Today is Makara Sankranthi. A harvest festival celebrated all over India. It is called by different names in different parts of the India. Essentially it is a festival that marks our thanks to the nature for a good harvest. It also marks the Sun’s travel northward. So from now on slowly the days will get longer and nights shorter.
One thing I have noticed is that our festivals are always based on the farming activities and seasons. India was and still is a largely agrarian.
India has distinct seasons of summer, monsoon, winter. Each lasting roughly 4 months in duration.
Our festivals start with “Ugadi” or “Gudi Padwa”. This festival comes on the first day of spring, at the start of summer. Generally this comes in the month of April. Spring marks the start of all things new and fresh. So this is the new year for the Indian calendar. To symbolize that the coming year will bring both good and bad experiences and that we must take them with equanimity, neem (bitter) and jaggery(sweet) are partaken.
Then there is a long hiatus to the festivals. Do you know the reason why? This is the time when spring turns to summer and these months are used to prepare for the new season of sowing. All the farm activities are started. The fields must be ready for the monsoon.
The rain gods bring the much needed dip in temperature and the season of sowing begins. These are busy times. Monsoon hits India with a clockwork like precision on Jun 1. These are changing nowadays due to global warming.
Then come two months of working in the rain, tending to crops. Once the crops reach a certain height, then there are a spate of festivals to appease Lord Ganesha, Mother Goddess. This is because, the people have to wait for the crops to grow well in the abundant rain. Work in the farm in less and there is time on hand. Also praying to Gods to help in bumper crop helps to calm the mind.
Finally after Diwali, the crops are ready for harvesting. So as winter sets in, work in fields increases. Then again there is a break in the festivals.
The Sankranti festival marks the harvest and the thanksgiving. This is almost the last major festival in the year.
May the new year bring cheer to all farmers of India.