Today is Makar Sankranti. In West Bengal, popular festival known as Poush Sankranti or Poush Parbon, is celebrated with great enthusiasm. The rituals, puja and and traditional customs revolve around special food items, which are cooked in households only during the Sankranti or Uttarayan season. Happy Poush Sankranti in advance to all! Poush Sankranti in Bengal is an auspicious day when farmers start harvesting their crops. Even though Sankranti is known by different names in different states of India, the theme is same everywhere. It is a celebration of a bumper harvest and people offer prayers and special food items to their household deities, Goddess Lakshmi or Lord Vishnu.
How is Poush Sankranti is celebrated
Sankranti means the transmigration of the Sun from one constellation to the next. It marks the transition of the Sun into Makara constellation on its celestial path. Makar Sankranti is also called the Uttarayana or the day when the Sun begins his northward journey. It is the beginning of an auspicious time.
Since the harvest season is to do with everything bountiful, food is a big part of Poush Sankranti and many rituals revolve around items made from rice as it is the time when paddy is harvested.
The most common food for celebration is called pithe made from rice flower and the festival is also called pithe parbon. There are several kinds of pithe. Each district has its traditional pithe and a variety of gur or jaggery is a compulsory accompaniment. Along with pithe, which is both sweet and savoury, Payesh made of rice, milk and date palm jaggery is a winter dessert cooked and offered to the gods virtually in every household during Poush Sankranti.
In rural Bengal, the farmers' families clean their households, draw alpana or rangoli with paste made of rice flower, hang small bunches of mango leaves and rice stalks welcoming Lakshmi. Lakshmi Puja is done with rice grains symbolizing the goddess of wealth. India's harvest festival is a celebration of unity in diversity!