Makar Sankranti also called Pongal also known as Makara Sankranti marks the transition of the sun into the zodiacal sign of Makaraon its celestial path, which is the first change in the zodiac after the winter solstice and is the first day of the month of Magha. The festival is celebrated in various parts of the Indian subcontinent to observe the day which marks the shift of the sun into ever-lengthening days. The festival is a seasonal observance as well as a religious celebration. Makara Sankranti is a solar event making it one of the few Hindu festivals which fall on the same date in local calendars every year: 14 January, with some exceptions when the festival is celebrated on 15 January
Mid-January is an important time in the South Indian calendar. The harvest festival, Pongal, falls typically on the 14th or the 15th of January. Pongal is a harvest festival, a traditional occasion for giving thanks to nature, for celebrating the life cycles that give us grain. This is traditionally the month of weddings. This is not a surprise in a largely agricultural community - the riches gained from a good harvest form the economic basis for expensive family occasions like weddings.
Pongal is a four-days-long harvest festival celebrated in most states of India. For as long as people have been planting and gathering food, there has been some form of harvest festival. Pongal, one of the most important popular Hindu festivals of the year. This four-day festival of thanksgiving to nature
This first day is celebrated as Bhogi festival in honor of Lord Indra, the supreme ruler of clouds that give rains. Homage is paid to Lord Indra for the abundance of harvest, thereby bringing plenty and prosperity to the land. Another ritual observed on this day is Bhogi Mantalu, when useless household articles are thrown into a fire made of wood and cow-dung cakes. Girls dance around the bonfire, singing songs in praise of the gods, the spring and the harvest. The significance of the bonfire, in which is burnt the agricultural wastes and firewood is to keep warm during the last lap of winter.
On the second day of Pongal, the puja or act of ceremonial worship is performed when rice is boiled in milk outdoors in an earthenware pot and is then symbolically offered to the sun-god along with other oblations. All people wear traditional dress and markings, and there is an interesting ritual where husband and wife dispose off elegant ritual utensils specially used for the puja. In the village, the Pongal ceremony is carried out more simply but with the same devotion. In accordance with the appointed ritual a turmeric plant is tied around the pot in which the rice will be boiled. The offerings include the two sticks of sugar-cane in background and coconut and bananas in the dish. A common feature of the puja
On the third day, Kanuma is celebrated. Kanuma is very intimate to the hearts of farmers because it is the day for praying and showcasing their cattle with honor. Cattle are the symbolic indication of prosperity.Nowadays Kanuma is not celebrated as widely as it used to be, but it is an integral part of the Sankranti culture and is meant for thanksgiving to cattle. On the day after Makara Sankranti, the animal kingdom is remembered and, in particular, cows. Girls feed the animals, birds and fish as a symbol of sharing. Travel is considered to be inappropriate, as these days are dedicated for re-union of the families. Sankranti in this sense demonstrates their strong cultural values as well as a time for change and transformation. And finally, gurus seek out their devotees to bestow blessings on them.
The fourth day is called Mukkanuma which is popular among the non-vegetarians of the society. On this day, farmers offer prayers to the elements like soil, rain, fire for helping the harvest and the village goddesses with their gifts which sometimes and these days mainly include animals.
Kanuma, Mukkanuma and the day following Mukkanuma call for celebrations with union of families, friends, relatives followed by fun activities, which mainly include cock fighting, bullock/ox racing, kite flying, and ram fighting.
On this occasion, in every town and city, people play with kites and the sky is filled with beautiful kites. Children and elders enjoy this occasion.