Makara Sankranti..the whole experience, nationally

Special Dishes Cooked for Sankranti

Pongal in Tamil Nadupongal3

Til Poli

Tilache Ladootil-ke-ladoo

Sarsoon Ka Saag with Makke Di Roti or Corn Tortillas

Kurmure Ladoo

Many Melas or fairs are held on Makar Sankranti the most famous being the Kumbh Mela.

Kumbha means pot and Mela means Fair. This Mela is a sacred Hindu pilgrimage that is centred in four locations in India:

Prayag, Allahabad, UP at the confluence of the three holy rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and the subterranean Saraswati.

Haridwar, UP where the river Ganga enters the plains having originated from the Himalayas.

Ujjain, MP on the banks of the Shipra river.

Nasik,  Maharashtra on the banks of Godavari river.

The pilgrimage occurs four times every twelve years, once at each of the four locations. Each twelve-year cycle includes the Maha (great) Kumbha Mela at Prayag, attended by millions of people, making it the largest pilgrimage gathering around the world.

Makar Sankranti is celebrated in Kerala at Sabarimala where the Makara Jyothi is visible followed by the Makara Vilakku celebrations.


In Gujarat the custom is for the elders to give gifts to the younger members of the family. The Gujarati Pundits on this auspicious day grant scholarships to students for higher studies in astrology and philosophy. Kite flying is an important part of the festival and has become an internationally famous event. Brightly coloured kites dot the skies all over the state.


“Kaipoche” means that your “patang” or kite has been cut ! “Manja” is the string used to fly the kites and many ingredients were used to make the string including ground glass and glue. As many accidents happened it has become a banned item.


In Maharashtra people exchange sweets called ‘Tilache ladoo’ that is made from sesame seeds, sugar or jiggery. They greet each other saying – “til-gud ghya, god god bola” meaning “accept these tilguds and speak sweet words”. Maharashtrian women wear a special black saree called Chandrakala which is embossed with crescent moons and stars and get together with other married women to exchange tilgud with a special ceremony called “Haldi Kunkum”.


In Punjab huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Sankranthi and celebrated as “Lohri”. Sweets, sugarcane and rice are thrown in the bonfires. The whole community joins in the singing and dancing of ‘Bhangra’.  Sankrant is celebrated as MAGHI and the body warming food of  Sarson Ka Saag and Makki Di Roti are served.


In Assam, the festival is celebrated as “Bhogali Bihu”.


As it is the month of Magha, the Fair held at the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvati rivers at Triveni in Allahabad is also called Magha Mela.  A ritual bath in the river is important on this day. According to a popular local belief in the hills of Uttar Pradesh, somebody who does not bathe on Makara Sankranti is born a donkey in his next birth. The belief is probably based on the lack of ritual daily baths in the cold weather. Khichiri is eaten and given away and some call the festival Khichiri Sankranti. People also distribute rice and lentils to the poor and needy.

Ritual bathing also takes place in Haridwar and Garh Mukteshwar and Patna in Bihar. Since it is also the season to fly kites, the evening sky is awash with colorful kites of all shapes and sizes. Several kite competitions are held in various localities.


In Karnataka people visit friends and relatives to exchange greetings, “Ellu bella thindu, Olle Maathu Aadu” (Eat sesame seeds and speak only good).sugarcane and a dish called Ellu (made with sesame seeds, coconuts, sugar candy. In Karnataka cows and bullocks are also decorated and fed ‘Pongal’- a sweet preparation of rice. Special prayers are offered and in the evening, the cattle are led out in a procession with the beat of drums and music.

In the night a bonfire is lit and the animals are made to jump over the fire. The significance of this exchange is that sweetness should prevail in all the dealings.

Andhra Pradesh

In Andhra Pradesh this festival is called “Pedda Panduga” meaning the big festival. A three day festival is held between January 13th and 15th. Each day has a special significance.

  • The first day is called Bhogi panduga
  • The second day is Sankranthi
  • The third day is Kanuma

Aariselu, (known as Adirasam in TN) made of rice flour and Jaggery is a special dish. Kajjikayalu, jantikalu, puliharam (tamarind rice), garelu, boorelu, laddu and sweet pongal are the other dishes. Women and children visit homes of relatives and neighbours for tambulam consisting of tamalapakulu (betel leaves and arica nut, coconut and flowers.

On Kanuma,  farmers decorate their cattle and offer prayers for a good harvest. They sell their produce and get money. People visit temples and family gatherings happen.

Cinema is a very popular media all over the South and people make it a point of going to a newly released film.

About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest used to be acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays. I am now an Armchair traveller/opinionator/busybody!
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5 Responses to Makara Sankranti..the whole experience, nationally

  1. Maxi says:

    You had me with all the fabulous colors, Padmum. The Sankranti dishes melt in my mouth and I’m alive with fun and laughter at the kite festival. I would love to be a part of everything.
    blessings ~ maxi


  2. rummuser says:

    Way to go Padmum!


  3. Hi Padmum:
    At our local town here in Connecticut, we celebrate Pongal the authentic South Indian way, with women in silk sarees, men in veshtis, food served in banana leaves, first served by women for the men and then the men serve the women. It is held in turns in each person’s house — this year it was in our house !


    • padmum says:

      Festivals and celebrations have to become more community oriented with the participation of neighbours and friends…families are so dispersed that meeting for an occasion is becoming quite a logistics issue. So happy to hear that you had the Pongal celebrations in your Home.


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