Mangaluru, Jan 13, 2017: Karnataka, celebrates the festival of Sankranthi significantly in more ways than one. The day is considered very auspicious and is deeply associated with the harvest culture of the land. The festival is regarded as an occasion to display man’s gratitude to nature. In rural areas particulaly, the festival is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm. The harvested food grains are arranged in heaps and are offered puja. In Tulu Nadu too it is a unique festival celebrated enthusiastically by the Tulu speaking people of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi.
The cattle in the backyard, mainly the pair of oxen, are given bath and decorated with colourful clothes and flowers. Their horns are painted with bright paint. In the evening, they are made to jump over the pit of fire. In the urban areas, the celebration assumes a different style. The Sankranthi festival is specially known for a mixture called ’Sankranthi ellu’. The women in the household begin the preparations months in advance of the festival. The Sankranthi ellu is a mixture of sesame, dry coconut, groundnut, jaggery and a crispy ingredient known as hurikadale. These items are purchased well in advance and dried in the sunlight. On the day of the festival, when all the ingredients are mixed in right proportions, the Sankranthi ellu is ready. It is the Sun God who is worshipped on this day as he heralds the change of seasons.
In the evening, women and young girls visit their friends, neighbours and relatives to exchange the Sankranthi ellu. Along with ellu, tiny sugar candy items known as sakre achchu and pieces of sugarcane are also distributed. In Kannada, there is a saying "Ellu-bella thindu olle maathu aadi," which means be good at heart after eating this healthy mixture of ellu and jaggery.
Today, there are as many harvest festivals as there are nations and regions. Few with weird names, few with weirder rituals. There’s Samhain, celebrated by Wiccans and pagans recognising the cycle of life, death and renewal. Choosuk is a Korean harvest festival where moon cakes are the fave dish, and men wrestle and women sing. Yams - and the traditional dish fufu - hold centrestage in Africa at the Yam Festival. Niiname-sai (celebrations of first taste) is a Shinto rice festival in Japan, while Mehregan, a Persian festival, is dedicated to Mithra, the goddess of light, friendship, faith, love and kindness. In the icy Tundra of Northern Russia, men of Koriak, Itel’men and Sunda tribes trek 43 miles to the top of Mt Evel as part of the harvest ritual, to leave a wooden carving for the ancestors. On the final Sunday of February, the Archbishop of Mendoza sprinkles the season’s first grapes with holy water and offers the new vintage to god, setting off a month of celebrations in Argentina’s Mendoza region.
There surely is no one way to thank the lord for a bountiful harvest. In some parts of India, wheat is harvested in the early months of the year, and the festival acquires various names - Lohri (North India), Bhogali Bihu (Assam), Sankranti (Uttar Pradesh and Bihar), Baisakhi (Punjab), Nuakhai (Orissa), Gudi Padwa (Goa, Maharastra). In South India, Onam and Pongal are the two most important harvest festivals. Pongal is a four-day festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu. Taking its name from the Tamil word meaning ’to boil’, Pongal is held in mid-January, the time when rice and other cereals, sugarcane and turmeric (an essential ingredient in Tamil cooking) are harvested. Celebrated in Kerala, Onam is held at the beginning of the month of Chingam, the first on the Malayalam calendar, and marks the return of King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam.