Being a South Indian, I know the importance of Makar Sankranti and the manner in which it is celebrated in Andhra Pradesh. My neighbours are from Bihar. I was narrating to Urmila(my neighbour) that I would be preparing Dahi Vadas, Cabbage Vadas, Lemon Rice, Coconut Chutney and Milk Pudding for the occasion. She added that she has to prepare GHUGHUTIS. I looked at her in a zapped manner. . . what are they now?
She narrated the story of Chandra Vamshi King Kalyan Singh and his cruel minister Ghughuti. After her story, I was amazed to find out that the festival is celebrated in order to pay salutations and thank BLACK CROWS by small children. As an environmentalist and caring feminist, I was very happy to know more about it. In short, the story is about the Prince toddler of the king who was kidnapped by the cruel Minister and was making plans to kill him. The young kid was always busy playing with his precious necklaces and sharing his left over food with the black crows at his palace. When the black crows observe that the prince was being killed by the Minister, thousands of crows get together, create chaos by their harsh sounds and injure the Minister very badly. In the end, they are successful in saving the life of the boy and the royal parents are very happy with this. They punish the horrible minister by putting him to death and chopping his body into pieces. These were distributed to the crows. However, it could not suffice the hunger of the crows. The couple make the arrangements to cook various snacks and sweets for them and pay their salutations to these birds. They tell crows that the eatables are ghughutis for them. It turned out to be an annual affair for them. Now it has become mandatory and essential for the individuals from Bihar to continue the tradition. This is the story behind the vast celebrations.
Next day I observed Urmila preparing sweetmeats and snacks. They were taking the shapes of pomegranates, drums, knives, swords, etc. She took a thread and needle and made a beautiful necklace out of these eatables. She fixed an orange at the middle of the garland. The small children were ready and in their new clothes. They gathered at the main gate. They had worn these garlands around their necks and singing the following song-
“Kale kauwa kale, Ghughuti mala khale,
Le kauwa talwar, mein ke diye bhal-bhal parivaar,
Le kauwa bada, mein ke diye bhal-bhal sununka ghad,
Le kauwa nearing, mein ke diye bhal-bhal sununga sainga.
Le kauwa poori, mein ke diye bhal-bhal sununga cchhuri.
Le kauwa gojaun, mein ke diye bhal-bhal sununga bhojho.
Le kauwa dhal, mein ke diye bhal-sununka thaal. “
The kids were trying their best to attract the crows by showing the eatables. These were broken into small pieces and thrown to the crows. Once the birds consumed, they thanked them loudly. They continued to say, “Thank you Crows, I want you to visit us next year also”. This really touched my heart and really admired them.
Being a traditional environmental feminist, I started thinking about the following argument-
a) If there are customs in our culture wherein the adults and children know how to respect their environment and non-human animals, then there would be no harm towards them.
b) I was satisfied and convinced in a very positive manner that there are customs and rituals where each one of us is responsible towards the environment and animals whether they were cows, bulls, goats, hens or black crows. In this case of Makar Sankranti, it is observed that God Sun visits his sons Lord Of Death-Yamaraj and Shani Deva-The Lord Of Misfortunes. Black crows are the ambassadors of Yamaraj and Shani Deva. It is customary for all Hindus to pay respects to their ancestors and offer part of their food to crows. This is a mark of paying salutations to the departed ones. The dishes are also prepared for them. The children are groomed and taught by these customs to care for their environment and animals exiting in it. This has been observed through the rituals followed in the celebrations of Makar Sankranti.
c) Thus, we know that there would not be any harm caused to the non-human animals in the given society. Each one of us know how to respect them.
In fact the festival is celebrated to honour the non-human animals. In every region of India, young or small or adult pray and offer various things to animals. These might include rice, corn, jaggery, pulses, wheat flour, sweetmeats, snacks, etc. In Bihar, the festival is called KALE KAUVE meaning “BLACK CROWS”. Senior folks teach and show the ritual and participate with the young children. I really liked the zeal with which the festival is celebrated and how certain values are passed on from one generation to another in the spirit of religion. HAIL BLACK CROWS and we pay our salutations to you on this day. . . we honor you!!!