India has always been a land of diverse cultural identities. Every culture has their own festivals which are of great cultural significance. Few such festivals like Lohri, Makar Sankranti, Pongal and Magh Bihu are celebrated in the month of January. Each of them have their own history and significance.
Lohri is an Indian festival of great traditional significance. It is celebrated a day before Makar Sankranti, where people pray and celebrate around a bonfire. The festival is primarily celebrated in Northern parts of India with great energy and spirit. Lohri is also termed as the festival of harvest wherein farmers celebrate folk songs culture and mark the end of sowing season.
Tales from Punjab mention legends of Dulla Bhatti, a legendary hero who lead a rebellion against the Mughal empire. His acts of bravery made him so famous in Punjab that almost every Lohri song mentions his name.
Makar Sankranti also known as Maghi, is a Hindu festival, which is celebrated across India in different cultural forms, with great devotion and fervour. The festival, which marks the start of longer days, is usually celebrated in the second week of January.
The legend believes that Sankranti was a goddess who killed a devil named Sankarasur.
It is also believed that Bhisma Pitamah breathed his last breath on Uttarayan.
Makar Sankranti marks the end of the winter with the winter solstice and the start of longer days. It is known by various names in different parts of the country.
Makar Sankranti is followed by Pongal. Pongal is a four day long harvest festival celebrated in India which is associated with the tradition of crop harvesting. This festival usually falls in the month of January when crops like rice, turmeric and sugarcane are harvested. The festival is widely celebrated in Tamil Nadu. This year, Pongal will be celebrated from 14 January to 17 January.
History of Pongal dates back to around 2000 years. Originated as a Dravidian Harvest festival which was celebrated as Thai Un and Thai Niradal.
According to a legend, lord Shiva once asked his bull, Basava, to go to the earth and ask humans to have an oil massage and bath every day and to eat once a month. Basava mistakenly announced Shiva has asked people to eat daily and have an oil bath once a month. Enraged Shiva , banished Bavasa to live on the earth forever. He would have to plough the fields to help people produce more food. Thus, this day is associated with to cattle.
Magh Bihu is when the annual harvest takes place in Assam. People celebrate Rongali Bihu to mark the beginning of the Assamese new year and the end of the harvest season.
It is believed that the festival started from the time when people of the valley started tilling the land. Bihu is believed to be as old as river Brahmaputra.