Sankranti is a harvest festival celebrated in India. Sankranti is derived from the word 'Sankramana', meaning a 'change'. It is also called 'Makara Sankranti', as the Sun enters 'Makara Rasi' that day. It usually falls on 14th of January every year. The Sun starts its northward journey from the Tropic of Capricorn towards the Tropic of Cancer. This journey is called 'Uttarayana', meaning northward march. We, in India, are to the north of the equator. W rejoice on Sankranti Day, because the chilly cold winter comes to a close, and healthy sunny days are about to begin.
Sankranti is called 'Pongal' in Tamilnadu and 'Pedda' or 'Peddala' Panduga in some parts of Andhra Pradesh. 'Pedda' means big and 'Panduga' means a festival. It is a festival, when prayers and offerings are made to ancestors. It is celebrated in different ways in different parts of the country, as it is a harvest festival. It is a festival to thank God for giving a good harvest. By January the paddy, the pulses, the sugarcane and all other cereals would have been harvested. The farmers would be full of joy and happiness.
The Sankranti festival is a three day festival. The first day is 'Bhogi', the second day 'Sankranti' and the third day, 'Kanumu'. On the first day 'Bhogi'. people get up very early and bonfires are raised burning all old waste material to bid farewell to winter. The streets are swept clean and beautiful rangolis are drawn by women. Small cowdung cubes decorated with flowers are placed before each house, welcoming the Goddess of Wealth. In the evening, in some other parts 'Bogipallu' are poured on children for their health. In some other parts girls gather round and dance singing "Gobbiallo" in chorus.
The next day is Sankranti or Pongal. It is a day of feast. Sweet food is prepared with new rice, new jaggery, new vegetables, and fresh milk in new pots. The prepared pongal (sweet food) is offered to Sun God. Then offerings are made to forefathers. There are some special dishes
made for the occasion with pumpkins and greengram. All the people wear new clothes. Alms are given to the poor. It is a day of enjoyment. Cock fights, gambling etc., take place in the evening. In the north and even in Andhra Pradesh people take a dip in holy rivers and offer prayers. A dip in the Ganges on Makara Sankranti day is considered sacred.
The third day Kanumu is a day meant for cattle. All cattle are given a bath. They are dressed and decorated with flowers. Horns are painted. Cattle are fed with cooked sweet rice. Some worship cows. In the evening races are conducted for bulls to draw carts and to draw big stones. Heavy prize amounts are awarded to the victorious. Bull fights by young men are in vogue in some part., of the country. Sankranti is a festival of joy and happiness for all.
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