Experience Different Flavours Of Makar Sankranti In These Cities

A universal festival marking the beginning of the harvest season is celebrated differently across states in India
The feast of Bhogali Bihu in Assam
The feast of Bhogali Bihu in Assam Shutterstock/Talukdar David

As per the Gregorian calendar, the first traditional festival in India is Makar Sankranti, usually marked on the 14th of January. It celebrates the advent of spring, the beginning of a new crop sowing season, hopefully ending in a bountiful harvest. When in India during Makar Sankranti, also known as Pongal, Pedda Panduga, Poush Sankranti, Uttarayan, Maghi, Magh/Bhogali Bihu, and Shishur Senkrant and fervent prayers are being directed at the sun god, set off for a trip to any of these four cities for a memorable experience. 

Guwahati, Assam

The traditional platter of harvest festival Magh Bihu
The traditional platter of harvest festival Magh BihuShutterstock

In the northeast state of Assam, Makar Sankranti is known as Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu or festival of food, and it is one of the most awaited celebrations of the year. Similar to the rest of the country, Assam too marks the end of a harvest season at this time and the start of spring. The Magh Bihu celebrations continue over two days the first day is called uruka, and the second is the Bhogali Bihu. The day begins with jalpaan, a breakfast of chira, or flattened rice, akhoi, or puffed rice bora saul, kumol saul, which are types of rice, along with fresh cream, yogurt, and jaggery. Various pitha, or rice cakes, are cooked and are an integral part of Assamese cuisine. All proud Assamese dress in their traditional best and attend private or public gatherings for feasting set around bonfires or meji. The celebrations include an anticipated egg-fight, or koni juj, and a bullfight display. 

Jaipur, Rajasthan 

Continuing the tradition of kite flying
Continuing the tradition of kite flying

The Pink City of Jaipur welcomes the apparent transition of the sun to the zodiac constellation of makara rashi, or Capricorn, from the dhanu rashi, or sagittarius. It is considered the northward journey of the sun, or Uttarayan, and is the year's first celebration. You will lose yourself in the colourful celebrations which take place in Jaipur on the day of Makar Sankranti. There is pomp, fun, and frolic, with invitations to several private and public feasts, featuring Rajasthani delicacies such as pheerni, a string semolina and milk sweet dish, daal ke pakore, or lentil paste dumplings, and til ke laddoo, or sesame seed and jaggery roundels. Then there is the Jaipur Kite Festival, where amateurs and professionals gather to test their skills in kite flying. Head to Jal Mahal Ki Paal for the official celebrations. 

For more information, check here.

Ahmedabad, Gujarat

Colourful kites soaring up in the sky at the International Kite Festival in Ahmedabad
Colourful kites soaring up in the sky at the International Kite Festival in Ahmedabadmridulablog/Shutterstock

Uttarayan, or as Makar Sankranti is known in Gujarat, is time for heavy-duty kite flying. Prayers, holy rites, and rituals apart, the entire state has been waiting for the kite wars to begin. People are atop terraces, in balconies, on open grounds and river banks as they launch, pull, and guide their kites to soar higher than anyone else and before they are cut down and out of the skies, with victorious shouts of kai po che, or it is cut down To top it all, the International Kite Festival is held every year at this time, on the banks of the river Sabarmati. You will see kites of all shapes and sizes at the festival, as kite fliers collect from all over the world. The feasting on delicious Gujarati cuisine continues alongside the furious kite-flying matches. Indulge in the festival special of undhiyu, a multi-vegetable spicy mix served with a side of jalebis or deep-fried lentil and sugar syrup whorls. Then try the rice and lentil preparation of khichddoh, followed by crunchy shales of sesame seed and jaggery or til chikki. And this festivity is not just in Ahmedabad similar scenes are playing out across Gujarat, such as in Surat, Vadodra, Bhavnagar, etc.

For more information, check here.

Sri Muktsar Sahib, Punjab

Muktsar mela is celebrated in remembrance of forty Sikh warriors killed in battle
Muktsar mela is celebrated in remembrance of forty Sikh warriors killed in battlePexels

You do not want to miss the Makar Sankranti, or Maghi celebrations in Muktsar, which are held in the form of the Maghi Mela. The fair is conducted to honour the forty Sikh warriors killed in 1705 during the Battle of Muktsar. In Punjab and most of north India, Makar Sankranti coincides with the harvest festival of Lohri. In the holy city of Sri Muktsar Sahib, Maghi is a time for prayers, thanksgiving, and celebration. The devout head to the gurudwara, or Sikh temple, to take a dip in the temple tank or the sarovar, and offer their prayers.

Meanwhile, the fair is choc-a-bloc with commoners and blue-clothed nihangs, the armed warrior Sikh community, and all throng the shops, stalls, fete rides, and eateries. The homes and bazaars are fragrant with the cooking of kheer, a thick concoction of rice, milk, dried fruits, and sugar. It is considered auspicious to taste the kheer first after prayers. Other delicious dishes include the globally-loved meal of spinach mix and corn flour flatbread or sarson ka saag and makki ki roti. Maghi is also when kite-flying is indulged in with great fervour, not only here but all across most of the northern Indian states. 

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