Sankranti, which is celebrated across the land in various forms on January 14, is a harvest festival as the Sun moves into Capricorn (Makar, hence the name Makar Sankranti) and ends the so-called inauspicious phase and heralds the onset of auspicious times as per the Hindu calendar. Across India, it is known variously as Makar Sankranti, Magh Bihu, Pongal, Uttarayan, Maghi, and Poush Sankranti. The celebrations vary too, but the theme is the same, thanksgiving to the protective forces of the environment, letting go of the past and making fresh determinations for the future, inviting wisdom and purity into life, strengthening social ties with family and friends, and having a good time together.
Sankranti, for me, is when the the sky start to shed its wintry grey and turns clearer and bluer each passing day, when the eight winds change direction (three days after Sankranti according to popular wisdom) and becomes warmer, when the streets of Hyderabad suddenly open up as people head out out of the city and homeward for the four days of festivities, when homes welcome you with bright and intricate rangoli, when the house is filled with the rich smell of traditional ghee fried goodies, when the womenfolk dress up in bright new clothes and wear jewelry and put flowers in their hair and go visiting each other in the evenings, when the sky is speckled with kites of all hues, and the terraces are filled with men and children putting out their best manja to prove their kite flying prowess.
Sankranti is a reminder that while I am the one who flies the kite of my life, the path it takes is governed by my respect for the forces of nature, and that I need to exercise courage, prudence, and wisdom along with firm faith if I want my kite to convey the greatness of all life. My Sankranti is a reminder that it is not necessary to carry the clutter of ignorance and attachment, and that the fire of knowledge can dispel the darkness of false beliefs. Sankranti is about the rice powder in the rangoli that feeds ants, birds and insects when you are not looking, and the complex mandalas or designs that prevent negativities from entering into our lives. And at the end of the day, Sankranti is about letting your hair down and breathing easy and having a good time, enjoying the sights and sounds (and tastes) of a people celebrating their oneness with the environment.
As the result of the journey of my life, I have developed my own understanding of much of my culture, and I am extremely glad for my understanding, though it often contradicts what our culture is commonly understood as. This post was triggered by an inspiring article I read on Sankranti by one of the more thoughtful bloggers that I follow, Sowmya Swaminathan.