Houston Maharashtra Mandal Celebrates Makar Sankranti 2018 with Overwhelming Response


By Varsha Halabe

HOUSTON: As the shortest day passes us by, the days start getting longer and before you know it, it is Makar Sankrant/Pongal/Udagi that marks the passing of the Sun into the Makar Rashi (Capricorn). This festival is celebrated on January 14th of each year and Houston Maharashtra Mandal (HMM) celebrated it on the Eve of in the gym and cafeteria of West Memorial Elementary School in Katy. The School was on an unassuming, quiet residential street and children and adults were flying kites on the playing fields of the School as the shadows lengthened. The entrance was decorated with garlands of flowers on the door frame and Rangoli on the floor and traditional Shehnai music was playing in the background as one entered.


Young and old were in traditional black sarees or churidars and the HMM Committee, as always, welcomed everyone warmly with a traditional Namaskar followed by “Tilgul ghya aani goad goad bola” in Marathi, meaning help yourselves to the sweet made out of sesame(til) and brown sugar (gul) and talk sweetly to everyone through the year. All the ladies’ foreheads were adorned with red kumkum and yellow haldi (turmeric) and all attendees with fragrant essence put on their hands and hailed with a shower of rosewater. This was the auspicious start to HMM first event of the year.


The set up was in two halls. The first hall had the stage which was decorated with a colorful backdrop and was the spot for small babies under the age of one to have their “Bornahan” (“Bor” meaning a type of edible berry found in India and “nahan” meaning shower) and this ceremony involves pouring sweets, berries, sugarcane and money on the babies’ heads since this is their first season of harvest and it symbolically means that they should grow and flourish in life. The stage was also the spot for babies and toddlers to have their photos taken with jewelry made up of sesame seeds. 


This is yet another Sankrant tradition since sesame is typically eaten in the winter to provide enough heat for the body. There were musical chairs with upbeat Bollywood music and games for kids arranged in the first hall that kept the kids busy and smiling. Swarali Panse, a talented teenager, hosted a Quilling workshop that was attended by more than twenty-five kids.

The first hall had stalls with jewelry hand-made by Koumudi Ketkar, a stall hosted by the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangha, Aloha Mind Math, Himalayan Blooms selling attractive woolens, Sheetal’s Skincare Studio, Geetham Silks selling beautiful sarees, and the Citizens Climate Lobby that enabled those who wished to express their opinion on Climate change to their local Congressman.

The adjacent hall had food stalls selling all kinds of traditional and street food that included vada-pav, corn bhel, modak, gul polis, green peas kachori, sev batata puri, samosa chaat, malpoa, brownies, cakes, mastani, falooda, solkadhi and much more!

It was a complete treat for food-lovers and mouth-watering snacks kept people moving from stall to stall until their stomachs could handle no more. There was a prize for the best decorated stall and the most popular stall decided by voting. There was a raffle prize too! Cold weather made tea and coffee inevitable and it was served incessantly through the evening by HMM.

The food stalls were run by culinary enthusiasts who are members of the HMM. The stalls were arranged according to the food served such that there was a good mix of sweets and savory. Each stall was numbered in order to aid the voting for the best stall. The flavored modak stall was voted the best stall and the corn bhel stall was voted as most popular. Over 450 people attended this event, making it a huge success. 

By, a little past eight o’clock, the food stalls were sold out and started wrapping up for the evening. Attendees looked content and went home with a copy of the upcoming HMM events for the year and an annual calendar printed in Marathi, Kalnirnay (literally meaning the decisions made by Time) listing month by month festivities and birth and death anniversaries of all famous saints, kings, national leaders and freedom-fighters of India.