- I will offer my prayers to the Sun, to remove the obstacle of Covid from our lives. Pray to Lord Vishnu to keep his benevolence on my dear departed parents.
The word Makar means Capricorn and Sankranti means transition. As per the solar cycle, once a year the Sun enters the zodiac sign of Capricorn (Shani as per Hindu astrology). This astronomical event in which the Surya (Sun) and Shani meet, forgetting their differences, happens on a day that usually falls on 14 January (or 15 January in Leap Years) of the Gregorian calendar.
In the Hindu month of Magh, the Sun moves northwards. This movement is called Uttarayan. The doors of heaven are now open. Many prayers, celebrations and festivals are organized all over India, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka. Hindus bathe in the morning, if possible in holy lakes, and rivers. They offer prayers to the Sun God.
Later they joyously worship Vishnu, the protector and preserver and his consort Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. This is an ancient tradition also mentioned in the epic Mahabharata. On this day every 12 years Kumbha Mela – one of the world’s largest mass pilgrimage (60 to 100 million) on the banks of the Ganges river happens. In 2021 even the pandemic could not curb religious enthusiasm and the deep desire for Nirvana among believers. Unfortunately, this created a massive wave of the Delta variant of Covid to spread through India like wildfire.
I remember every year my parents celebrated Sankrant or Lohri as it is called in North India with great alacrity. We made colorful decorations at home and lit bon wires in our backyard. At dusk, a group of children, supervised by one adult went from home to home asking for treats. The treats were revri, gajak (simple nuggets made of jaggery raw cane sugar and sesame), roasted peanuts( for protein to balance the sugar high) and popped corn.
There was a lot of singing, laughing and performing little skits for family members. My father’s favorite treat was a sesame fudge called bhugga. This is a seasonal treat made with fresh milk solids, roasted sesame, almonds, raisins and cashews. I could feel a sense of deep satisfaction spread through his being after taking one bite of his bhugga. My mother made Rajasthani Til chatti, thin transparent fudge with Kevra essence. Festivities continued for days with fairs, kite flying, dances and poetry sessions.
In South India, devotees make special khichdi or pongal with rice, lentils, jaggery and sesame seeds to usher in a prosperous new year. This year Lohri has come again. I feel a lilt in my heart, even though the Omicron variant is surging. My sister lit a lamp at her altar in India, I lit a candle on mine in America. She made saffron-butter Kheer. I bought kalakand and til-gud ladoos from the grocery store.
I will offer my prayers to the Sun, to remove the obstacle of Covid from our lives. Pray to Lord Vishnu to keep his benevolence on my dear departed parents. Heed their advice, forgive and forget all past hurts and share only sweetness with family and friends.
Somewhere, far away in the glow of several bonfires, I hear dad’s voice singing the folk song that exemplifies unity among Hindus and Muslims to the beat of a dhol-“Sundar Mundariye.. Ho..tera kaun Vichara, Dulla bhatti walla, Dulle di dhee viyahi, ser shar payi…”
With one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India and a heart steeped in humanity, writing is a contemplative practice for Monita Soni. She has published many poems, movie reviews, book critiques, essays and two books, My Light Reflections and Flow through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM.