You can see it practically everywhere- on the walls of the toilets of a train, on walls of historical temples, on large rocks on hills and mid-stream, on tree trunks at the park, even on leaves, yes leaves as I found at Rana Pratap Memorial Park in Moti Magri in Udaipur, Rajasthan. People have etched their names and probably their lover’s name on cactus and aloe Vera leaves. People have declared their love, described in lurid details their carnal desire, advertised products and services, professed their bhakti, declared their support for some ideology or organisation or simply predicted the future of the world. From love to sex to politics to worldview- content wise graffiti has them all.
In most places it looks ugly. It defaces the historical monuments, damages the dignity of the place (consider ‘Sonu plus Monu’ or ‘Bobby loves Ruby’ scrawled on the wall of a temple), dirties the place. More often than not the bad handwriting and drawing or both and atrocious spelling mistakes are visual torture.
I often wonder why do people etch their names and scrawl such profanities or such philosophical thoughts on walls, rocks even tree trunks? Is it the urge to express oneself or one’s emotion or is it the desire to advertise oneself- the ‘me’ within getting the better of civic sense? Is it suppressed sexuality that makes them scrawl profanities? Is it some kind of skewed creativity trying to find expression? Is it plain and simple madness?
Makar Sankranti, almost always falls on January 14, except in rare years when the date shifts by a day for that year, because of the complexity of earth-sun relative movement
It is one of the few ancient Hindu festivals that has been observed according to solar cycles, while most festivals are set by the lunar cycle of the lunisolar Hindu calendar. It marks the end of winter and beginning of summer.
Makar Sankranti is an important pan-Indian solar festival, known by different names though observed on the same date, sometimes for multiple dates around the Makar Sankranti. Different festicals are celebrated on this day, or during this period across the country in different names: Lohri in north India, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Pedda Panduga in Andhra Pradesh, Bhogali Bihu in Assam, Magha Mela in parts of central and north India, as Makar Sankranti in the west India, and by other names. Besides the rituals and puja, the festivals are often associated with fun, frolic, dances, kite flying, bonfires and feast.
Makar Sankranti in Mayurbhanj
I lived in tribal dominated Mayurbhanj district, Odisha for about five years and worked there as a journalist. Makar is a big festival there, especially among the Santhal tribe, marked by community feasts, games and cockfighting, known as ‘kukuda pada’ in local terms. For hours people would gather round a place where two enraged cocks would try to kill each other with sharp blades tied to their legs. People would excitedly gamble on which cock would win. The loser cock loses its life and the respect of its owner. The winner gains respect and some money for its owner and continues to fight more. Local made booze flows like water. The festivities would continue for about a week. The urban areas look deserted as people go to their villages to celebrate makar.
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Mrinal Chatterjee is a journalist turned media academician, who also writes fiction. He lives in Central Odisha town of Dhenkanal. English translation of his Odia novel Yamraj Number 5003 is shortly being published.