Interesting customs, fun festivals

Sankranti, Bihu, Lohri, Pongal… call it by any name you want, but this festival that celebrates the transit of the sun to the north, thereby marking the end of winter is celebrated by every region in very particular ways. What is interesting to note though is how certain traditional customs like kite flying or taking a dip in the Ganges during this holy period have grown on to become festivals in themselves. DNA rounds up these uniquely Indian festivals that are celebrated during Sankranti and have their international fans, too.

The International Kite Festival of Gujarat
A sport that dates back rumouredly to 300 years or more, Makar Sankranti is one day the entire state of Gujarat takes to its roofs and playing grounds to unspool the manja and see their kites soaring high. Flying kites is such a passion among the Gujaratis that there’s an International Kite Festival that is organised every year in Ahmedabad between January 13 and 15, coinciding with Sankranti. This well-promoted event today sees kite-fliers from as far as Japan, Australia, USA, Brazil, Canada, Spain and England swarm in to participate in this colourful and free-spirited event.

A violent sport that dates back to the Indus Valley civilisation, jallikattu is a form of bull wrestling that is celebrated in the villages of Tamil Nadu on Mattu Pongal (the third day of Pongal). The villages of Palamedu and Alanganallur near Madurai are renowned to host the bloodiest jallikattu competition.The cattle bred for this sport are a special variety called Jellicut. The rule of the game is very simple. Namely, contestants are required to hang onto the bull until a particular mark. The winner is the one who succeeds in hanging on to the beast till the end. If the bull manages to shake off the contenders and runs free, its owner wins the prize money. Now, while the sport manages to raise the hackles of animal rights activists every year, the popularity of jallikattu continues unabated among the hot-blooded youth of Tamil Nadu. Its notorious reputation also garners attention, year after year, from the international media.

Brahmaputra Beach Festival
A festival that was conceived to promote tourism in the North-east, the Brahmaputra Beach festival is held every year in January during Magh Bihu, the harvest festival in Assam. Organised by the Assam Boat Racing and Rowing Association along with the tourism department, this is an open-air festival that is held by the banks of the Brahmaputra. With fun as the central theme, crowds are exposed to a whole slew of adventure sports including wind surfing, rafting, canoeing, kayaking, para-dropping and hot-air ballooning There are cultural programmes in the form of elephant races, kite flying and cock-fighting. Sports like beach cricket and beach volleyball only add to the fun element in this festival.

Gangasagar Mela
A dip in the Ganges on Makar Sankranti is considered to be a great blessing among devout Hindus. Understandably why, Sagar Island in the Bay of Bengal sees pilgrims by the millions during this period. A dip in the Ganges followed by a puja in the Kapil Muni temple is one ritual that is devoutly followed by old and the young. The event is so huge, it actually has the West Bengal government make special arrangements to ensure safe and comfortable travel and stay.

This article first appeared HERE.

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