Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, January 15

Thousands of Nepali mothers today offered warm oil to their children to keep them warm in the chilly winter and to make them ready for the coming spring.

Makar Sakranti or Maghe Sakranti celebrations vary according to castes and the geo-cultural structure. It is celebrated by almost all the ethnic groups of the country. Purna Shova Maharjan of Khichapokhari gave the symbolic oil massage to her 18 children and grand-children. She said that she wants to live longer because her grand-children need more oil massages and she is not sure whether her daughters-in-law will continue the age-old tradition.

"I like celebrating the festival because all the family members gather and eat together. Although, it is hard for married and working women like us to take care of both the office and household chores during the festival, I still enjoy celebrating it," states Chandra Kala Adhikari, an office employee.

People eat ghiu (butter), chaku (molasses), tarul (yam) and tillko laddu (balls made from sesame seeds), today. Khichadi (made from rice and black lentil) is another popular dish served on this day. This festival falls on the first day of Magh.

Married daughters are invited to their parental home. Many devotees visit religious places like Devghat in Chitwan, Barah Kshetra in Sunsari and Ridi in Palpa. Some devotees even go to nearby rivers and take a holy dip. It is believed that a bath purifies the soul. Female members prepare everything from laddus to tarul and chaku to khichadi.

According to the president of Vaidik Pratisthan, Baldev Juju, "From today, the Sun slowly moves towards the northern hemisphere, which indicates the arrival of summer."

"Food items like chaku and tarul help in generating body heat. Beside cultural importance, most of our rituals also hold a scientific meaning," opines Juju.

Makar Sakranti is extensively celebrated by the Tharu and Magar communities. Since 2002, the government has declared Magh 1 as a holiday for the Tharus who call it Maghi and celebrate it throughout this month. They also sacrifice goat. Married daughters receive laddus from their parental home. "We often get tired of making laddus in huge numbers. We have to distribute it among our relatives," says Chabilal Chaudhary, a Tharu activist. Parashu Narayan Chaudhary, the president of Raj Parisad offered rice, pulse and salt to the sisters of the community and put white tika as per Tharu culture.