Harvest! sweet harvest!
work of the whole year
house full of near and dear
and laughter too!
decorated homes and villages bright
time for celebration!
This is the scenario in every home in India once a year. Even if ALL citizens of India are not farmers, we ALL celebrate harvest festival with fervour and gaiety. India was and is an agrarian society. We can all trace our ancestors to farmers!
The agricultural season in India is based on the monsoon. There are two seasons of crops, Kharif and Rabi. Kharif cropping season is from June to October. Since the season of Kharif coincides with monsoon, the crops grown are water intensive crops. The Rabi cropping season lasts from October to March. This is also called winter crop.
The kharif crops include rice, maize, sorghum, pearl millet/bajra, finger millet/ragi (cereals), arhar (pulses), soyabean, groundnut (oilseeds), cotton etc. The rabi crops include wheat, barley, oats (cereals), chickpea/gram (pulses), linseed, mustard (oilseeds) etc.
Agriculture and related sector contributes to almost 20% of India’s GDP. This sector employs almost 70% of the population. So you can imagine the importance of harvest in the day to day lives of the common people of India.
All over India, the harvest festival is celebrated in Jan, on the day when the Sun enters the Makara Raasi or the constellation of Capricorn signalling the start of Uttaraayana or the northward movement of the Earth in its yearly pilgrimage of going around the Sun, towards the north of the equator. The Uttaraayana date generally falls on 14th or 15th of Jan.
This harvest festival is celebrated all over India. It is called Makara Sankranti all over the country. It is generally spread over 3 – 4 days. Great number of delicacies are prepared and partaken.
Some of the other names of this festival are:
- Pongal in Tamilnadu,
- Uttarayan in Gujarat,
- Lohri in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh
- Magh Bihu in Assam
- Poush Sangkranti in Bengal
The Harvest festival is a great occasion for families to get together. In south India, married daughters along with their spouses come to the father’s house. The daughters are given a lot of gifts.
Another unique tradition in South India is the decoration and worship of the cattle of the household. The day after the main festival, there is a dedicated day for the cattle. On this day, after the worship of the livestock, the animals are given a rest and are not put to work. It is their annual holiday! 🙂
An important part of this festival is sharing our bounty with our neighbours too. I remember carrying fruits, and other condiments in large bags and going over to all of my mother’s friends homes to give it to them. I would go to half of them and my sister would go to the other half in the neighbourhood. I continue this tradition to this day and I distribute fruits, haldi, kumkum to all my neighbours.
In Karnataka, this tradition is followed. Apart from fruits, the distribution list includes a mixture of sesame seeds, jaggery pieces, coconut pieces, fried peanuts. This is called “yellu-bella”.
The celebrations and customs too everywhere may not be the same. But the essence of the festival remains the same. It is giving thanks to the Almighty for the bountiful harvest and sharing with family and friends and praying for a good monsoon for the next year.