Bhogi, the great fire!

After the Christmas vacation, the next long holiday we look forward to, down south, is the Sankranti vacation. Sankranti is the harvest festival of Hindus in the south and a few places in the north. In the states of Telangana and Swarna Andhra, it is celebrated for 4 days. Bhogi, Sankranti, Kanuma and Mukkanuma. Today, I would like to share a few things about Bhogi, the day of the great fire! Gear up and lets go…..

BHOGI

The great fire that removes all unwanted stuff....
The great fire that removes all unwanted stuff….

Bhogi festival or Bhogi is celebrated on the first day of Sankranti. It is celebrated in he honor of Lord Indra, “the God of clouds. and rains”. Lord Indra is worshiped for abundance of rain and increase in harvest which leads to prosperity to the land and its people. This festival is also called as Indran. On Bhogi all people clean out their homes from top to bottom, and collect all unwanted goods. This day is meant for domestic activities and of being together with the family members.

All the houses from the richest to the humblest are thoroughly scrubbed and whitewashed. Homes are cleaned and decorated with “Kolam” – floor designs drawn in the white paste of newly harvested rice with outlines of red mud. Often pumpkin flowers are set into cow-dung balls and placed among the patterns. Fresh harvest of rice, turmeric and sugarcane is brought in from the field as preparation for the following day.

The traditional "muggu" or rangoli
The traditional “muggu” or rangoli

This symbolizes the removal of all the bad in our lives and have a fresh start.

THE PUJA

Arrangement for the puja.
Arrangement for the puja.

A special puja is performed on the first day of Pongal before the cutting of paddy. Farmers worship the sun and the earth by anointing their ploughs and sickles with sandalwood paste. It is with these consecrated tools that the newly-harvested rice is cut.

BHOGI MANTALU

People dancing around the fire.
People dancing around the fire.

Another ritual observed on this day is Bhogi Mantalu, when useless household articles are thrown into a fire made of wood and cow-dung cakes. Girls dance around the bonfire, singing songs in praise of the gods, the spring and the harvest. The significance of the bonfire, in which is burnt the agricultural wastes and firewood is to keep warm during the last lap of winter.

In Andhra Pradesh, this day is celebrated by girls burning their old clothes and wearing the new ones after an oil massage and bath. Then follows Pongal Panai, a ritual in which new earthenware pots are painted and decorated with turmeric, flowers and mango leaves.

The disposal of derelict things is where all old habits, vices, attachment to relations and material things are sacrificed in the sacrificial fire of the knowledge of  Rudra, known as the “Rudra Gita Jnana Yajna”. It represents realization, transformation and purification of the soul by imbibing and inculcating various divine virtues.

The disposal of derelict things is similar to Holika in North India.  The house is cleaned, painted and decorated to give a festive look. In villages, the horns of oxen and buffaloes are painted in colors and people celebrate it in a grand way as most of them would have their harvest ready or even would have made money out of the harvests.

This tradition is observed on the same day in Andhra Pradesh where it is also called “Bhogi.” The fruits from the harvest are collected (such as regi pallu and sugar cane), along with flowers of the season, in a ceremony called Bhogi Pallu Money is often placed into a mixture of Bhogi Pallu, and the mixture is poured over children, who then collect the money and sweet fruits.

This day is celebrated in Punjab as Lohri and in Assam as Magh Bihu / Bhogali Bihu.

This is the first day of the four day festival of Sankranti. It is followed by “Kanuma” “Sankrati” and “Mukkanuma”.

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