Lessons from Sankranti

Makar Sankranti is a Hindu festival that marks the harvest and the transition of the Sun into the Capricorn Zodiac sign. Often combined with the Winter Solstice, it is also used to celbrate the sun ending it’s southward journey to the Tropic of Capricorn and starts moving northward towards the Tropic of Cancer. Ultimately, the event marks the end of the “winter season” and the beginning of a new harvest or spring season. Often marked with great fanfare, the distinct rituals vary greatly in different parts of India. In northern India, they take to flying kites as a metaphor for reaching to their beloved Gods. While here in Southern India, they celebrate by decorating cows with turmeric and other adornments before sending them over large flames in a celebration of the cattle’s importance in the harvest.

A parade of the animals through the dirt streets in the village of Siddalingapura is met with great fanfare

In addition, even the daily Kolams (or Raongolis as they are referred to here in Mysore) are made more intricate and elaborate for the occasion. Kolams, like most beautiful things in the world, are impermanent. Drawings done in white or colored sand, every morning, and disturbed throughout the day – walked on, rained on, blown around by the wind and then purposefully washed away the following morning to start again.

A muggu design made with white sand

A more colorful kolam

These believe these ornate designs are washed away the next morning

The sand comes in so many different colors and can easily be purchased in the market

The sand comes in so many different colors and can easily be purchased in the market


Even in the outlying villages, they create these beautiful drawings in the dirt

This beautiful artwork can be time consuming and yet seems like non-attachment in action. Living in the moment and enjoying what you have today. And along the same lines, so does the main event…

The community in Siddalingapura Village gather outside the temple to watch the festivities

Quite the crowd assembles as they light three large hay stacks on fire

It’s getting hot in here…

The festivities begin

Most animals are led through the flames by their owners

And most of the owners are in flip flops!?!

Although running through the fire doesn’t seem like the best was to celebrate livestock, it does seem to me to be more of an offering to the Gods or maybe even a rebirth. Shedding old habits and attachments to material things in a form of transformation and purification through the fire. A way to mark a changing season, much like the inevitable changes in life and start anew. Something I think we try to do here at the Shala with our yoga practice; walk directly through the fire of my asana practice and be awakened by it, forever changed by the experience, hopefully for the better.


3 responses »

  1. We’ll done. The quality of your blog continues to impress. While would love more frequent blogs never give up the quality of you craft for quantity.

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