For Andhraites, the festivities associated with Sankranti take on a grand hue. For many the festival evokes fond memories and of grand rangolis with gobbemmalu, bhogi mantallu (bonfire), bhogi pallu (a manner of blessing children), making and feasting on pongal, listening to the devotional songs sung by Haridasulu and offering them rice or similar donations, revering the Gangireddu (decorated and worshipped ox), sweets, new clothes, gifts, feasting, family, friends; generally indulging in a grand holiday.
The ‘big festival’ or more aptly known as the ‘peda panduga’ in Andhra, Sankranti is a harvest festival that has people from all over the state and country heading back home for the festivities. Traditionally the festivities stretch over three or four days, each day marking the traditional festivals of Bhogi, Makar Sankranti (Pedda Panduga), Kanuma and Mukkanuma respectively.
Three days of festive fervour take over the entire city. This festival, also called Makar Sankranti celebrates the entry of the Sun into Makar Rasi (Capricorn). From this day onward, the sun begins its ascent and enters the Northern Hemisphere. This movement of the sun denotes the end of winter, and more significantly – the beginning of Uttarayana, and the commencement of an auspicious phase in the Hindu almanac. The day itself is considered very fortuitous.
In the month preceding Sankranti, the Hindu month of Dhanurmasam, women draw beautiful rangolis and put the ‘gobbemmalu’ between them. Gobbemmalu are the balls made of cow dung which are decorated with turmeric powder (pasupu), red vermion powder (Kumkuma), flowers and with different types of grains. Women sing traditional songs and dance around these rangolis. These gobbemmalu are then dried and used as fuel. Bhogi, the last day of Dakshinayana is celebrated with the traditional Bhogi Mantallu, or bonfire, lit early in the morning. Along with wood, dried cow dung cakes are consigned to flames. It signifies the end a phase and the beginning or fresh start to a new chapter.
In the evenings, young children are showered with a mixture of flower petals, Jujube berries (Bhogi pandulu) and coins to ensure their wellbeing, ward off an evil eye and invoke blessings from elders. Sweets in generous quantities are prepared and distributed. On the main day, Sankranti, sweet pongal is made and offered to the Sun. On Kanuma, the third day, the cattle which work in the fields and contribute to a generous harvest are decorated, worshipped and fed pongal.
A tradition in Andhra, which is not seen often these days, is ‘Bommala koluvu’. It is the showcasing of dolls (generally replicas of gods and goddesses) for three days commencing with Bhogi; similar to the tradition in Tamil Nadu during Navaratri.
This tradition dates back to the era of King Janamejaya (a decedent of the Pandavas); when his son, King Œatáníka in order to appease Lord Vishnu and beget a son, had a display of dolls put up during the Sankranti festivities (believed to be Lord Vishnu’s favourite festival). Children were invited and gifted with sweets. Continuing the tradition till this day, in many households women and children arrange the dolls in aesthetic, thematic fashion and invite neighbours and friends.
The idea of putting up koluvu is symbolically associated with ushering in the Uttarayanam with all the gods and goddesses assembled in the house, in a manner of ensuing their blessings and protection for the whole year – till the next harvest. According to Mrs. C Suneetha, such activities not only keep children happily busy and creatively engaged, it also introduces them to family traditions and teaches them about culture and customs.
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