India that is Bharat is a constituent part of our constitution. The history of Akhand Bharat (unified India) has explained the boundaries right from the Kandahar in the North, Burma in the West, Indian Ocean in the East and Atlantic Ocean in the South. Millet has played an important part of Bhartiya plater in the history of Bharat and placed significantly in the different Vedas right from the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sam Veda and Athar Veda. This paper investigates millets as an ingredient part of celebrating harvest festivals and religion in Bharat in all the kaal khanda (time periods). It further explores the new year celebration as per the Vikrami Samvat known as Panchang (as Bhartiya Calendar) in the different parts of Bharat with the different religious festival nomenclatures. Millets piously as a part of harvest festivals reconnoiters and revitalizes the daily lives of Bhartiya society. The different phases of Bhartiya civilization keeps millets as a part of their lives both in normal as well as special occasion. Millets need proper attention among the younger generation of global society and International Year of Millets 2023 is one way to connect the millet, festivals and religious significance in Bharat and in the world. This paper further explores the historicity of millets as mentioned in the different religious texts and will enlighten the present societies in Bharat about its use on the one hand and will build the sustainable agriculture development on the other hand.
Keywords: Bhartiya, Civilization, Harvest Historicity, Millets, Panchang, Religious Festival and Sri Anna.
The archeological artifacts narrate the history of Akhand Bharat is known for the ceremonial festivals, ritual festivals, birth and death festivals, harvest festivals, seasonal festivals right from the thousands of years. The religious conglomeration with the festivals further enriches the glory of Bhartiya rituals and vast traditions. The Treta Yuga witnesses Lord Rama return back to Ayutthaya after fourteen years of exile and all the people enlightened the earthen lamps and prepared millet sweets in his welcome. The ethos of Deepawali today is part and parcel of the lives of the people living in Bhart, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Europe, USA, Canada and Australia. Similarly, the festival of colour (made of flowers petals) directly refers to Lord Krishna of Dwaper Yuga celebrating with Gopika’s and shared millet milk sweet dishes and today Holi festival is known internationally. Moreover, the people of Mathura, Vrindavan and Kashi celebrates this festival in the month of Falgun for fifteen days and attracts the People of Indian Origin (PIO), Non-Resident Indian (NRI) and foreign tourists. As far as the time line of Bhartiya Kaal Khand (time period) calendar is explained, the Sat Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwaper Yuga and the contemporary time period of Kali Yuga refers to celebrating festivals and religion in Bharat (for detailed study, M N Saha and N C Lahiri, 1992). Millets is used as an ingredient of celebrating harvest festivals and religion in Bharat. Dr Raghava S Boddupalli highlights, “Since pre-historic times, grasses have originated and evolved even before origin of human beings. During the Vedic age, grasses are used in various sacraments and it belong to Gramineae or Pinaceae family containing 11,000 species including important cereal crops and millets. Anu (Panicum miliaceum L.) is seen in Annahomas in Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (6-2-13), Priyangu (Setaria italica L.) is offered to deity Rudra to obtain plenty of cattle (TB 1-3-4), Balbaja (Eleusine indica L.) is mentioned in Rigveda (RV-8-99, Valakhilya07) is used for fuel, baskets and other product making for gifts, and Syamaka (Echinochloa Frumentacea) grains offered to Soma and other deities as mentioned Atharv Veda (19-50-4) are the different kinds of millets. Sushrut Samhita, 600-500 BC classified kodo millet, barnyard millet and other grown at upper and middle Gangetic Plains. Abhijnana Sakuntalam of Kalidas Mahakavi (4-5th AD) mentioned that sage Kanva who pours foxtail millet while bidding farewell to Sakuntala in Dushyanta court, indicated the auspicious nature of millet” (2023: 01). It is further authenticated at international level as ICRISET mentions that ‘some of the oldest Yajurveda texts mentions the foxtail millet (priyangava), barnyard millet (aanaya) and black finger millet (Shyaamaka) and indicated the consumption pattern of millets from predating to the Bhartiya Bronze Age of about 4500 BC’ (2023). Millets has been explored in different kaal khand and the Bhartiya calendar based on Vikram Samvat entitled ‘Panchang’ refers to the harvest festivals and religious ceremonies in the different months as mentioned in Table-1.
