Bhogi (sometimes also known as Bhohi) is the first day of the harvest festival (usually, celebrated on the eve of Makar Sankranthi / Pongal Day). Bhogi is celebrated to extend the gratitude towards Lord Indra – God Of Clouds And Rains. Lord Indra is worshiped for the abundance of harvest, thereby bringing prosperity to the land.
The Bhogi Festival is celebrated on January 13th, 2017.
On Bhogi, all people of Hindu faith will clean their homes and will throw away all unwanted goods and old clothes into fire. All the nooks and corners of the houses are thoroughly cleaned. Windows, panels, mirrors, and glasses are wiped cleanly. Furniture are wiped, tiles scrubbed, floors mopped, ceilings dusted free of dust and cobwebs, lights and fans cleaned as well as holes and cracks filled and plastered. In fact, some will even go to the extent of re-painting their whole house and buying new furniture.
After cleaning the house thoroughly, it is advised to sprinkle holy water in your house using mango or neem leaves. The holy water can either be collected from nearby temples or made using turmeric, pure camphor, and tulasi leaves. On a worst case scenario, you may use either Gomutra (cow urine which is also known as Gomaiya or Komiyam) or water collected from holy rivers like the Ganges.
It is customary to tie mango leaves on the entrance of the house to thwart off negative energies. These cleansed houses are then decorated with Rangoli / Kolam – floor designs drawn using rice flour paste made from newly harvested rice. Often pumpkin flowers are set into cow-dung balls and placed among the patterns. Fresh harvest of rice, turmeric, and sugarcane is brought in from the field as preparation for the following day.
Another ritual observed on Bhogi is called the Bhogi Mantalu. Bhogi Mantalu is nothing but a simple ritual where old and unwanted furniture, clothes, books, ornaments, decorative items, et cetera are thrown into a fire made of wood and dried cow dung cakes. Usually, teenage girls will dance around the bonfire, singing songs in praise of the Gods and Goddesses. The ritual of Bhogi Mantalu signifies that one’s bad habits, vices, attachment to material things, and ill lucks will be burnt by fire.
The disposal of the old articles symbolizes all the bad habits and vices are sacrificed in the sacrificial fire of the knowledge of Rudra, known as the Rudra Gita Gyana Yagya. It represents self realization, self transformation for the betterment, and purification of the soul by imbibing and inculcating various divine virtues.
Bhogi Pallu or Bhogi Pandlu is a special ritual performed on the children on the day of Bhogi. On this day, children are woken up at Brahma Muhurta to be given a special oil bath and/or head bath. This special oil is made out of sesame oil, thymol seeds (vaamu / omam), and uncooked rice grains heated together until they become warm on a pan. In some communities, they will also use fresh lime to bathe the young ones by rubbing it all over the body. After bathing, they are dressed up in new traditional clothes.
After normal prayers in the house (pooja room), these kids are then showered with Bhogi Pallu – a special mixture made of berries, sugar cane, and rice ; which are showered on the heads of the children to protect them from evil eyes and to alleviate misfortunes and ill lucks.
Some will even add other food items to the mixture of Bhogi Pallu like jaggery, rock sugar, raisins, almonds, bengal grams, cashew nuts, banana, turmeric, flowers, mango leaves, as well as traditional sweets and fruits cut into small pieces along with crystals and beads. The rituals are usually done by the elders (grandparents) of the house. Bhogi Pallu is done for good health, longevity, and prosperity as well as to thwart off obstacles and ill luck.
Once the food items have been showered, the children are then given “Aarathi” (clockwise 3 times, anti-clockwise 3 times, and vertically 3 times). It is a type of solution to remove all the evil eyes set on the children (Nara Drishti / Buri Nazar / Kann Drishti) and ill luck caused by planetary afflictions. Once the “Aarathi” has been given, the children are then given a small token or gifts to make them happy (in modern times, this tokens are toys, dolls, and money) and are asked to seek the blessings of all the elders in the household. In certain families, the Bhogi Pallu is done on the day of Makar Sankranthi / Pongal instead on Bhogi.