Sankranti: The festival of sesame and sugar

Bonding time

Some festivals in Indian tradition demand a lot of fanfare and celebration, mostly restricted to affluent sections. However, Makara Sankranti is a reminder of the agrarian community  which believed in worshipping its work, says Preethi Nagaraj

Girls purchasing ‘sakkare acchu’ and ‘ellu’ on Madwachar road in Agrahara.Makara Sankranti or simply Sankranti — the festival packs quite a bit of energy. The sugar candies, ‘sakkare acchu’ and ‘ellu’  — a yummy mixture of coconut pieces, peanuts, and sugar with a base of sesame seeds have remained unchanged.

The festival also marks the transition of the Sun onto Makara rashi (Capricorn) on its celestial path. Traditionally, Sankranti has been one of many harvest days celebrated in the country.

Makara Sankranti is one of the most auspicious occasions for the Hindus across the country, and is celebrated in myriad cultural forms, with great devotion, fervor and gaiety. It is a harvest festival.

Makar Sankranti is perhaps the only Indian festival the date of which does not fluctuate much. It is either on January 14 or 15!

Sankranti is celebrated all over South Asia with some regional variations. It is known by different names and celebrated with different customs in different parts of the country.

It is celebrated by boiling rice with fresh milk and jaggery in new pots. The rice is later topped with jaggery, cashew nuts and raisins. This tradition gives Pongal its name.

Coming to Mysore, this is the Suggi or harvest festival for farmers of Cauvery basin of Karnataka. On this auspicious day, young women (kids and teenagers) wear new clothes to visit near and dear ones with a Sankranti offering in a plate, and exchange the same with other families.

 ‘Ellu beerovudu’ (distributing the sesame seeds mixture) with Sakkare Acchu, (sugar candy moulds of various shapes) with a piece of sugarcane and a banana. This festival signifies the harvest of the season, since sugarcane is predominant in these parts.

In some parts of Karnataka, a newly married woman is required to give away bananas for a period of five years to married women (muthaidhe) from the first year of her marriage, but increase the number of bananas in multiples of five. There is also a tradition of some households giving away red berries Yalchi Kai along with the above.

Agrarian community also has its share of adventure with "Kichchu Haisodu",  where the cattle are made to cross the brightly burning charcoals. This practice is still alive in many parts of South India. In some regions including those in North Karnataka, kite flying with community members is also a tradition. As for women, they draw rangoli in groups, celebrating the season and the beautiful weather it brings along. 

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