(Not much had changed for Gauri after her marriage. Her mother-in-law believed in equal opportunities for men and women in their careers and extended complete co-operation to her working hours. Being from a typical Maharashtrian household, Gauri was supposed to make arrangements for Makar Sankranti celebration in her office this year. She was quite nervous about it and rushed home to know the details about the festival.
Gauri went straight to her mother-in-law who was engrossed in some creative cooking in the kitchen. Her Aai(the sweet way Gauri likes calling out to her mother-in-law)was busy in making tilache laddoo (sesame and jaggery sweets) for Sankrant! What a perfect moment to discuss Sankrant; she thought!)
Gauri: Aai, I feel very nervous. My boss has asked me to wear a Nauvari and has insisted that I should look after the arrangements of Makar Sankranti celebrations in the office!I barely know about the festival myself! You have to help me with this.
Aai: I should personally call your boss and thank him Gauri. I don’t remember the last time you have draped a saree, made sweets or performed the Pooja! (Her mother-in-law giggled)
Gauri: Don’t be mean to me, please! I have a long list of things I need to know and I’m going to keep bothering you.
(Gauri sat beside her mother-in-law and mumbled all the questions she was worried about…)
Aai: Calm down dear! I will help you find answers to your questions and will also lend you one of my best Paithanis and some jewellery that goes with it. But in return, you have to help me in making the laddoos.
(Gauri smiled. She loved the warmth in their bond. She loved the festivals as they strengthened these bonds. She began rolling the laddoos while listening and capturing every bit of information that the elderly mother figure passed on to her)
Aai: Let me begin with the story that my mother-in-law told me. I was barely 18 years old when I got married. I can roughly recall my first Sankrant away from my mothers home. My mother-in-law asked me to make Puran Polis (A Maharashtrian wheat preparation stuffed with a paste of jaggery and tur daal mixture, topped with ghee and served hot with milk). I was horrible at cooking back then. So while learning to cook the difficult traditional dish, I heard this story from her.
Makar Sankranti is a harvest festival. Most Hindu festivals follow the position of the moon and are based on the lunar calendar. Thus, the dates of festivals change every year. But Makar Sankranti is a festival which falls on the same day every year as it follows the solar calendar. On Makar Sankranti, the sun enters the sun-sign of Capricorn or Makara (the Indian rashi). Therefore, the ‘Makar’ in the name. The word ‘Sankranti’ signifies the movement of the sun from one zodiac sign to another. Thus, the name of the festival literally means the movement of the sun into Capricorn.
It also has something to do with the position of sun, moon or some solstice, I’m not really sure. Why don’t you google and find the right information Gauri?
(Gauri hurriedly looked for her phone and surfed the internet to add to the details.)
Gauri: Google says, Makar Sankranti is one of the oldest solstice festivals and falls on the equinox, day and night on this day are believed to be equally long. Post the festival, it is officially the beginning of spring or the onset of Indian summer and the days become longer, and nights shorter.
Aai: I knew a bit of this. Now, coming to food, Makar Sankranti is the festival of til-gul where sesame and jaggery laddoos or chikkis are distributed among all. They are generally accompanied by the saying, “Til-gul ghya ani goad goad bola“, which means ‘eat these sesame seeds and jaggery and speak sweet words’ or also ‘take sweet, talk sweet’. The festival is one of the bonding where every member of society is asked to bury the hatchet with enemies and foes and live in peace. Also, since the festival falls in winter, eating of sesame and jaggery is considered beneficial to health as they are warm foods.
Gauri: Aai, what is the connection between ‘Makar Sankranti’ and kite-flying?
Aai: There is a very interesting reason behind the kite-flying. Kite-flying in olden days was generally done in the early hours of the morning when the sun’s rays were bright but not too harsh. Also, during kite-flying, the human body was exposed to the sun for long hours. The early morning sun is considered beneficial for the skin and body. Since winter is also the time of a lot of infections and sickness, by basking in the sun, Hindus believed that the bad bacteria on their bodies would be cleared to a certain extent. Creating a fun way of sun basking where no one would even realize they were reaping the benefits through kite flying. Cool, right?
Gauri: Fairly amazing! And you mentioned the Paithani and Pooja too. How do they relate?
Aai: As per the traditions, we wear Nauvari and perform a Pooja. That is what I want you to do for every festival but you fail to impress me. This time your boss has replaced me and I cannot thank him enough!
(Gauri and her Aai laughed out loud….)
-The voice behind this article is Ashwini Gaikwad, Content Writer, Investronaut.