Indian communities have always had purely agrarian roots. And that’s exactly why harvest festivals that coincide with Makar Sankranti have always played such an important role in cultures across the country. Moreover, for those who live outside their home states, celebrating the occasion also helps them connect to their roots and also pass on their age-old traditions to their children. The same holds true for people from various communities living and working in Kolkata. No wonder, over the next week, the city will witness a number of such celebratory get-togethers — right from Lohri and Bhogali Bihu to Pongal, Sankranti and more — at various venues. Here’s a lowdown…
Number of participants: More than 800
The event: Traditionally associated with the rabi crop
harvest, Lohri (or Maghi) is usually celebrated on Makar Sankranti — a day ahead of the beginning of the new financial year for Punjabi farmers. In Kolkata, the occasion is celebrated in a big way by the community across various venues. The festival is characterised by lighting of a holy bonfire. People gather around the bonfire to offer prayers, sing songs, dance and throw in grains like gajak, chikki, jaggery, sesame seeds, rewari and peanuts to pay homage to their roots. This is usually followed by gidda, bhangra, Punjabi folk songs, great food and of course, loads of fun. This year, too, celebrations are being
organised by the Punjabi Bradree, the community club and also Satnam Singh Alhuwalia, who is hosting an event at a city hotel on Saturday night. The events, over the years, have seen participation by people of
other communities too.
Number of participants: More than 700
The event: Bhogali or Magh Bihu is the harvest festival of Assam and is celebrated in various forms across various tribes and communities in the Northeast. Like Lohri, fire plays a very important role in the celebration and temporary inflammable structures called bhela ghor and meji are torched as part of the celebrations. People gather around the fire and offer prayers, while throwing in a mixture of grains into the flames. In Kolkata, several organisations celebrate the festival at various venues across the city, including Assam Bhawan on Russel Street. Notable among them are Kolkata Assamese Cultural Association (on Sunday in Ultadanga), Assam Socio-Literary Club (at Assam Bhawan on Sunday) and Magh Bihu Udzapan Samity (at Uniworld City on Saturday).
Number of participants: More than 500
The event: Every year, the Tamil community of Kolkata celebrate Pongal with merriment and splendour. Bharathi Tamil Sangham takes the lead in celebrating the occasion in association with all south Indian organisations of Bengal. This year, the community is celebrating on January 20 at National Library. The celebrations involve several traditional rituals, prayers and cultural events. And everyone takes part in a traditional feast that includes a variety of dishes, including Pongal — a sweet dish made with rice and milk along with cardamom, raisins, split green gram and cashew nuts. It also has a savoury variant. For people from Kerala, the day is of religious significance and is dedicated to the worship of Lord Ayyappa. The Makara Jyothi star is worshipped by devotees of the Lord and this day witnesses a huge turnout at the Sabarimala temple.
Number of participants: More than 100
The event: Kannadigas of Kolkata celebrate Sankranti every year at their association
and witness participation by more than 20 families. The participants share Ellu bella — a mixture of sesame, jaggery, dry coconut, roasted groundnuts and roasted Bengal gram — with each other and follow all the traditional rituals. Aarthi is performed on the kids by pouring khool fruit on their heads to remove evil influences and ensure good health. The ladies also share haldi and kumkum with each other. This year, among the traditional festivities, the association is organising a rangoli competition for the ladies, devaranaam and bhajan singing and in the end, everyone will partake Uppu Pongal and Sakkare Pongal for dinner.