Holidays & Observances: Makara Sankrathi

For all the posts in this Holidays & Observances series, go here.

Prologue: I have been meaning to write a series about Holidays and Observances that we (my family and friends) follow in both India (my birth country) and USA (my adopted country). This series is dedicated to those kids of posts. On a side note, perhaps I might witness some of the celebrations from other countries as well that may get their way into this series. 🙂

Continuing with the four-day Sankrathi festival for people coming from Telugu (Indian language) states in India, the second day is called Makara Sankranthi. This day is dedicated to Lord Surya (=Sun) as it marks the day when Sun moves from south to north (dhanu to makara = Sagittarius to Capricorn), and also considered a new beginning.

We decorate the yard and front of the house with colorful patterns of Rangoli / Muggu made of powdered sand, rice or flour, and colors. Flying kites is a favorite activity for this four-day event, however on this day it is huge with competitive streak from everyone.

Traditionally and historically, all thru the month leading upto this festival, people make hand-made cow dung cakes. These are dried and stored. They are used for the bonfire the previous day, the day of Bhogi. And they are used as fuel to cook food over a clay/mud stove. It is a way of means to collect fuel and not cut down trees. At the same time, the cow dung becomes ecofriendly item rather than being thrown away as waste.

Things have changed a lot now what with the gas and electric stoves. Still we continue the tradition by making 3 to 5 of small molds with fresh cow dung and put it in the middle of the Rangoli patterns. Here is my Rangoli in front of my house incorporates the Kites in the pattern so signify the event. I don’t get fresh cow dung here in Connecticut where I live, so I used Play-Doh to replicate the same.

We also perform a traditional pooja aka Nomulu, where we offer Til Laddoos (= Sesame Balls made with Jaggery), New Kumkum (ceremonial red powder used to mark foreheads by Hindus), New Padupu (=Turmeric) and any choice of item (a toy or a doll or something household usage items) to Lord Surya. Perform our rituals and prayers. This is what I did this year, one item with fruit and Til Laddoos. I added Haldi and Kumkum packets in the mix. A mini-version of what my mom usually does.

A feast is made with traditional food items such as Tamarind Rice, Sweet Pongal, Savory Pongal, Sambar and a myriad of Curries. We also have Bakhshyam and Ariselu for dessert. I made the below feast and had a friend over with her family to celebrate the festival.

And finally me all decked up and posing with the kite with my friend. I even wore a traditional Muggu printed saree this time.

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