Winter is almost over in India. However, to bid a formal goodbye to the winter season, India celebrates a day that usually falls on the 13th day of January. This day is celebrated with different names in different parts of the country. Regardless of the names, all the celebrations have a connection with the agricultural activities of the farmers. India being an agricultural economy, this is quite obvious. This festival denotes the harvest time of the agricultural calendar. Being an Assamese (someone who belongs to the northeastern state of India, Assam) I am here to talk the way it’s celebrated in Assam.
Out of the three Bihus (Rongali Bihu, Bhogali Bihu and Kangali Bihu), this is perhaps , the second most welcomed Bihu in Assam. The reason , one gets to feast with near and dear ones and the granary is usually filled with rich harvest. Hence, Bhogali Bihu also denotes celebration of prosperity.
In the Eastern Coastal region, where I am residing now, this festival is known as Makar Sankranti. Though, this festival does not have equal importance as in Assam, the festivity related to it is almost similar. In the Indo Gangetic plains, this auspicious day of Makar Sankranti begin with a dip in the sacred Hindu river Ganges. This is followed by a puja of offering water to the Sun God. The holy dip is believed to purify the self and bestow punya. Special puja is performed as a thanksgiving ritual for the good harvest of the year.
Apart from the above mentioned festivals, this time of the year is celebrated in different forms in different parts of the country. In Punjab, this festival is known as Lohri, in Tamilnadu it is called Pongal or Makara Pongal, in Bundelkhand and Madhya Pradesh, this festival is known as Sukarat or Sakarat and is celebrated with merriment and lots of sweets. On the first day of the two-day festival, people throng to the holy rivers in large numbers for a sacred dip. The famous Kumbh Mela is also held on this auspicious time of the year at the four auspicious places of Hindu religion.
In West Bengal, this time of the year is also marked by a festival cum fair called the Ganga Sagar Mela. People from all over India come to visit and take a dip at the Ganga Saagar beach. The practice is being followed for years with the belief that a dip in the holy bank will release one from all his previous sins.
In Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, people savour a special rice meal to mark the day of Uttarayan. In Rajasthan, Nagaur Fair marks this festival. People from all over Rajasthan gather at Nagaur to attend the cattle fair and the four days festivities related to it. Besides the usual buying and selling of camel, ox, cows and bullocks, other festivities like cock fights and bull fights also attract the attention of visitors.