Sankranthi, or Sankranti (Sanskrit: मकर संक्रान्ति), is a festival that signifies the beginning of the harvest season for the farmers of Indian Sub-Continent. This is a harvest festival celebrated not only all over India but other South East Asian Countries as well.
As the auspicious festival of peasants, Sankranthi is celebrated in all the hamlets of Andhra Pradesh. Also known as the festival of grain harvest, Sankranthi is meant to ward off the evil spirits from the crop fields. Celebrated for three whole days, the festival is religiously followed by all the farmers of the place.
The first day of the occasion, called as bhogi, begins with the lighting of grass, shoots and other waste products of the farming fields. The females of the villages wake up early in the morning and engage in decorating the lawn of their houses with bright rangolis. After the bonfire gets over, the farmers collect ash from it and apply it on their forehead as a sign of respect to the mother earth.
On the following day, the original festival of Sankranthi is observed. The ladies of the hamlets visit their neighborhoods to exchange sugarcane pieces, sesame seeds and bowl of sugar.
The third and the last day of Sankranthi – kanumu, is celebrated in a unique manner. In the wee hours, the peasants take their cattle to the nearby rivers, make them bath and embellish them by coloring the horns and tying bells in their necks. On this very day some farmers perform the ritual of bali in which a sheep or a goat is offered to the God of crops, while some others feed their cattle with home-made rice and milk. The leftover of the dish is usually spread over the farming areas by the peasants with the hope that the crops will be safe from all kinds of bad elements.
The common dish which is made in every household of the villages of the state during Sankranthi is pongal. Prepared with rice and husked greengram, this one is served with desired amount of salt and pepper.
With the end of crop harvesting season, people of Andhra Pradesh celebrate Sankranthi with abundance of disposable income and sufficient time for relaxation and exultation.
Makar Sankranti is of great significance to a devote Hindu and is one of the most important dates in the Hindu Calendar. Lord Surya Sun God is worshiped on this day. Every living and non-living being merges with the Brahman and Sun is the Pratyaksha-Brahman or the Brahman that can be seen.
Durga Puja and Dussehra celebrations came to an end with the immersion of Ma Durga idol and the burning of effigies of Ravana and his kin at several places in the city.
Navratra (also called Navratri) commences on first day of the bright fortnight in Ashwin month of Hindu calender. The word "Nav-ratri" literally means nine nights in Sanskrit language. During these nine nights, nine forms of "Shakti"- a metaphor for the female divinity - are worshipped.
Navratri is divided into sets of three days to worship three different aspects of the supreme goddess. In the first three days, the goddess is invoked as a spiritual force called "Durga" in order to destroy our impurities, vices and defects. In the next three days, the goddess is worshipped as a giver of spiritual wealth, "Lakshmi" who is considered to have the power of bestowing on her devotees inexhaustible wealth. The last three days are spent in worshipping "Saraswati" - the goddess of wisdom.
In order to have all round success in life, believers seek the blessings of all three aspects fo divine femininitity. hence the nine nights of worship. Many devotees observe fasts and prayers are offered. Nav-ratri period also gives an opportunity for introspection and purification.
The main events during this festival are-
It is celebrated on eighth day of the bright half of Aswin month. Ashtami is the day of the Saraswati or the deity of knowledge and learning. Children begin their school education, their art lessons or their career planning on this day and seek their elders blessings.
The tenth day of the bright half of Aswin month is celebrated as the day of victory to rejoice about Durga's triumph over the demon Mahishasura.
The idol of goddess Durga is immersed in water with much fan-fare. This marks the culmination of festivities.
Dussehra is celebrated to mark the victory of Rama the hero of the epic Ramayana, over Ravana, the king of Lanka.
In vast open spaces, Ramleela, the folk play with music and spontaneous dialogues, retelling the story of the life of Rama, are enacted till the wee hours. Songs are sung in praise of Rama and people in thousands witness this traditional theatre with its exaggerated costumes, jewellery, makeup and drama. Larger than life figures of Ravana and other demons are burnt with fireworks lighting up the sky.
The picture shows an effigy of Ten Headed King Ravana.
Dussera is also reminiscent of the end of the exile and banishment of the Pandava princes in the Mahabharata and their return with their weapons to reclaim their kingdom. In memory of this epic story, people in Maharashtra worship the implements of their professions and distribute the leaves of the Shami tree as gold and express their goodwill.
For Hindus Dussehra is one of most auspicious festivals of the year.