Skip to main content

Sankranthi in Karnataka – Kannada Makar Sankranti - Yellu Bella

Sankranthi, or Makar Sankranti, is a harvest festival in Karnataka as is the case in other parts of India. In 2019, the date of Sankranthi in Karnataka is January 15. Bhogi (January 14, 2019) is the first day of the festival. Yellu or Ella means til (Sesame seeds) and ‘Bella’ is Jaggery. A mixture of Til (sesame seeds), Sharkara (jaggery), dry coconut and groundnuts is given to friends, neighbors and relatives on the day. There is a popular saying of Yellu Bella in Kannada – ellu bella tindu, ollolle matadi! (Eat Til seeds, Jaggery and speak good words).


Importance of Makar Sankranti in Karnataka

Sankranthi is celebrated when sun transcends from Sagittarius to Capricorn during the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. Sankranthi means ‘change of direction’ and is based on solar event and it also marks the arrival of Spring Season. In Kannada culture, Sankranthi is synonymous with ellu (sesame-jaggery mix), sugar candies and sugarcane.

Uttarayana, the day time of Devas, begins from Sankranthi and the next six months are considered highly auspicious. There are also numerous other legends that are associated with Sankranthi.

Bhogi is the first day of the festival and special dishes are prepared on the day.

How is Makar Sankranti Observed in Karnataka?

The day before the festival all the houses are thoroughly cleaned. And on the day of Sankranti, green mango leaves are used to decorate doors and windows and the thresholds of houses and colorful rangoli are drawn on the doorsteps. People also fly kites on the day.

Numerous music and dance festival are also held during the period.

Sugarcane and Sankranti

Talk about Sankranthi and the first things that a Kannadiga would remember is sugarcane. Stacks of sugarcane sticks piled up in the market herald the arrival of the Sankranti festival. Shredding the sugarcane with teeth and munching the juice off it is a major activity on the day.

Food Prepared During Sankranti

People also exchange yellu – a mixture of fried sesame, peanuts and gram with jaggery and copra. People visit relatives, friends and neighbors on the day and exchange yellu balla. The festive feast includes rice and moong dal kichdi (both sweet and salt), curries with freshly harvested field beans, sweet potato, sweet pumpkin, etc. The list increases as one travels to rural Karnataka.

The popular belief is that consuming sesame seeds and jaggery is good for the body and it will help in the winter season. Til is consumed during this period on auspicious occasions throughout North and western parts of India.

Freshly harvested jowar and bajra blended with sesame is widely used on the day. Special curries of Brinjal are prepared. Mixed vegetable curry known as Bartha. Various types of peas, chawli, carrot, sweet potatoes, various leaves and radish are mixed to prepare Bartha. This particular dish is prepared only during this period. Cow ghee is widely used in the preparation.

Other highlights of the festival are the use of freshly cut sugarcanes and preparation of dishes like Pongal.