Makar Sankranti | The Celebration Of Hard Work, Enthusiasm & Dedication

Last evening when I reached at my daughter’s school to pick her, I saw this huge poster of Lohri festival announcement at the entrance of her school and the teachers were instructing the parents to send the kids tomorrow in Indian ethnic wear to celebrate the festival of Lohri, which happens on every 13th January of the year and is a Punjabi festival, celebrated on occasion of the beginning of harvesting season. Well, how I just skipped in the hustle bustle of the daily course that just the very next day after Lohri is Makar Sankranti which happens on every 14th January of the year. And realized that I have not set any recipe or plans for the festival. This is all the after effect of staying away for long from your native. The tradition & culture of the place where you reside becomes more impact ful in your day in day out. Like my daughter is busy and happy celebrating Lohri with her friends and teachers unaware of what this strange name “MAKAR SANKRANTI” Mama told her in car while driving back home from school last evening (which I can easily make out from her totally confused and astonished expression when I tried explaining her that we will also be celebrating at home Makar Sankranti the day after Lohri).

Just like Chhath Puja is dedicated to Sun God, Makar Sankranti is yet another festival dedicated to Sun God, but this one more devoted to the significance of the directional shift of the Sun in the hemisphere.  And unlike Chhath Puja only celebrated in Bihar, Makar Sankranti is celebrated in several parts of the country. From the day of Makar Sankranti the Sun God begins ascendancy and enters into the Northern Hemisphere, hence in Gujarat this festival is called Uttarayaan. My curiosity in Hindu Mythology also provided me the erudition that as Hinduism is known for the association of cosmic events with human life and values and transforming them into some kind of religious ceremonies. Therefore, Makar Sankranti is one of the similar associations of the cosmic event with human life. After the Greeks, we Hindus also give great importance to the Sun God. Sun surpasses time and rotates the proverbial Wheels of Time. I can recall now, that while teaching me the Gayatri Mantra, my mother had specifically mentioned in the explanation of the meaning of Mantra that this Mantra has been explicitly crafted to worship Sun God. We worship Sun God for intelligence and wisdom.

Last evening I reminded my husband of Makar Sankranti coming up and he totally jumped out of nostalgia. My husband is a great storyteller, he loves to and can speak for whole night and to fit him I am a very patience listener. I have heard many of his childhood stories many a times repeatedly and every time in a little different version 🙂 . So, now due to the strong upshot of nostalgia, my husband shared very analogous and touchy events at the dinner table, about how he and his family used to celebrate Makar Sankranti in Darbhanga.

My husband recalled and I could easily relate to him – during our childhood days, residing in a society was all about getting completely involved with the neighbors, just like families. So anything cooked at home included the servings for all the closest neighbors, which meant apart from our own family the recipe was also cooked for 3 to 4 more families. Recipes or food again plays a vital part of festivity. Likewise, any recipe cooked at home keeping in mind the offering to be bestowed to the concerned God was cooked in huge quantity in vision of family members eating it and also the portions to be distributed to the beloved neighbours. So, it was not a single day’s affair, rather ten to fifteen days of enthusiastic hard work, love and dedication. There are specific delicacies of this festivity prepared with til (white or black sesame seeds), chuda ( flattened or beaten rice), (jaggery), mudhi (puffed rice). The Chuda vendor would be asked to deliver around 5kgs of Chuda, half kg of til and gur accordingly 10 to 15 days before the festival. The chuda would be then cleaned  by chalni (a stainless steel filter utensil) and young boys of the family, like my husband were assigned to take the cleaned chuda to the chuda mill to get roasted, as due to the large quantity it was quite difficult and time taking to roast the chuda at home. It was like a picnic for boys to take chuda for roasting at the chuda mill near Donar Chowk in Darbhanga. The group of notorious boys in the cycle or motorbikes would load the chuda packed in big tin boxes or jute bags. In the chuda mill you have to be in queue to get your work done and queue would be as long as your turn would come after 2 to 3 hours, which was a gala time for boys to have some chai and samosa from the chai stall just outside the chuda mill and chit chat all about cricket, Salman Khan & Ajay Devgn (Bollywood movie star), other studios boys and the lovely girls of the school (wink). Then comes your turn, so your chuda gets weighed and is roasted in the mill and handed over back to you the same quantity, as it was recorded before getting roasted.

Til (sesame seeds) at the same time was scrubbed and dried at home. About two to three days before Makar Sankranti, the preparation of Lai – a recipe made by mixing of chuda or mudhi and caramelised gur and is round in shape, tilba – a recipe made by mixing of sesame seeds and caramelised gur and is round in shape and tilkut – a recipe made by mixing powdered white sesame seeds, caramelised gur and is flat and round in shape, would begin. The entire house is scented with the aroma of these special recipes of Makar Sankranti. You genuinely start feeling the festivity and sense auspiciousness in the atmosphere. A night before the festival the milk would be set to transform into curd overnight with the traditional technique of warming up the milk, pouring the milk in a mud pot, putting the jodan (a spoonful of curd saved) , covering the pot and placing it in one corner of the kitchen.

On the day of Makar Sankranti specially the woman of family would wake up early, take a bath and then step into the kitchen to prepare the special meal which will include – a preparation of sabji of gobhi, aloo, matar and tamatar (recipe prepared of coli flower, potato, peas & tomato with watery gravy), curd and raw chuda is the breakfast. I categorically used to relish the curd and the smashed chuda lai together. Once all the family members have bathed and assembled in front of the puja ghar, the woman of the family will then offer a mixture of black sesame seeds, melted gur and some raw grains of rice to all the Gods and Goddesses. Sun God would be offered water pouring down from the lota (copper spherical water vessel). After the rituals, all the family members would sit together and have the breakfast.  Since, the meal would be heavy, so the lunch was generally skipped on the day and the time was, instead, spent on socializing and relishing the lai, tilba and tilkut of different hands in the neighborhood.

At night, a special khichdi was made which was served with its four traditional companions – kichdi ke chaar yaarchokha of roasted or boiled potato, paapad, ghee & achaar (pickle).Therefore, we welcome the onset of spring by the shifting of Sun God towards Northern Hemisphere with such a feast which was being planned and prepared since last 10 to 15 days . And well, a happy stomach means a happy mind and then we all look for happiness around, thanking Gods with the celebration of such festivals.

The difference today is that everything related to the festival is wrapped up in just one day, whereas, we are also veteran of the festivity being deliberated for days. I at times feel regretful for the kids now in my family as they will only overhear the tales of excitement and gusto of such occasions (needless to mention from a super talkative father like my husband J). But then this is how we also have grown up listening to the childhood tales of our parents. Aren’t we???

So here, PatnaBeats wishing you all another traditional festival tale to gift your next generation.
Live it, celebrate it.
A very happy & blessed Makar Sankranti!!

खा के आलूदम, तिल ,गुड और दही चुडा.
शाम की खिचडी से पहले खुब पतंग उडा.