Celebrating the Indian Harvest Festival of Shankranthi. A harvest inspired vegetarian feast.

After days and weeks of solid good rain here in Northern California, we finally see some sunshine 😊🌞.  It seriously feels like spring – Not! Birds are chirping as if it is spring, little do they know that rain and cool temperatures are coming back very soon – within a few days 🌧.


But as far as celebrating weather goes, it is the perfect warm weekend here to celebrate a farming harvest festival called Shankranthi which is observed all over India on January 14th.

This Indian harvest festival is known by different names depending on what region of India you are from. In Gujarat in western India, Shankranthi is known as Uttarayan, while in Tamilnadu in Southern India it is known as Pongal, while in the central, eastern and northern India this harvest festival is known as Maghi.

Shankranthi is celebrated every year on January 14th and is the only Hindu festival that is celebrated according to the solar calendar, unlike other Indian festivals that follow the lunar calendar and can occur on different dates depending on the year.

In places like Gujarat in western India, the Shankranthi harvest festival is celebrated with a kite festival where families, friends, and entire neighborhoods get together early in the morning on their balconies to fly kites and have a friendly competition on who can fly their kite the furthest. After the early morning kite flying party, they have a big feast at brunch time before the heat of the sun gets too hot for a picnic outside.


In the state of Tamilnadu in Southern India, Shankranthi is called Pongal and is celebrated to bring in the harvest bounty in the January/February time frame when crops in Tamilnadu such as rice, sugarcane, and turmeric are harvested. Pongal is a thanksgiving ceremony of sorts for the year’s harvest.

In the villages Pongal is observed over four days, but with globalization and the migration of Tamilians to all parts of the world, it is now observed for just one day on January 14th.

Family gatherings celebrating Pongal

During the Pongal festivities families get together with a big feast and celebrate together.





Pongal the rice dish

The main dish on Pongal is a thick rice porridge with lentils which is also called pongal. There are two variations of pongal at any Pongal celebrations. A savory pongal and a sweet pongal. The savory pongal is made with rice, lentils, salt and spices. While the sweet pongal is made with rice, brown sugar , raisins, nuts, and milk. Both of these pongals are eaten with a dollop of ghee.


Shankranthi celebration at Uma and Nando’s

Our family was invited to my cousin Uma & Nando’s home to celebrate Pongal this past weekend. Uma made an array of delicious South Indian Tamil vegetarian dishes – and they were all scrumptious!


Here are some pics from our Pongal celebration



Lunch is ready!





Seven vegetable sambhar – Ezhu

A special lentil stew (sambhar) that Uma made specifically for the Pongal celebration consisted of seven vegetables to signify the various types of vegetables harvested from the farms. Uma informed me that the lentil stew is called ezhu:  “This samhar is called “ezhu (Seven) kari kootu (stew), and is made with what is called country vegetables, mostly root veggies, yam, sweet potato, potato, carrots, sweet pumpkin, ash gourd, Indian flat beans, and Indian lima beans.”




The kids even got to have a tea party in the warm California sunshine!




Happy Pongal, Shankranthi, Maghi, Uttarayan!
Happy harvest festival!

11 thoughts on “Celebrating the Indian Harvest Festival of Shankranthi. A harvest inspired vegetarian feast.”

  1. We make a seven grain khichdi on Sankranti and it is allowed to boil over – for prosperity.
    Of course we have to make chikki – sesame seed, peanuts, mumra/puffed rice or split chick peas. My mom would put coins in chikki laddus – and kids thought they were given by God.
    By the way Surat has a reputation for having the best kites and thread to fly kites. Thread is treated with crushed glass as the goal is to cut other kites !!!

    1. I too remember the kite threads being treated with crushed glass when I was growing up in Ahmedabad! A little scary isn’t it? Thanks for sharing your Shankranthi traditions too Swati.

  2. Did not know all these facts about Pongal.
    Informative post. Very nice pictures of food and people!Thanks

  3. Hey Kalpana—-Rita here- remember me???
    Was thinking of you last week and wanted to send you a hi but your contact seemed to have got lost and I just couldn’t get you out of my mind. So last night I really freaked out when I saw your post out of the blue. Must apologize for the loooong silence. Kalpana, you’re so good with words and the posts are so well put .
    You know what- I’d request you to give me the recipe for the broccoli rice you’d taught me.
    Well-hope Hitesh is fine. Love to the girls.Will try to catch up later. Until then- bye

    1. Hi Stranger! How are you doing in Mumbai? I can’t believe you still remember that broccoli rice recipe I gave you when we were living in Japan together! Hilarious! I I will have go back in my memory box in my mind and dig it up 😀so I can pass it on to you. Much love to everyone. So good to hear from you Rita! Don’t lose touch again!

  4. Thank you Dolly! I enjoy cooking and trying out new recipes, but I have to say all of my inspiration to have such get togethers comes from you, the passion and the details with which you hold those events. Planning-wise I have to go a long way and learn a lot from you, It is always a mad rush for me at the end 😁

  5. Indian food is my absolute favorite <3 YUM! All the sarees are GORGEOUS and it looks like an amazing festival with great family time. So lovely. Thank you for sharing!!!

    1. I wanted to let you know I enjoyed reading about the Daniel Fast on your blong. I’d never heard of it before but its seems like a very cool way to start the new year with healthy eating and cleasing of mind, body and soul. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  6. What a fun celebration on such a beautiful day! Love all the photos and the food are mouth watering! Thanks for sharing yet another wonderful post!😜

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