Months in the Bhartiya Panchang and International Calendar
|Month & Days||Begins on||Month & Days||Begins on|
|Chaitra (30/31)||22 March||Vaiśākha (31)||21 April|
|Jyestha (31)||22 May||Āsādha (31)||22 June|
|Śrāvana (31)||23 July||Bhādra (31)||23 August|
|Āśvina (30)||23 September||Kārttika (30)||23 October|
|Agrahāyana (30)||22 November||Pausa (30)||22 December|
|Māgha (30)||21 January||Phālguna (30)||20 February|
Source: Dr. Vinod K Mishra, 2020. The Calendars of India. Motilal Banarasi Das Publications. Delhi: 50. ISBN:978-81-208-4276-2
The month of Vaisakha (Table-1) and 13th April of Gregorian calendar is celebrated as New Year in Bharat. Bhartiya takes bath in the sacred rivers of Ganges, Yamuna, Jhelum, Kaveri, Sutlej, Vyas, Narmada, Kaveri and Mahanadi, offers milk and millet based sweet dishes and visit the temples. Bhartiya living in the Punjab on Baisakhi sing folk songs and dance, serve Yellow colour sweet rice (Peele Chawal) and wish for the better crops in the coming month. The formation of Khalsa, Sikh religion is interlinked in the month of Vaisakha and celebrated with great pomp & show in Golden Temple, Amritsar in Punjab and in the different Gurudwaras around the world. Bhartiya in Kashmir celebrates the new year Navreh and sacred offering such as rice, flowers, wye herb, new grass, walnuts, coins and bread kept in a bronze plate to Goddess Sharika. Kashmiri Rice (Pulav) is served to all. Bhartiya living in Bihar, Jharkhand and even people of Nepal celebrate Jude Sheetal, a Maithili New Year in the month of Vaisakha on 14th April of the Gregorian calendar. The month of Vaisakha in Bengal is celebrated with the names of Poila or Pohela Boishakh as a part of New Year celebrations and organize music, dance and cooking programs in the State. Pana Sankranti or Maha Bishuba Sankranti is the new year festival organizes in Orissa. Bhartiya in Orissa “celebrate this auspicious day by preparing and sharing a sweet drink called ‘Pana’. The festivities also indlude the wordship of Lord Jagannath, who is believed to have created the Pana drink. The festival is a time for renewal, new beginnings, and togetherness, and its vibrant celebrations truly embody the rich cultural heritage of Odisha” (Hindustan Times, 2023).
Bhartiya belonging to North-East States of Assam and other celebrate Vaisakha with the names of Rangali Bihu and Bohag Bihu and offer lots of homemade sweets and Bihu dance. Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh organize Ugadi or Yugadi as a new year celebration on the first day of Chaitra month (Table-1), wearing new clothes, millet sweets and visiting friends and family members houses. Similarly, Tami Nadu organizes Puthandu festival in the mark of new year in the month of Vaisakha.
History of Millets in Bharat
Millets are declared as nutria-cereals with the consistent efforts of Bharat in the UNO. Bharat has launched the millet global movement entitles Shree Anna to benefit the large section of society. The history of richest civilization of the last 5000 years of Bharat have been procured the millets in everyday people’s lives. Steve Weber remarked that ‘the importance and influence of small millets during the Indus civilization is increasingly evident. The presence of both wild and cultivated millet seeds recovered from Harappan sites suggests that they played an important role in some regions of the civilization’ (2013). Further, the detailed analysis of the archaeobotanical has explained the cultivation of millets in the Indus/Harappan region and nourished agrarian soil through different crop pattern. Anil K Pokharial and others has explained in details about the expended area of cultivated millets during the most ancient civilization and stated that “an assessment of a good number of archaeological datasets available so far on small-grained millets from core (Upper Indus) and peripheral regions of the Indus/Harappan civilization is made to understand their role in the ancient crop economy and their diversity and spatial extent in relation to cultural change. Among the millets, sorghum millet from the Early Harappan level (3000-2500 BC) at Kunal (3%) and Banawali (3%), Mature Harappan Level (2500-2000 BC) at Banawali (3%) & Rohira (20%) and Late Harappan level (2000-1400 BC) at Mahorana (6%), Hulas (5%), Sanghol (2%) and Pirak (1%), little millet from the Late Harappan (2000-1200 BC) level at Hulas and Sanghol respectively have been recorded in the core region (Upper Indus). The peripheral region of Harappan civilization shows the dominance of finger millet during the Mature Harappan (2500-2000 BC) at Roijdi (68%) and the Late Harappan (2000-100 BC) level at Oria Timbo (40%), sorghum (22%) and pearl millet (36%) during the Late Harappan (2100-1700 BC) at Kenmar; Italian millet during the Late Harappan (2000-1700 BC) at Rojdi (41%), Oriyo Timbo (23%) and Babar Kot (95%), along with little millet (5.19%) and foxtail millet (17.47%)” (2014, 10-11). The shift towards millets as a drought-resistant crops in peripheral region in this civilization shows their scientific awareness towards agricultural crops and their pattern.
