A trip planned to Punjab, Tamil Nadu or Gujarat during Makar Sankranti affords a glimpse into the different ways the festival is celebrated across India. For the uninitiated, the day signifies the passing of the sun into the makar rashi or capricorn. It also marks the transition from Dakshinayanam to Uttarayanam as per the lunar calendar. It heralds the harvest season, making it a heady combination of joyous festivity and food.
The whole of Punjab comes alive with the beats of the dhol for Lohri. So, if you are in Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Amritsar or any other pind of Punjab on January 13 this year, head for a lohri bonfire in the evening. The reverberations of the dhol and rustic songs and poems warm the heart. Apart from the sesame delicacies of revari, gajak and peanut chikkis, the mounds of popcorn, sweet potatoes and potatoes roasted in the fire with the skin on, do not miss the kheer, makki ki rotis and saag.
In Tamil Nadu, Pongal is a four-day extravaganza. Of course, the best way to witness the celebrations is to head to the rural areas. A homestay is ideal. Madurai, Kumbakonam, Chidambaram, and Tirunelvelli are some of the areas where a glimpse into the rural life and celebrations can be experienced.
It is on the second day, Thai Pongal, that the traditional Pongal, a sweet dish made from jaggery, rice, milk and decorated with raisins and cashew nuts, is cooked. The dish is offered to the sun god, and then partaken. The entire ceremony is done in the courtyard with a richly decorated kolam adorning the floor.
The next day is Mattu Pongal where the domestic animals – cows and bullocks – are honoured. They are a sight to behold with freshly painted horns. Bullock cart races are organised as also the jallikattu, a dangerous sport of taming of the bull, is organised at Palamedu.
GUJARAT: Ahmedabad comes alive with kites during Sankranti. Walk down the Sabarmati river from where you can get a great view of the International Kite Festival, to be held between January 10 and 14. It receives participation from teams from the world over, and is big hit with both domestic as well foreign tourists. Do visit to the Kite Museum, and enjoy the food, especially, undhyu, laddoo, and kichdi with lots of sugarcane juice.