Makar Sankranti is celebrated in different manners across India. Bengalis make sweets, Telugus burn old items of the house, Punjabis create a bonfire. In short, the entire nation welcomes the new season of harvest in different styles, but with a single notion of joy.
* A four-day long festival, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana
People of Andhra Pradesh and Telengana celebrate the festival for four days. Each day signifies a different aspect of the dawning season. Day one is known as 'Bhogi' when people sell or throw away old household items and get new replacements, marking the course of change. At dawn, they light a bonfire where all old materials are discarded signifying the fire of knowledge of Rudra, a form of Lord Shiva. Children are showered with ber or Indian Jujube, also known as Regi Pandlu in Telugu, to protect them from evil threats.
Day two is for the main occasion, Makar Sankranti, which is celebrated with family. People wear new clothes and eat homemade sweet delicacies. Each house dons a rangoli or 'muggu' (Telugu).
Day three is known as Kanuma and is celebrated by feeding cattle, and day four is known as Mukkanuma, which is celebrated by spending time with family members and arranging fun activities such as bullock or ox races, kite flying, and cock fights.
* Sakraat, Bihar and Jharkhand
People from Bihar and Jharkhand celebrate the festival for two days. They call it Sakraat or Khichdi in their local dialects.
On the first day of Makar Sankranti, people bathe in ponds and rivers and taste the sweet dishes of the season. The sweet delicacies include a special item called Tilgud, which are small balls made of sesame seed and jaggery. Tilgud is an iconic dish of the festival across India.
On the second day, which is called Makraat, people celebrate it by having khichdi, a dish made of dal, rice, cauliflower, peas and potatoes.
* Uttarayan, Gujarat
Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan is major festival for the Gujarati people. The festival lasts for two days much like Sakraat.
The first day is celebrated on January 14 and is calledUttarayan. The word originates from the course that the Sun takes as it starts to move along the northern sky. The day of Uttarayan is celebrated by flying kites or 'patang'. Kite flying contests are held across the state and people engage in kite fights. Words and phrases such as "Kai po che", "E Lapet", "Phirki vet phirki" is shouted at the time of the fights. 'Kai po che' is said to taunt the losing side when a kite cuts the thread of another one.
The next day is called Vasi (meaning stale) Uttarayan. Dishes like undhiyu, which is a mix of winter vegetables and chikki, made of sesame seeds, peanuts and jaggery, are being made to celebrate the occasion.
* Lohri, Punjab
The Punjabi festival Lohri is celebrated by the people from the Punjab region of South Asia on Januray 13, every year. The festival is associated with the harvest of winter crops and is celebrated by the people of Punjab origin. The time of Lohri is considered as an ideal season to harvest sugarcane. Thus, the crop has become an iconic item of the festival for farmers.
A day after Lohri, also known as Maghi, is observed as the financial new year by the farmers in Punjab. Kite flying on Lohri is popular in some parts of Punjab. On the night of Lohri, people light bonfires to worship the god of fire and perform rituals.
* Makar Sankrant, Maharashtra
Makar Sankranti is a huge celebration in Maharashtra. The whole state bursts with joy and merriment. The festival is celebrated for at least three days. People exchange tilgud, halwa, puran poli. The phrase "til-gul ghya, aani god-god bola", which means "Have tilgud and say sweet words", is said while exchanging the sweets. This exchange of sweets is traditionally known to be an indication of truce between enemies.
The first day is known as Bhogi, the second as Sankrant and the third day is known as Kinkrant.
Apart from being recognised a festival celebrating harvesting in India, Sankrant in Maharashtra also celebrates the triumph of Goddess Sankranti over demon Sankarasur. Women, clad in black clothes, get together and apply Haldi-Kumkum (turmeric-vermillion) and exchange gifts in form of clothes and utensils.
Makar Sankrant also honours the deity of education, Goddess Saraswati, and the ancestors.
* Pongal, Tamil Nadu
Much like Andhra and Telengana, Tamil Nadu also celebrates the harvest festival in a grand fashion. The harvest festival is known as Pongal in the state. The Tamil-speaking people celebrate Pongal for a period of four days.
Day one is known as Bhogi Pandigai and is celebrated by burning old things of the house and replacing them with the new ones. Leaves of Neem are placed over the roofs and walls of houses to ward off evil. This ritual is called Kappu Kattu.
The second and the most important day is known as Thai Pongal or just Pongal. The word 'Thai' in this context comes from the name of the month Thai in Tamil. The day is celebrated by having rice boiled with fresh milk and jaggery, topped with brown sugar, raisins and cashew nuts. The moment the first bubble rises from the rice pot, people shout "Ponggalo Ponggal" and blow conch shells to mark the advent of the new season of harvest.
The third day is known as Mattu Pongal, which is marked by feeding the cattle. Some villages organise Jallikattu, a festival of taming wild bulls.
The fourth day, known as Kaanum Pongal, is celebrated with family members.
* Poush Parbon, West Bengal
Mouth-watering sweets and the smell of fresh cut rice mark the harvest festival in West Bengal. Puli pithe, paatisapta, maalpoaa, narkel nadu, til nadu are some of the most famous sweet dishes that mark Poush Parbon. Khejurer gur or jaggery made from dates is the iconic item of the Poush Parbon.
The origin of the word Poush is much like the Tamil word Thai, which comes from the name of the month according to the Bengali calendar. The word Parbon means festival inBengali.
West Bengal is also famous for the traditional Ganga Sagar carnival. Millions of devotees come to the confluence of river Ganges and the Bay of Bengal to bathe before dawn and worship Lord Shiva and Goddess Ganga. The Hindu God of Justice, Dharma, is also worshipped on Makar Sankranti.
* Kumbh Mela
The Kumbh Mela orKumbh fair is the highlight of Makar Sankranti in India. It is the largest religious gathering in the world. It is so big that it can be traced via satellites. However, only four fairs are recognised as the traditional Kumbh Mela-- Haridwar Kumbh Mela, Allahabad Kumbh Mela, Nashik-Trimbakeshwar Simhastha and Ujjain Simhastha. Pilgrims come from all corners of the country to bathe in rivers and worship the Hindu deities.