Celebrate the perfect blend!Events & Happenings — By Neha K Kulkarni on January 9, 2012 at 11:24 AM
Pune is known for its cultural diversity. Irrespective of the part of the country you come from, Pune celebrates all festivals. It’s the New Year and we already have series of festivals lined up this week like Lohri on 13th, Makarsankrant or Uttarayan on 14th and Pongal on 15th. Let’s take a look at how some of the Punekars are celebrating these festivals.
In Punjab, wheat is the main winter crop that is sown in October and harvested in March. In January, the fields come up with the promise of a golden harvest, and farmers celebrate Lohri during this period before the cutting and gathering of crops. On the day of Lohri children go from door to door singing and demanding the Lohri ‘loot’ in the form of money and eatables like sesame seeds, peanuts and jaggery. They sing in praise of Dulha Bhatti, a Punjabi avatar of Robin Hood who robbed the rich to help the poor.
The Bonfire ritual
With the setting of the sun in the evening, huge bonfires are lit in the harvest fields and in front of houses. People gather around the rising flame which is known as parikrama and throw puffed rice, popcorn and other munchies into the fire while chanting ’Aadar aye dilather jaye’ which means ‘May honour come and poverty vanish!’ They also sing popular folk songs. This is a prayer to Agni, the fire God, to bless the land with abundance and prosperity. After the parikrama, people meet friends and relatives, exchange greetings and gifts, and distribute prasad which is the offerings made to God. After the offerings, Bhangra is performed by men. This continues till late night with new groups joining in amid the beat of drums. Traditionally, women do not join Bhangra. They hold a separate bonfire in their courtyard while they perform the graceful gidda dance around it.
The Punekar got in touch with the Ahluwalias to speak to them about how they celebrate Lohri in Pune. The Ahluwalias celebrate Lohri every year but they feel that it sometimes lacks the zest that you see up north. The Punjabi families here are scattered around. Thus, the celebrations usually take place in small groups. The Lohri celebration for the new bride or after the birth of a child is a big celebration in these families. The Punjabi Cultural Association that is located in Salisbury Park usually organizes functions on a large scare during such festivals. The Punjabi community in the city comes together and celebrates their festivals with great enthusiasm.
Makar Sankranti – ‘Til-gul ghya, god god bola!’
Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious occasions for the Hindus. The festival of Makar Sankranti is highly regarded by the Hindus from North to down South. It is known by different names like Uttarayan in Gujarat, Maghi in Punjab, Sukarat in Madhya Pradesh, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Kicheri in Uttar Pradesh and so on. It is a harvest festival. Makar Sankranti is perhaps the only Indian festival that falls on the same date every year namely the 14th of January. It is the day when the glorious Sun God begins its ascendancy and enters into the Northern Hemisphere. Thus, it signifies an event wherein the Sun God seems to remind his children that ‘Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya‘, which means ‘May you go higher and higher, to more and more light and never be in darkness.’
In Maharashtra people exchange til-gul as token of goodwill and greet each other by saying ‘til-gul ghya god god bola’ which means ‘Accept this til-gul and speak sweetly.’ The underlying thought in this exchange of til-gul is to forget the past ill feelings and hostilities and start afresh. This is a special day for the Maharashtrian women as they invited other married woman for a get-together called ‘Haldi-Kumkoo’ and give them gifts.
Makar Sankranti is also the kite flying festival where tons of colourful kites are seen flying in the sky. There are competitions held around the city. Whether you are a child or an adult, both participate in this festival with equal zest.
The Punekar met with Sayali Sathe, a Pune born and bred. She recalls, “As a child I would look forward to Makar Sankranti so that I could eat the yummy til ladoos. I would go around wishing people ‘til-gul ghya god god bola’ and would distribute these til ladoos. In the evening, my mother used to invite married woman over for ‘Haldi-Kumkoo’. I used to really enjoy all these rituals. Now that I am married, I invite married women over for ‘Haldi-Kumkoo’. The colourful kites that you see in the sky are a treat.”
Pongal – ‘Pongal-o-Pongal’
Pongal is a major celebration in Tamil Nadu and Tamils celebrate it over three days mostly during 13th to 15th January. The first day is called Bhogi. Here people throw away old items and purchase new ones. This marks the beginning of a new cycle. The second day is Perum, also known as Surya Pongal. It is the most important day of Pongal. Many people worship the Sun God, Lord Surya by offering prayers on this day. Many people also wear new clothes and women decorate houses with Kolam which is painting that is drawn using rice flour and red clay.
Mattu Pongal is the third day and includes worshipping cattle because it is believed that cattle help in giving a good harvest.
Punekar Raghavan Viswanathan shares with us how he celebrates Pongal. In urban cities only the first two days of the festival are celebrated. He says, “On the second day we normally get up early and have an oil bath. Later we perform a small puja at home. This is an important day as it is the start of the new month ‘thai’ in the Tamil Calendar. We cook different types of savories also called as Pongal. We also cook sweet rice which is called Ven-pongal. When this rice boils, we all shout ‘Pongal-o-Pongal’ which indicates the birth of a new harvest. The rest of the day is spent in meeting friends and relatives and sharing sweets.”
Isn’t this the perfect blend? So wherever you come from, we Punekars just love celebrating it all!