Thursday, 14 January 2010

The Season of Abundance

January is a month of celebrations in the family with most birthdays falling in the first month of the year. So while my niece understands the significance of these occasions, she was left confused with the Lohri celebrations at her grandparents place. To get her questions answered she called me and asked me the significance of Lohri. After I explained the harvest and season change concepts to her, I realised that it is not just in Punjab but it is all over India that this one day, 14th of January is celebrated as the harvest festival.

The first day of the month of Magh in North India, also called Thai in South India, marks the beginning of the northward movement of the sun; indicating that the cold winter days are going to recede with warmer temperatures setting in. The change of the season also brings the harvest time along. For seventy percent of Indians, whose livelihoods are dependent on agriculture, this new season brings prosperity, abundance and new life.

Called Bhogali Bihu in Assam, Lohri in Punjab and Himchal Pradesh, Pongal in Tamil Nadu and Sankrant in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal and West Bengal ; this over 1000 year old festival is celebrated across the country. It is a rare Indian festival that follows the solar calendar and hence is celebrated every year on the same date of the Gregorian calendar. Most other Indian festivals follow the lunar cycle and hence fall on different days of the Gregorian calendar every year.

There are a number of legends associated with this one day, each of which defines the celebrations in various parts of the country. In North India and West Bengal it is believed that King Bhagirath, who is accredited with bring the holy river Ganges to planet earth from abode of the Gods, on this day stood in the river and offered the holy Ganges water to the Gods requesting salvation for 60,000 of his ancestors who were reduced to ashes by Rishi Kapil. His successful attempt led to the removal of the curse of rebirth and the holy Ganges merged with the sea. Hence, even today, there is the Ganga Sagar Mela at the confluence of Ganges and Bay of Bengal and Hindus take a dip in the holy Ganges across North India.

The western states of Gujarat and Rajasthan have kite flying festival on this day as an offering to the Sun God, who despite many differences, makes it a point to visit his son Shani this very day every year. In the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh this is a four day festival celebrated in the honour of the harvest season. The four days witness discarding of old things, decorating the houses, cooking sweetmeats, offering thanks to the cattle and visiting family and friends. Bonfires dot the houses in Punjab and the new crop is roasted for consumption in the bonfire.

Despite the differences in expressions, the underlying belied across the country remains the same – the day marks the beginning of the most auspicious month in the Hindu calendar and the time of abundance and joy. So here is wishing each one of you all the good things that this occasion is supposed to signify and usher.

1 comment:

Winnowed said...

Dear T, here's wishing you a fantastic harvest for the rest of this year!