Ruffling their hair, making them close their eyes, violently snatching their clothes away, giving them goose bumps, making their limbs tremble with excitement and eliciting from them again and again loud gasps that chap their lips – this śiśira wind now seems to be these women’s lover.
Makar Sankranti, which falls on January 15, is celebrated in different parts of the subcontinent with regionally different rituals and traditions.
In parts of South India, this day is celebrated as Pongal. Pongal, like Makar Sankranti, commemorates the journey of the Sun and is also a harvest festival. A special dish is prepared which is known as Pongal or Pongali. Freshly harvested rice, milk and jaggery are boiled in a new clay pot. As a ritual this mixture is allowed to spill over signifying material abundance and prosperity. Later this dish is topped with sugar, ghee, and dry fruits and offered to the Sun god before being served to the people of the house on banana leaves.
In Gujarat, Sankranti is celebrated as Uttarayan. A famous tradition of this day in Gujarat is flying kites. Millions of kites adorn the sky, visible as tiny colourful dots – a vibrant spectacle to the eye. The famous International Kite Festival, also known as Uttarayan, is hosted in Gujarat on this day and has been organised every year since 1989. Professional kite flyers from various countries such as Japan, Malaysia, USA, China visit this festival.
In Assam Magh Bihu will be celebrated on January 16 this year. Community feasts are organised on the eve of Magh Bihu, for which the food preparation happens in makeshift bamboo huts known as Meji. The next day these Mejis are burnt and their ashes scattered on the fields by the farmers in a ritual to increase the fertility of the land.
Magha Amavasya arrives on January 24. This Amavasya is also known as Mauni Amavasya. It is believed that the water of the Ganges is like nectar on this day. Taking a dip in the waters of this celestial river on this day is seen as a highly beneficial act.
As the name suggests, this is also the day when people observe a day long Maun Vrat (Fast of Silence). Maintaining and experiencing silence is integral to our internal and external wellbeing. Isha Sadhguru says, “’Maun’ is an attempt to transit from being a piece of creation to the source of creation. This attribute-less, dimension-less and boundless state of existence and experience is the aspiration of yoga: union.”
Shishir, although a barren season of darkness, is known for its small yet vibrant bouquets of flowers which are now visible. In several traditional poems these flowers have been named and admired. Verse 3 of Shishir in the Subhāṣitaratnabhāṇḍāgāram says, “These kunda (Jasmine) buds shine with a glistening sheen as if stars, terrified of the cold, have taken refuge in the kunda creeper.” Priyangu creepers grow in this season and are often mentioned in Kalidasa’s Ritusamharam. The Flame of the Forest also begins to bloom now and stunning flame-coloured flowers shine bright in Shishir, evoking of the warmth and energy of the Sun at its fiercest.