The past week of mid-January has been very sunny and unseasonably warm in Hyderabad. Perhaps the glorious Sun God has made a bolder than usual appearance to mark the January 14th Sankranthi. According to the history of this harvest festival, this is the day when the Sun-God begins its ascendancy and entry into the northern hemisphere. This also means that the daytime temperature will continue to climb as the summer approaches.
For someone who grew up in the North where we mark the phases of the sun by solstices, it is comforting to learn how similar rituals exist in the southern hemisphere. To Hindus, the sun stands for something deeper than the mere celestial change as the week of the festival is associated with knowledge, spiritual light and wisdom. I read about Sankranthi in the Wikipedia to learn that “Sankranthi signifies that we should turn away from the darkness of delusion in which we live, and begin to enjoy a new life with bright light within us to shine brighter and brighter”.
Sankranthi is one festival that seems to be celebrated all over India in different forms. Last Sunday, January 13th, I had a chance to witness as families gathered on the rooftops of their small houses and helped their kids fly kites – a wonderful old tradition to mark the gaiety and fun associated with this ritual. The children also drew intricate designs with bright colours at the entrance to houses. The bright blue sky above Hyderabad sparkled with multi-coloured kites flown by boys of many ages…what a lovely tradition indeed!
Today, a week later I’ve been invited to visit a Hindu family for Sunday lunch. I’m curious to learn more about this ritual and to join a family to celebrate the passing of winter into yet another spring of renewal of the body and spirit.