Sh. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of Bharat has taken initiative and renaissance its significance and declared Year of Millets in the year 2018 in Bharat in the name of Sri Anna that includes Jowar, Raggi, Bajra, Ramdana, Cheena and Saama. Modi’s government has strongly raised this concern before the United Nations and persuaded the world community, about the need of revival of soil nutrients in the world. Subsequently, UNO has declared the International Year of Millets 2023 (IYOM) and appealed to regain the lost prestige of millets for the benefits of human kind. Bharat reinforces its historical use of millets as a part of most proteinaceous diet along with religious milieu having all essential nutrients for the human being, pastorals, and land soil. Millet is one of the three themes for the Republic Day Parade tableaux of 26 January in the year 2023.
Millets, Harvest Festivals and Religion
Bharat enshrines the culture of festival and encompasses the religious fervor in its society. Our harvest festivals are the most ancient in the history of festivals around the world. Bhartiya believes in thanking the beautiful nature for the auspicious offering of different crops and millets in our lives and celebrate harvest festivals. Our rich biodiversity and majority of agricultural community in Akhand Bharat connects us closely in the lap of nature ultimately resulted into celebrations of nature and nature-based festivals. It is the only reason that Bharat and all Bhartiya are known as nature worshippers of Sun, Moon, Earth, Trees, Rivers and even Sea. Table-1 explains the Chaitra as first month of Panchang of year 2080 and 22nd March 2023 is celebrated as a new year in Bharat. All the twenty-nine states in Bharat celebrates harvest festivals with the different names in their local languages. The religious legends of different states enjoy the new year celebration presenting the beauty of Bhartiya culture. Suresh Kumar persuasively remarked, “The complete meal of millet as a Prasadam or Prasad is a religious offering to God in Bharat. This millet Prasad or offering to God is vegetarian meal cooked for devotees after praise and thanks giving to God. Generally, millet refers to the poor people food and divide the rich versus poor people meal. But the millet Prasad enjoy in all the section of society with love, affection and respect. Today, we are living in the mythic foolish paradise, enjoying the millet as a Prasad but do not adopting and adapting in our routine daily lives because of habituating mythic of globalization” (21 February 2023). It is further stated that “Bhartiya mothers during our childhood in Bharat after offering prayer to God use to serve the Prasadam as a full meal of millet porridge, oven baked millet bread, millet roti (of bajra, makka, jo, kuttu, jwari, & ragi) with milk ghee, cooked millet, millet jollof, dosa, utpam, idly, kichdi, dalia, and similar food meals,” explained Suresh Kumar (21 February 2023). It is one of the reason, Prime Minister Sh. Narender Modi has given the divinity title to millet with Sri Anna.
Coming back to millet and harvest festival, Makar Sankranti is the oldest harvest festival in Bharat and celebrated in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal and North-East states. Bhartiya use to cook millet based sumptuous sweet dishes mixing sesame and jaggery (of sugarcane and coconut), offering new crop harvest with a bonfire, bhajans, songs, drum beating and dance, carnivals, kite flying and bullock cart rallies. This festival brings the holy bath in the holy rivers and Kumbh Mela (organizes once in every 12th year) that continued for three months and millet-based meals are served as a pure food. Along with the Makar Sankranti festival, Gangaur is the celebrated as harvest festival in the month of Chaitra or Vaisakha (Table-1) in Rajathan and Bhartiya worship Maa Gauri and cook millets products. The festival of Lohri is celebrated mainly in Punjab, Haryana and many parts of North India. People get together around bonfire and offer popcorn, peanuts, gajjak, rewri, bajra millet laddo, sesame seed sweets such as Til-ke-Ladoo, Til-ke-Chakki to the fire God and relishing with the gathering.
Nuakhai harvest festival is celebrated in Bengal in the month of Bhadra (in August) and offer food made of new crop to Goddess Laxmi. People enjoy coking rice porridge, cakes and sweet dishes on this occasion. Similarly, the Wangala harvest festival of Meghalaya is the most popular dance festival with hundred drums and offer worship to Lord Sun symbolizes as a God of fertility. The traditional festival of Sajibu Nogma Panba Cheiraoba is celebrated in Manipur with religious generosity, fervor and gaiety. With the sun rise, fruits, vegetables, rice and other uncooked food offer to Meitei deity and number of dishes prepared and shares with all friends and family members. During the day, all climb on the top of Ching Meirong hills and offer prayers for their good future life.
