Categorized | Culture

Colorful Kites, Sesame Sweets and loads of fun!

Posted on 12 January 2011 by admin

Ramya Maheshwary

Mississauga

“We (my brothers and I) make most out of the festival by flying kites the entire day. In fact, we form groups and fly kites, to enjoy the event to its full. With each cut loose of a kite, people fill the environment shouting, ‘Woh Kata’,” explains Sourabh Gupta, Sales Representative at Walmart.

It’s festive time again. It’s Sankranthi! Sankranthi, the most auspicious harvest festival is just around the corner – time for indulgence, good food, new clothes and lot of fanfare. Preparation for Sankranthi, begins weeks in advance at my grandmother’s home and is always centered on fun and traditional festive foods. Unlike other festivals which have religious backdrop, this festival season is more nearer to the nature and life. In south India it’s ‘Pongal’ festival, in Andhra Pradesh and many places it’s Sankranthi and in North it’s the Lohri….. Though all have different names, the central focus of these festivals is agriculture.


Sankranthi marks the ‘Sankramanam’(transmigration) of ‘Sun’ moving into the northern hemisphere, which is northward journey of Sun or the beginning of ‘Uttarayana’.
Even though the traditional Indian calendar is based on Lunar positions, Sankranthi is a solar event. Hence it remains constant and is celebrated from January 13th till January 15th.

In spite of the fast changing times with people migrating abroad in search of greener pastures the spirit behind the way we celebrate our festivals has not quite changed. Bhogi, the first day is marked with gaiety and is celebrated on the eve of Sankranti or Pongal with traditional practices and customs which have been followed since our forefathers. “We get up at 4 a.m, though we don’t light a bonfire in Canada (Bhogimantalu, which symbolizes ringing out the old to ring in the new. Old brooms, baskets, clothes, junk firewood, broken wooden furniture are all thrown into the fire signifying the cleansing of the house and a fresh start to the new year), our day starts with a ritual bath followed by a Puja to Lord Indra, “the God of Clouds and Rains”. Lord Indra is worshiped for the abundance of harvest, thereby bringing plenty and prosperity to the land. Then my mom starts decorating the neatly swept front porch with beautiful floral designs called mugulu (rangoli/kolam),” says Mira Reddy, student of UofT. Back home “Sankranthi meant preparing way in advance, practising various rangoli patterns so that on the D-day we would be ready with the biggest and the best rangoli in the neighborhood. My mom is an expert at this and she would draw the pattern with the muggu powder and we would follow and fill the patterns with pretty colors. The rangoli business was an early morning thing and we would get up at 5 am or 6 am, take a shower, wear new clothes and set about the business of colouring the rangoli,” says Mira.

Rangoli is an intricate pattern drawn with hand on a washed surface using rice flour or chalk powder and decorated with colors and flowers to bring out the richness and uniqueness of Indian tradition and culture. Every Rangoli is reflective of the art and artistic capabilities that each woman possesses and is a celebration of life.

The second day is Sankranthi. All family members gather on the terrace to cheer as their kites soar high, mothers and grandmothers make sure the supply of sesame-seed sweets do not run out – this is how parts of India celebrate Makar Sankranti, the harvest festival.

“Thousands of people in almost all parts of India pitch themselves at their roof-tops (terraces) of their respective home or apartment roof-tops to fly kites in celebration of this day,” says Reshma Gupta, employee at Planet Energy. “The sky is filled with a rainbow of kites and becomes a showcase of colourful kites of various sizes and shapes. Every family can be seen outdoors ‘cutting’ each other’s kites. The vast panorama of the sky dotted with thousand of kites becomes a wonderful sight to see,” avers Reshma. “But I miss all the fun!” says Reshma.

“We (my brothers and I) make most out of the festival by flying kites the entire day. In fact, we form groups and fly kites, to enjoy the event to its full. With each cut loose of a kite, people fill the environment shouting, ‘Woh Kata’,” explains Sourabh Gupta, Sales Representative at Walmart.

People shout from their terrace as adversary’s kite is cut down. Everyone is an adversary in this game and each kite is a competitor for the other. Engrossed in Kite flying, people enjoy loud music and food on the terrace itself. There’s always loads of til (sesame seed) laddu, sugarcane and other tasty food to munch on. The excitement does not end with nightfall, which is the time for illuminated box kites, often in a series strung on one line, to be launched into the sky which  add a touch of splendour to the dark sky.

This way the holiday is spent in relaxing as well as enjoying and people settle down for long summer days.

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