An article from newsletter of S V Temple, Pittsburgh
In Southern India, Hemantha Ruthu runs from mid-December to mid-February (Margazhi-Thai per solar calendar and Margasirsha-Puasha per lunar calendar). It is the coldest, yet the most exciting time of the year for the young and old. In mid-January, Dhanurmasam ends on Bhogi. Next day the Sun begins his Northward movement for six months and enters Makara Rasi (Makara Sankramanam). This Northward movement of the Sun is known as Uttarayana Punyakalam (holy time) and is the beginning of a new SOLAR year. Makara Sankramanam is celebrated as Sankranthi festival in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and as Pongal in Tamil Nadu. Since, it falls at the end of the harvest season it brings much joy and happiness to everyone.
Here is a glimpse of how it was celebrated in South India, with its regional nuances, during the fifties and sixties.
In preparation for Sankranthi, houses and courtyards were cleaned; a new string of
fresh mango leaves was hung at the front door of the house. Intricate patters of fresh
Rangoli (Rangavalli or Kolam) were draw in
Sankranthi celebration starts with Bhogi. On Bhogi, Lord Indra showers his blessings on
all, especially, on the hard working farmers. Early in the morning, young people set big
bonfires (Bhogi Mantalu) and all the
In Karnataka: The day of the festival began with a pooja to the household deity and offerings included sweet and hot pongal, and sesame seed mixture (peanuts, roasted chenna, dried coconut bits and jaggery (brown sugar). In the evening, mothers and daughters visited the friends and neighbors to distribute the sesame mixture, sugar cane, dried coconut halves and Sakkare Acchu (fancy sugar figuirines cast from special wooden molds). This custom of families exchanging the sesame seed mixture was called Yellu beeradu. We see this tradition being carried out at the Temple during Sankranthi celebration by several Kannadiga ladies. In the country side farmers washed, decorated their cattle and fed them sugarcane.
In Tamil Nadu:
The first day of THAI is Pongal or Makara Sankranthi a day of thanking Mother Nature in general and SURYA in particular, for his help throughout the year for a bountiful harvest. Chakarai Pongal was cooked in decorated brand new earthen pots, using the newly harvested rice, lentils and jaggery, and offered to Surya. Next day is Mattu (cow) Pongal. Cows and the cattle were washed and decorated. Bull fights were part of these festivities in villages. Sisters prayed for the welfare and prosperity of their brothers on this day (similar to Rakhi festival). Offering colorful rice and Pongal balls to birds was a part of these festivities. The celebrations ended on the forth day, Kanum Pongal, with a picnic where the young and old enjoyed a carefree day.
Muggulu (Rangoli), Gobbillu, Bhogi Mantalu (bonfire) Bommala Koluvu, Hari Dasulu and
Gangireddulu were the endearing sights of Sankranthi season. On Bhogi day the attention
was on children. Children were showered with Senagalu, (soaked whole chenna), sugar cane
and coconut bits, Regi Pandlu, and copper coins to remove Dhristi or to
protect them from any evil spell. On Sankranthi day the attention was on the newly married
daughters and sons-in-law, and other family members. A nice Sankranthi Vindu Bhojanam
(festive meal) was shared by all, after the Ishta Devatha Pooja. On the third
day, the attention was on those that helped during the year. Farmers washed,
decorated cattle that day. Servants were given new clothing or other gifts. Rooster fights
(Kodi Pandalu) were the event of the holiday for the masses. During the first three days,
young girls invited the neighbors to visit their Bommala Koluvu. Visitors were offered
Pasupu, Kunkuma, Thambulam (pan) and fruits. On the forth day, the women and children took
a pair of Bommalu from the Koluvu to the river, in a procession with Mangala Vadyalu. The
procession stopped at each street to gather more participants. The Bommala pair was given
a boat ride (Vaalladimpu).
***** SANKRANTHI GREETINGS *****
**** HAPPY PONGAL *****
Last Updated on 07/05/03