Harvest festivals are an integral part of India’s cultural legacy and over the centuries the tradition has evolved in various forms and has assimilated itself into the local tradition.
Onam was initially associated with the tradition of the fertility cult and is a popular harvest festival celebrated in the month of August-September in Kerala. This harvest festival later turned out to be the identity of the land and is celebrated with the Thiruvona Sadhya – traditional Kerala Meal with at least 50 different dishes complete with the Onam Pattu and Pulikali where people masquerading as tigers take to the streets in the evening. Trissur district in Kerala witness the largest gathering of these ‘tigers’ and is a colourful occasion with drumbeats and banners.
Pongal or Tai Pongal is a sacred festival associated with the harvest season and similar to Onam it is celebrated by all caste and creed. The festival lasts for four days of which the second day is the most auspicious. The festival has its birth place in Tamil Nadu which is usually celebrated in the month of January. It is celebrated in various forms all over the country in different names. The Pongal dish is cooked in open air by the devotees themselves, as an offering to the Sun God. The houses are washed out of its yearlong impurities and old clothes are thrown out to welcome the prosperous New Year.
The Ugadi festival signifies the beginning of a new epoch. The clothes are rinsed and houses are cleansed with cow-dung water which is considered purifying and holy. It falls in the months of March-April and is subject to change depending on the Solar Calendar. It is particularly auspicious in the state of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. People welcome the Ugadi with new clothes and special dishes reserved for this special day. The Ugadi Pachadi – a sweet and savoury dish is renowned for its taste as well as its medicinal quality and is specially prepared for the occasion.
The Vaisaakhi or Baisaakhi marks the beginning of the harvest season in Punjab and is typically celebrated in the month of April. Vaisaakhi marks the first solar month of the Punjab Calendar and is celebrated with devotion as well as much celebrated fun. The devotional tone of the festival changes to one with fun-filled passion and excitement with stalls and carnivals together with drum beats and music.
Vishu is the New Year for Kerala and it marks the beginning of the harvest season. Heavily adorned by the myth of Lord Krishna, the devotees put together several fruits, vegetables and cereals in front of the idol of Krishna. This is known as the Vishu Kani and on the morning of the festival, people open their eyes to witness this sight, signifying abundance and prosperity for the rest of the year.
Holi has been tagged as both a spring festival as well as a harvest festival. It is celebrated in various forms in different parts of the world. Typically, it lasts only for two days but it extends up to 16 days depending on the local customs and traditions. It commemorates different meanings and customs for different regions and hence the beliefs and practises change. In general, it signifies the abolition of evil practises and the arrival of abundance and prosperity.
7. Makara Sankranthi
Makara Sankranthi is a harvest festival and as its name suggests it falls in the month of January. Makar Sankranthi is celebrated all over the country in different names. It is the first transition of the sun after the winter season and it marks a new beginning. Like all, harvest festivals, the Makar Sankranthi is auspicious and it is synonymous with people giving thanks to the Gods especially the Sun God which is the divine manifestation visible to the human eye, according to the Hindu legend.