Sankranthi Festival of Andhra Pradesh
Certain Hindu festivals are associated with the annual cycle of seasons. Sankranthi, the biggest harvest festival in Andhra Pradesh, is one of such festivals. Sankranthi is celebrated to mark the end of the harvest season during January. The festival is celebrated with the name 'Pongal' in other parts of South India. Sankranthi, the biggest harvest festival, is celebrated over three days. Each day is marked by different festivities. The first day, Bhogi, is a day for the family. On this day the entire family wakes early in the morning and burns waste wooden rubbish accumulated through the year. Cleaning and burning of rubbish symbolises the destruction of evil. Also on this day, the elders in the family pour different varieties of small fruit known as 'Bhogi Pallu' on the heads of their children. This is performed to bless the children with prosperity and good health. It is celebrated to mark the withdrawal of the south-east monsoon as well as the reaping of the harvest. Sankranthi is generally celebrated in mid-January every year. The word Pongal derives its name from 'Pongali', a sweet preparation made from freshly harvested rice. The newly harvested rice is cooked on this festive occasion to acclaim the bounty of Gods.
The second day, Sankranthi or Makara Sankranthi, is dedicated to the worship of 'Surya', the Sun God. The day marks the Sun's journey to the Capricorn ('Makara' raasi) of Northern Hemisphere, signifying the onset of 'Uttarayana Punyakalam', and is a day of celebration all over the country. On this occasion relatives and friends meet and greet one another along with having delicious dishes. The festive specials include 'sakinaalu', 'ariselu', 'jantikalu', 'chakralu' and 'kajjikayalu'.
The third day, Kanumu, is for worship of the cattle and other domestic animals. On this day, the cattle are bathed, their horns polished and painted in bright colours. Different garlands of flowers and small bells of brass are placed around their necks. In the night, a bonfire is lit and the animals are made to jump over the fire. It is a big event for the people of Andhra Pradesh and the Tamils. The pongali offered to the Gods is then given to cattle and birds to eat.
The advent of Sankranthi is associated with Spring. Colourfully decorated designs or rangolis, known as 'Muggulu', are drawn in the front of every household during this month. These artistic floral designs are drawn on the floor with rice flour or fine powder from limestone. These patterns are decorated with marigold placed on 'cowdung' balls called 'Gobbemmalu'. Colourfully dressed young girls go around them singing songs. The village scenes are really enchanting with 'Haridasus' and 'Gangireddulu'.
In some parts of Southern India, Rath Yatra and Bullock-cart processions are taken out from the near by Temples. In some places adventurous pastimes like 'Jelli Kattu' are performed. In this pastime bundles of money are tied to the horns of bulls, and villagers try and wrest the bundles from them. In some villages, community meals are arranged to mark the festive occasion.
In January the streets of Hyderabad are bustling with seasonal lingo. With Sankranthi, the festival of kites, many places in the twin cities are brimming with kite-flyers, literally. The Annual Kite Festival is organised at Shilparamam and some other parts of the City. There are many sporting kite flyers around to take the challenge. Various sizes of kites are on display from the palm sized small ones to the huge 'Takhthe ka patang'. 'Maanja', 'kheench', 'pench', 'dheel' -- it's time for the 'Patang' talk. The charkas get stripped of the thread as it is spun around the thumb and the small finger in a fascinating style. Very striking are the names too. A whole range is unfolded for the season as kite enthusiasts jostle, push and indulge in hectic bargain for their choicest stuff.
The Sankranthi festive occasion is really a fun-filled one where all people starting from the common man to the elite take part with lots of fun and frolic. Kite flying is important on this day, which is special for colorful kolam decorations and sweets. Hyderabad Industrial Exhibition (Jan 1 to Feb 15) is conducted in the grounds on Mukarramjahi Road near Nampally where many stalls display textiles, kitchenware and other goods.