Bhogi is a festival in South India, celebrated in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, and occurs on the same day as Lohri in North India.
The word “Bhogi” comes from Bhog, meaning “bountiful harvest”. India has had 3 harvests, 3 Bhog every year through the ages.
During the medieval times, the living conditions in Europe were very tough from many perspectives, including the climatic conditions, due to which only one harvest was possible in a year.
On the other hand, in the local literature of this land, in different vernacular languages, the capability of this land to yield three harvests or Bhog, is discussed frequently. Even to date, the term “three Bhog”, continues to be the yardstick to measure the industrious nature of the agriculturist and the yield of this land.
Fertile lands of India
Not only three harvests a year but the farmers also practiced multi-cropping which resulted in bounties of food and other agricultural products such as cotton, indigo, spices.
Ringing out the old and ringing in the new
Prior to the Bhogi day, every household is cleaned of its cobwebs. All the unwanted stuff is taken out, accumulated and burnt as Bon fire at sunrise on Bhogi morning. Much as the concept of spring cleaning in England and Europe.
This cleaning was significant for this Bhogi day for the next day of Makara Sankranthi marked a new beginning with the sun entering the Makara zodiac and warmer days start from thereon. The days also start getting longer in Northern Hemisphere, conducive to agriculture and other activity. Bhogi represents ringing out the old and ringing in the new.
Bhogi Bon Fire
In North India, this day is observed as Lohri, which commemorates the passing of winter solstice. In ancient India, this festival was celebrated before winter solstice. Today Lohri is observed at the beginning of Uttarayana. The night of Lohri is believed to be the longest night of the year. Bonfire is an important component of Lohri too.
Marriage of Andal
In Tamil Nadu, Bhogi is also celebrated as the marriage of Andal with Lord Ranganatha. Andal was a poetess of Bhakti genre. Andal’s 30 days of prayers & divine poetry culminated on Bhogi and Her wedding is celebrated with feast in every Vishnu temple of Tamil Nadu. Her poetry is called Tiruppavai. Tiru means “holy, noble, good” and Pavai means “maiden, doll”.
Tiruppavai is a garland of poetry by a maiden of noble thoughts.
Chappan Bhog – Orissa
The word Bhogi has resonance in Orissa too. In the Puri Jagannath temple, Lord Krishna, Balarama and Subhadra are daily offered Chappan Bhog, i.e. 56 varieties of sweets and foods as offering. Here, the word bhog implies the whole hearted offering for the enjoyment of the Lord. Bhog also means “to enjoy to eat”.
In Assam, the harvest festival is called Bhogali Bihu.
Bohali Bihu being celebrated in Assam
Bohali Bihu is celebrated in Assam on 14th or 15th of January.
We see that, Bhogi is a wholesome festival that covers the whole of this land of India.