Makar Sankrant – As per Vedic Hindu philosophy, Sun is considered to be the king of all the planets. And Makar Sankranti commemorates the expedition of sun to the Northern Hemisphere. Makar is a Sanskrit that literally means Capricorn whereas Sankranti denotes transition. Hence, sun’s transition from Sagittarius to Capricorn sign in the northern hemisphere, during winter is Makar Sankranti. Sun takes an uttarayana route on January 14 and stays there until July 14. This festival also comes as Thanksgiving to Mother Nature for an abundance of crops, well being and prosperity. The festivities include sweets made of rice, jaggery, green gram and sesame.
The festivals is known as Khichri in UP, Sakat in Haryana and Punjab, Sukarat in MP, Bhogali Bihu in Assam and West Bengal, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Sankranti in Andhra and Karnataka and Uttarayan in Rajasthan and Gujarat. People in North India celebrate Sankranti with lots of religious fervor and devotion towards Lord Surya. A holy dip in Ganga River is very popular among Hindu religion followers. Pilgrimage places like Haridwar, Banaras and Allahabad witness a huge rush of devotees on this auspicious day.
The enthusiasm and celebration of Makar Sankranti is also intertwined with the fervor of deep-rooted faith. Gita also expounds the importance of Uttarayan as a favourable time to get blessings from Gods and achieve greatness on earth. The days become longer and signify the removal of despair and delusion to enter into spiritual light and wisdom. Makar Sankranti is a huge occasion for worshippers to take a holy dip in the Ganga Sagar and Prayag das Ma Ganga had followed the path of Bhagirath Muni to meet the ocean on this day.
Celebrations in India
Though each state applies its own local flavour, kite flying is a universal concept on Makar Sankranti and several contests are held. In Gujarat, this day is looked forward to by everyone.
One of the major festivals of Tamilnadu, it is celebrated over four days and coincides with the third day of “Thai“. It is a four day festival in Andhra Pradesh. In Karnataka, people partake of sugarcane, fried til, and coconut. In Kerala, Sabarimala is the site of celebration as the Makara Jyothi is visible here. In Maharashtra, til-laddus is offered to everyone on this day.
In Punjab, the eve before Makar Sankranti is celebrated as ‘Lohri’. Rice grains and sugarcane are thrown in the bonfires amidst a huge social gathering. It is followed by prayers, songs of prosperity and dances by males and females.
In Madhya Pradesh “Sakarat” is celebrated with exchange of sweets and programs. In Orissa, people follow the tradition of lighting bonfires and eating together. In Assam, the festival is celebrated as Bhogali Bihu in Assam.
In Odisha, this festival is observed as Uttarayana Yatra and dedicated to Lord Jagannath. Offerings of sweet rice ladoos are made to the Lord.
In West Bengal, Pous Sankranti is a three-day affair that begins before Sankranti and the famous ‘Khejurer Gur’ and ‘Patali Gur’ is used with milk and rice to make ‘Pithey’. In the coastal regions, it is celebrated in the manner of a harvest festival to appease Lord Indra.
Makar Sankranti is synonymous with events such as fairs, especially the Kumbh Mela, held every 12 years at in the holy cities of Haridwar, Prayag (Allahabad), Ujjain and Nashik.
The essence of this day is to bring sweetness to life and relationships and wish the well-being and prosperity to one another. Understanding the meaning behind the festival makes us even more aware of nature’s true worth and bounty.