Mumbai: As the day progressed, Mandeep Singh Ladi made sure that he wrapped up his work early to be home in time for Lohri. A harvest festival, Lohri on Friday marked the beginning of harvest-related festivities that will continue well over the weekend with Makar Sankranti being celebrated on Sunday in most parts of India.
“Every year the festival is celebrated on Jan 14. But this year the auspicious time is after 8pm and it will be celebrated on Jan 15. The Sun God and Lord Shani are father and son. They do not get along but on this day, it is like the Sun going to the place of Shani and the relationship is peaceful. All black things associated with Lord Shani – like black sesame seeds and its laddoos – are given in charity as it is considered auspicious,” Pandit Venkatesh Pareek said, adding that people who die at this time go straight to heaven.
According to Pandit Venkatesh, Bhishma Pitamaha who had the boon of dying at his own will chose Uttarayan to give up his body. The day is celebrated across India with different names like Makar Sankranti, Sankraat, Lohri, Bihu and Pongal. Prayers are offered to the Sun God, Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi on this day.
In Maharashtra, people greet each other by saying, “Til-gud ghya god god bola (have sesame and jaggery laddoo and speak good)”. “We do a puja with five coconuts, sesame seeds and jaggery. ‘Haldi kum kum’ is put on them and they are given to other women. If they are elders, we seek their blessings,” said Dr Sarika Kulkarni. Families give away rice, black dal, lime, ghee and cloth among other things in charity. “In our house, we also make bharki with sesame seeds and papad that is dried for this day is fried and eaten,” added Dr Patil.
Meanwhile, Assamese people make it a point to have pithas and other delicacies. “In villages, people cook rice that has been freshly harvested with vegetables. Here, we make different kinds of pithas that are made of sesame seeds, jaggery and sticky rice, along with other dishes of rice, coconut and cream,” Assamese author Anee Hazarika said.
Hema Kannan marks Pongal by making a rangoli of Sun God’s chariot. “The festival is basically to thank the Sun God for a good harvest and raises hopes that the coming year too will be of abundance. We make chakra pongal in a vengla panai (special pot) and shout pongal-o-pongal when the dish overflows. It is symbolic of the abundance and to thank the lord for it,” said Kannan.