Gudi Padwa, a grand harvest festival celebration in the month of Chaitra (in the middle of March month) organizes in Maharashtra in which women wear silk saree, offer food such as Puran Poli, Kothimbir Vadi, Modak, Rice Chakli and sweets and garlands made of mango and neem leaves. This festival is celebrated in Konkan with the name Samvatsar Padvo and Bhartiya prays Shubhakruta brings lots of happiness, prosperity and good health in everyone’s life.
Pongal harvest festival of sugarcane, rice and turmeric is celebrated in Tamil Nadu in Bharat and Sri Lanka. Rice or millet is cooked in boiling milk as a part of cuisine varieties such as venn pongal, sakkarai pongal, kozhi pongal and sanyasi pongal. Mother nature is worshipped for four days in the Pongal month of Magha (January) started from the Lord Indra (Rain God), Lord Bhaskar (Sun God), praying the domestic cattle’Ugadis such as cow family and sharing the millet meal on the last day as part of their celebrations.
Onam harvest festival is celebrated for ten days in the month of Asvini (September) in Kerala and uses millet in pachadi, chenna, mezhkkupuratti, avial, thoran, inji thayir, olan, paal ada pradhaman and sharkara varatti (all are regional dialects of Malayalam, spoken in Kerala). The arrival of Mahabali, a king of Asuras (demons), has been offered these different dishes during the Onam festival for the wonderful harvest. Ugadi harvest festival celebrated in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana and people start their day with an oil bath, prayers and offering Bevu Bella, a special delicacy to Lord Indra Dhwaja. The festival delicacies have Pachhadi along with Payasam, obbattu and boorelu.
Kerala organizes the Vishu harvest festival and prepares the auspicious food plater along with the offering vishukkani and serve to all in the morning and traditional banquet is prepared in the evening. It is also known as festival of light as people enjoy crackers in the night and give coin to the elders.
Finally, Ladakh harvest festival organizes in the month of September every year and all monasteries and stupas are decorated beautifully and Bhartiya enjoy freshly brewed beer and traditional cuisine along with the Ladakhi dance.
Millets has always been an ingredient part of Bhartiya cultural festival and places its important place in religion. The contemporary period of globalization having advanced technology with artificial intelligence has its own impact in the lives of all Bhartiya. The rich history of our traditional millet having religious affinity should enter in all the Bhartiya kitchen once again to have a balanced life style. University of Delhi through its website, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media has ‘announced that the University has taken an initiative to make the students well aware about high nutrition value of millets. To make the University of Delhi campaign successful, it has sent the proposal of Khelo Bharat 2024 with main focus on making students acquaint with millets to the Ministry of Sports & Youth Affairs, Mr. Anuragh Thakur. Will you all support us to being our favourite foodgrain back in our lives, appealed University of Delhi’ (26 March 2023). It will educate the large pool of unskilled labor and will work to generate the millet-based product income with Startup. Sri Anna diet will work for good health and sustainable development for our future generation.
Anil k Pokharia, Jeewan Singh Kharakwal and Alka Srivastva, 2014. Archaeobotanical evidence of millets in the Indian subcontinent with some observations on their role in the Indus civilization. Journal of Archeological Science. Vol. 42. Elsevier.
Dr. Raghava S. Boddupalli and Dr. Aparna Dhir Khandelwal, 13 April 2023. Celebrating the Year of ‘Millets’ through its Knowledge. Yajurveda. Vedic Waves. https://vedicwaves.worldpress.com/tag/yajurveda: accessed on 18.04.2023.
Hindustan Times, 19 April 2023. Delhi.
ICRISAT. https://www.icrisat.org/a-short-history-of-millets-and-how-we-are-recognising-their-importance-in-the-modern-context/: accessed on 22.03.2023.
M N Saha and N C Lahiri, 1992. History of the Calendar. in different Countries Through the Ages. CSIR. Delhi.
Steve Weber and Arunima Kashyap, 2013. The Vanishing Millets of the Indus Civilization. Springer. Singapore.
Suresh Kumar, 21 February 2023. Invited Speaker. 3rd Agri Business Conclave 2023, International Year of Millets 2023. Organized by Diplomatist. India.
University of Delhi, 26 March 2023. http://www.du.ac.in, https://www.linkedin.com/posts/delhi-university_do-you-kno-millets-yes-the-very-famous-activity-7045686575841579008-8Pq8? : accessed on 26 March 2023.