All About Sankranti

Riya Bathina, Staff Writer

During the winter, holidays like Christmas are constantly being advertised, and for many South Asians who do not celebrate Christmas, it can be strange not to have their holiday publicize. One of the biggest holidays celebrated in South Asia during the winter is Sankranti. Sankranti is known by many names, including Pongal and the Indian new year.

Although Sankranti is a Hindu holiday for many South Asian people, it is a holiday to start the new year and celebrate accomplishments. Zodiac signs and the Hindu calendar are Hinduism’s main pillars for certain holidays. Because the calendar and the sun phases vary every year, most South Asians depend on priests or the internet to know what the exact date is every year. This year Sankranti is celebrated on Jan. 14th. Sankranti marks the beginning of the Indian new year as the sun phases into the zodiac Makar (Capricorn).Because India is such a diverse country, many states celebrate Sankranti differently. One of the states that celebrate Sankranti is Andra Pradesh. In Andra, Sankranti is stretched out into different days to start the process of beginning the new year and remembering memories. Office Holidays states, “In Andhra Pradesh, the first day is known as Bhogi, and it is a day of cleaning and cleansing; old clothes are thrown away, marking the start of new life.” A common thing to do on Bhogi is set out new clothing to celebrate the beginning of the transition into the new year. This process of cleaning and renewal is crucial to Andra as it represents the process of reincarnation in Hinduism. The second day is known as Pongal day. This is one of the most important days (in any state in India) as food is prepared to sacrifice to the gods. Many families choose to make food together as a way of bonding. Freshman Eesha Vengalathuru states, “During Sankranti, my family and I love eating and making Laddoo, peanut chikki, Puran poli, and sweet Pongal!” Pongal is a dish made of milk and rice which is boiled over until it is the texture of a stew. The food is then offered to the gods. After gifting the food to the gods, people eat the many things offered to cleanse themselves of past sins to start the new year.The third day is Mattu Pongal, known as the cow’s festivities. The cow is a significant symbol of Hinduism and is considered a sin to consume or hurt any cows as they are considered sacred. Mattu Pongal is a day to be grateful for animals like cows and ox. They are celebrated as one of the past’s most extensive parts of farming. The cows and ox are bathed in a mixture of floral water and then decorated with flowers to show thanks for the cow. The final day is known as Kanum Pongal. Because Kanum Pongal is the last day, it is expected to give thanks to those in your life, like family, friends, or even pets. Although Sankaranti itself is extensive, South Asians believe that every day is vital to celebrate.

Because Sankranti is a holiday based on Hinduistic beliefs, several practices are done explicitly for the sake of the gods and self-actualization. Bank Bazaar states, “On the occasion of Makar Sankranti, lakhs [thousands] of people take a holy dip at the Sangam – the confluence of Ganga and Jamuna. The holy dip results in forgiveness of past sins.” Although this is an important and meaningful connection for many Hindus living in America, it is challenging to commit to. However, there are many religious practices that people engage here that are more readily accepted and accessible. Junior Arya Krishnamoorthy explains, “I do pujas with my parents and siblings. Pujas allow people to pray and give thanks to God while also setting intentions for the new year with the emergence of Sankranti. Pujas are a way for me to feel connected to my culture and religion.”

Although lately, the media has chosen to discuss South Asian holidays more (like Diwali and Holi), many more have been lost in the conversation. Sankranti is a prime example of this, as it is rare to see discussions regarding this festival around the holiday season. Vengalathru states, “It should get more recognition depending on most kids that celebrate Sankranti in that area. It’s a fun holiday, and it’s super helpful to learn about the culture.” Because of the push to include Diwali as a recognized day off for students, what is to say about making Sankaranti a holiday for schools? And what does that mean for the effort South Asians make to be represented equally in the media? The Washington Post says, “South Asian “communities [are] coalescing around issues to advocate for so that there is representation of who they are in this country, and one of the ways to mark that is having your religious holidays recognized.” Fighting for a day off does not make people lazy; rather, it makes people recognize and educate themselves about South Asian culture. Receiving credible and prejudiced lacking information about cultural holidays slows stereotypes and moves along the process of treating people of different races and religions equally.

The lack of information negatively affects South Asians as they find that information is skewed, and without knowledge, it can be hard to connect to those of the same ethnic origin. Senior Sathvik Kanuri states, “It is so awkward meeting some new Indian person and having that strange conversation trying to guess the other person’s holidays they celebrate and having to explain when they do not understand what you are talking about.” Without a connection to one’s culture, connecting with those of the same ethnicity can be challenging. Sophomore Anish Mantravadi adds, “I honestly have never gotten a chance to celebrate Sankranti because no one ever really talks about it, unlike Diwali.”

In summary, it is unanimous that Sankaranti and Hindu holidays in general need to be spoken about more, as the lack of conversation about these holidays stops people from connecting. Sankaranti is an important holiday for many Hindus and the erasure of it negatively affects Hinduistic c ulture. It is essential to remember that even if one isn’t Hindu, they can still celebrate the holiday on their own or with their friends. Sankaranti is just as important as other holidays currently so it is time to start acknowledging it as a holiday festivity.