends and enjoying the festive moments.
Now it is time for us to head down south where, on the very day of Makar Sankranti, the celebration for Pongal begins with fervour and gusto.
“I’m so happy that Pongal is here. So are my cattle as they know it is time for them to be pampered and receive special treatment,” says Ravi Nadar, from Thrissur who plans to get his cattle ready for the festive procession. “Pongal is all about offering prayers, family get-togethers and exchanging gifts,” explains Ravi, who sees this as an opportunity to make up for the lost moments during the pandemic.
“One should always begin a New Year on a sweet note and what can be a better way than Pongal. I have decided to prepare the traditional dish from the new harvest of rice boiled in milk and jaggery,” says Uma Menon, an entrepreneur from Cochin.
It is time usher the New Year on a festive note from north to south and from east to west. Battle against the pandemic is far from over, but our festive spirit is not down and out either. It is time to celebrate, but with SOPs.