Every festival in Uttarakhand has its unique euphoria. Each festival in Uttarakhand represents its different cultures and reflections of rites. We are introducing you to such a distinct festival ‘Makrain’ also known as Makar Sankranti or Uttarayani.
Uttarayani or Makar Sankranti is one of the most sacred religious events of the Hindus. It is held in January each year as it is one of the oldest Indian festivals that has been perceived according to solar cycles.
Therefore it almost always falls on the same date every year (January 14), but occasionally, times may vary by shifting a day in a particular year.
Why is Uttarayani Celebrated?
Due to the cultural variations in India, people celebrate this festival for distinct reasons. However, it is associated with the idea that the sun enters from the zodiacal sign of Cancer( Kark) to the zodiacal sign of Capricorn (Makar), i.e. the sun starts moving slowly towards the north.
Gradually, the days begin to get bigger, and the heat also increases. With this, migratory birds also turn back to the colder regions of the mountains. Therefore this festival gives the signal of the change of season.
Significance of the Festival in Uttarakhand
Although people celebrate Makar Sankranti in different regions of the country, it has a distinct significance in Uttarakhand. It is known as Ghugutiya in the Kumaon region and Gholdiya or Ghwaul in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand.
The centre of attraction of this festival is the Uttarayani Fair which is held in the second week of January each year at the different places of Garhwal and Kumaon region like Johar, Dharchula, Bageshwar, Haldwani, etc.
On the occasion of Uttarayan, bathing in Ganga shrines is of great importance.
According to the mythological scriptures, due to the Uttarayan of the Sun and the month of Magha, bathing in the pilgrimages eliminates sins of birth, gets rid of diseases and miseries, and provides a balanced path to life.
Uttarayani fair that adds a feather in the cap of the Uttarayani festival is held in the second week of January month every year throughout the various regions of Kumaon and Garhwal. However, the most prominent and historical event is held in Bageshwar.
The ground of Bagnath temple in Bageshwar, which is located on the bank of the river Saryu, is the main venue for the fair. The fair lasts for a week that attracts an abundance of tourists across the country.
The local people sell hand-made items, bamboo articles, herbs, and spices, traditional dresses, traditional food items, etc. People organize various colourful programs like folk dances, folk songs, tableau, etc. in the fair.
Moreover, Jhoras, Chancharis, and Bairas are some of the folk dances which is performed by folk artists.
Well, many people also take a plunge in the holy river as they believe that the dip removes the sins, and purifies their soul and body.
How is Uttarayani Celebrated?
Though in different regions of the country people celebrate Makar Sankranti by donating khichdi, flying kites, making varieties of sweets, etc. Whereas, In Uttarakhand, there is a distinct way of celebrating the festival.
Makar Sankranti, which is also known as Ghughutiya or Kale Kauwa in Uttarakhand, is celebrated by locals with fervour and gaiety. On the earlier day of the main festival, people prepare Ghughuti.
Ghughuti is deep-fried sweets prepared by the mixture of flour and jaggery. People mix the flour and jaggery and make a dough then the dough is shaped in the form of pomegranates, drums, knives, swords, etc. And shapes are deep-fried in ghee. Finally, sweets are stringed into a garland.
Eventually, on the day of the festival, children wake up early in the morning and take a bath. They wear the ghughuti garland and sing “kale kauwa kale, ghughuti mala Khale” to attract crows and other migratory birds and offer some sweets.
The Legend Behind the Festival
There are always some folk tales connected to any festival we celebrate. Similarly, a local legend connected behind celebrating this festival which describes that many years ago there was a king. The King had a minister called Ghughutiya.
The greedy minister conspired to murder the King and take control over his possession. But the evil minister failed to execute his treacherous plan as a crow apprise the King about the minister’s nasty intentions; thereby, the King received the boon of life.
After knowing the ill intentions of his minister, the King punished him and asked the entire monarchy to prepare sweetmeats and delicacies for the crow as the crow has given aid for saving his life.
Since then, Ghughuti is celebrated delightfully. People also recognize that by offering sweetmeat to the crows they tribute to the departed souls of their ancestors.
Once in a lifetime, everyone should be part of this festival, especially in the Uttarakhand to know the distinct ways of celebrating this joyous moment.