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North to South, East to West: Harvesting Festivals across India

With the beginning of the new year, harvesting festivals knock at the door of almost every other house across the country. Read on to find more about the colorful and symbolic festivals celebrated across all four directions of India!


The month of January has arrived and with it, the harvesting festivals – from north to south and east to west in India. With abundant joy and elation, these festivals celebrate not only the bounty of harvest but also mark the first day of the Sun’s movement to Capricorn (known as Makara) that eventually leads to the end of winter days.

Although different rituals are followed in different regions, all these festivals in the country – Makar Sankranti, Lohri, Uttarayan, Bihu and Pongal – are unified by a golden thread: the celebration of a bounteous harvest.

Makar Sankranti

The onset of the harvesting season is marked by the festival of Makar Sankranti, around 14th-15th January every year. Considered to be an auspicious occasion, it is dedicated to Lord Surya. This ebullient fiesta of Makar Sankranti is celebrated throughout the country with different names.

Lohri

Celebrated exuberantly with a bonfire, dance, music, and feasting, Lohri is the harvest festival of the North Indian state of Punjab which heralds the new agricultural season. Farmers chant “Aadar aye dilather jaye” (May honor come and poverty vanish) while moving around the bonfire. Sumptuous food items like Sarson da saag, Makki di roti, Revdi, kheer and even popcorn are prepared. Also, how can one miss dancing to the tunes of bhangra and gidda?

Uttarayan

Also known as the Kite festival, it is celebrated with grandeur in Gujarat. It signifies the approaching harvest season. People gather in their terraces and the sky gets dotted with vibrant kites. With tempting food items prepared from sesame and jaggery, Uttarayan brings fun and jubilation.

Harvest festivals across India
(Credits: ixigo.com)

Bihu

Magh Bihu, one of the three main Bihus of the Northeastern state of Assam, is celebrated in the month of January. Also known as Bhogali Bihu, it marks the end of the harvesting season in the month of Maagha (January–February). Makeshift huts called Bhelaghar –  erected with bamboo, thatch and leaves – are burned signifying annihilation and regeneration. The Assamese diaspora revels in Bihu songs accompanied by feasts. Besides, delicacies like laru-pitha and doi-sira add sweetness to the festival.

Pongal

Symbolizing the season of reaping and the withdrawal of monsoon season, Pongal is celebrated with zeal in the southern state of Tamil Nadu for four days. People show their reverence to the Sun god and honor the animals involved in agricultural activities. Moreover, one can definitely not stop from devouring its sweet dish delicacy called Sarkarai Pongal that includes a fresh harvest of rice, milk and jaggery!

In India, being an agrarian-based country, harvesting festivals hold great significance to the farmers. It reminds us how mankind is dependent on nature for its basic survival necessities. Sun, which is a natural force needed for good yields, is worshiped in these festivities. Be it the merriment soaring high in the sky with kites during Uttarayan or offering jaggery to the bonfire during Lohri, or decorating homes with Kolam during Pongal or preparing Bhelaghar during Magh Bihu, these harvest festivals bring an essence of new beginnings and hope to people – transcending geography and religion!

Read also: A Festival of Familial Homecoming: Awakening And Return

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Namrata Kalita

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