Celebrating Sankranti

Sankranti is coming and the streets of Malleshwaram especially the Sampige Road is glowing. There are tiny little golden boxes to be given as gifts to married mamis,white, yellow,pink sugar molds in various shapes and hues to gift to little brats, colorful little trinkets to sweet angels…

Yellu, bella,kobari[Sesame,Jaggery,dry coconut] are neatly stacked everywhere and for the ultra modern working women with very little time on her hands there are ready made packets of yellu-bella and nuts.

So no sweat and hassle, just arrange them in colorful trays and gift them away for people who come calling you. Don’t forget to add sugarcane, banana and sometimes the Ber[ Elachihannu in Kannada]. For more effect, utter the words ‘Yellu bella tindhu olle maathadi‘ and lo, you very much belong to the community.

But Sankranti of yesteryear was slightly different. The preparations used to start very early in the month. The Kobari was put in the sun until crisp then cut in to tiny pieces. The Jaggery too was treated the same way. My mother’s hands were pink after this mammoth exercise of chopping these munchkins to tiny pieces. The nuts were roasted, the peels of groundnuts removed and finally all ended up in tiny plastic covers, nicely sealed with wax. That was the only task we were allowed to do. Yet we felt we belonged and were part of some great ritual. Some homes added an extra piece to the pack- sakkare achu or sugar candy molds. There would be squeals of delights in our home if we acquired a basket,star or an angel achu rather than a  boring square shaped one. And a brisk exchange and deals would happen between us if one of us got the boring ones like giving up control of the remote for an hour in exchange for a pink star.

Today things have changed but the fun element still exists. In Ahmedabad, the festival spirit is quite enthusiastic. After all the famous kite flying or should I say kite fight happens here. Plates of gachak, peanuts are kept on terrace. Kids and adults alike with colorful kites gather on the terrace. The hero or heroines are accompanied by the complete family -encouraging, supporting, swearing and generally distracting the kite flyer. Dheel,Khainch,lapet are some common words that get hurled as the sport continues in full gusto.

Wherever you celebrate, Sankranti ushers in goodness. After all it is just not a harvest festival. It signifies the sun making its journey northwards from Sagittarius to Capricorn. The days after the winter solstice of December 21 are going to be longer. So you celebrate for a great new year, for new beginnings and success. You prepare Pongal and offer it to the Sun, you eat sesame and jaggery to bring new energy and heat. And just like the prayer wheels of sikkim that revolve and disperse the chants to wind, you fly kites that soar high and take your message to the divinity above. Happy Sankranthi.

For a walk at the colorful Sampige Market join us on our Malleshwaram walks.

–Usha

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