Today morning I reached my office desk and my desk phone started ringing. I was surprised to see the call from my colleague Vijay who is from a different team. I thought he was calling with respect to cricket practice this weekend. To my horror, here goes the conversation
Vijay: Good Morning Sudheendra !!!
Babs: Good Morning Vijay
Vijay: Today is some festival in Andhra right?
Babs: Yes, its makara sankranthi or pongal for some people
Vijay: OK, Why do you celebrate this festival?
I was bowled right on the spot. I just knew that we eat sweets and fly kites.
Babs: Hmm, I dont really know the exact reason Vijay. I just know that we fly kites. Sorry.
Vijay: Who is the right person to find out?
I thought Google or Wikipedia in my mind. I was not sure if any other telugu people knew about this and I didnt want to embarass them. So I said:
Babs: Vijay I will find out and let him know.
I immediately opened Wikipedia and Google and parallely called dad. Dad was sleeping as it was too early for them in Hyderabad.
Dad: Hello Good Morning nana
Without saying a word I started off:
Babs: Dad why do we celebrate Sankranthi?
Dad: Today is the day when Sun moves from one Southern Hemisphere to Northern Hemisphere. Also today transition of the Sun from Dhanu rashi (Sagittarius) to Makara rashi (Capricorn) takes place. Farmers do harvesting and get their harvest home on this day.
Babs: Ok dad thanks. Shall talk to you later.
After talking to dad and reading online, I got a fair idea on why Sankranthi festival is celebrated. I called Vijay and explained him the same. Below some more info on Sankranthi for people who are still not clear about it.
Sankranti is celebrated for four days in Andhra Pradesh:
* Day 1 – Bhogi Panduga (Bhogi pandga)
The first day of festival is Bhogi. At dawn people light a bonfire with logs, old mats, clothes and other such things that are no longer useful. In many families, infants and children (usually less than three years old) are showered with fruit called “Regi Pandlu”, that is the Indian jujube fruit. It is believed that doing this would protect the children from evil eye, called “Dishti” (from Sanskrit Drishthi: sight) .
* Day 2 – Pedda Panduga,SANKRANTI (Surya)
The second day is Sankranti, also called “Pedda Panduga”,( literally, the big festival), when everyone wears new clothes,pray, and make offerings of sweets to God.
* Day 3 – Kanuma Panduga (Kanuma)
Kanuma Panduga (Kanuma) is not as widely celebrated, but is an integral part of the Sankranti culture.
* Day 4 – Mukkanuma
Mukkanuma is famous among the non-vegetarians of the society. People do not eat any meat or fish during the first three days of the festival, and do so only on the day of Mukkanuma.
Sankranti usually means all the four days together. It is celebrated in almost every village with adventurous games in South India. Whether it is the cock fights in Andhra, Bull fighting in Tamil Nadu or Elephant Mela in Kerala, there is huge amount of illegal betting but the so called tradition continues to play a major role in the festival. Another notable feature of the festival in South India is the Haridas who moves around begging for rice wishing luck.