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Makar Sakranti

Makar Sakranti

Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious day for the Hindus, and is celebrated in almost all parts of the country in myriad cultural forms, with great devotion, fervor & gaiety. Lakhs of people take a dip in places like Ganga Sagar & Prayag and pray to Lord Sun. It is celebrated with pomp in southern parts of the country as Pongal, and in Punjab is celebrated as Lohri & Maghi. Gujarati's not only look reverentially up to the sun, but also offer thousands of their colorful oblations in the form of beautiful kites all over the skyline. They may be trying to reach upto their glorious God or bring about greater proximity with the one who represents the best. It is a day for which Bhishma Pitamah kept waiting to leave his mortal coil.
 
Makar Sankranti is the day when the glorious Sun-God of Hindus begins its ascendancy and entry into the Northern Hemisphere. Sun for the Hindus stands for Pratyaksha-Brahman - the manifest God, who symbolizes, the one, non-dual, self-effulgent, glorious divinity blessing one & all tirelessly. Sun is the one who transcends time and also the one who rotates the proverbial Wheel of Time. The famous Gayatri Mantra, which is chanted everyday by every faithful Hindu, is directed to Sun God to bless them with intelligence & wisdom. Sun not only represents God but also stands for an embodiment of knowledge & wisdom. Lord Krishna reveals in Gita that this manifested divinity was his first disciple, and we all know it to be indeed a worthy one too. No Sundays for the Sun, may be because one who revels in its very 'being', the very essence of his own Self, is always in the Sunday mood.
 
Makar means Capricorn and Sankranti is transition. There is a sankranti every month when the sun passes from one sign of the zodiac to the next. There are twelve signs of the zodiac, and thus there are twelve sankranti's as well. Each of these sankranti's has its own relative importance but two of these are more important - the Mesh (Aries) Sankranti and the most important, the Makar (Capricorn) Sankranti. Transition of the Sun from Sagittarius to Capricorn, during the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere is known as Makar Sankranti. From this day begins the six-month long Uttarayana, considered very auspicious for attaining higher worlds hereafter. While the traditional Indian Calendar is basically based on lunar positions, but sankranti is a solar event, so while dates of all festivals keep changing, the english calendar date of Makar Sankranti is always same, 14th January. Makar Sankranti is celebrated in the Hindu Calendar month of Magha. There is another significance of this day, after this day the days start becoming longer & warmer, and thus the chill of winter in on decline.
 
Most Hindu festivals follow the position of the moon and are based on the lunar calendar. Thus, the dates of festivals change every year. But Makar Sankranti is a festival which falls on the same day every year as it follows the solar calender. However, once every eighty years, due to revolution, the day is postponed by one day. Makar Sankranti is celebrated on the 14th of January every year (sometimes on the 15th) for now. From 2050, it is predicted that the festival will fall on the 15th January (and occasionally on the 16th).
 
As Makar Sankranti is one of the oldest solstice festivals and falls on the equinox, day and night on this day are believed to be equally long. Post the festival, it is officially the beginning of spring or the onset of Indian summer and the days become longer, and nights shorter.
 
Though extremely popular as Makar Sankranti, the festival is predominantly a harvest festival and is celebrated throughout India, from north to south and east to west. While Makar Sankranti is most popular in West India, down south, the festival is known as Pongal and in the north, it is celebrated as Lohri. Uttarayan, Maghi, Khichdi are some other names of the same festival.
 
Makar Sankranti generally marks the beginning of the Kumbh Mela in Uttar Pradesh while in South India, in Kerala, one of the most austere and difficult pilgrimages of Shabrimala ends on this auspicious day. Other parts of the country too, celebrate by taking a dip in the holy rivers flowing through states to cleanse themselves of sins. It is also believed that if you die during Makar Sankranti, you are not reborn but go directly to heaven. 
 
This festival is celebrated differently in different parts of the country. 
 
Uttar Pradesh:
 
In Uttar Pradesh, Sankrant is called ‘Khichiri’. Taking a dip in the holy rivers on this day is regarded as most auspicious. A big one-month long ‘Magha-Mela’ fair begins at Prayag (Allahabad) on this occasion. Apart from Triveni, ritual bathing also takes place at many places like Haridvar and Garh Mukteshwar in Uttar Pradesh, and Patna in Bihar. 
 
Bengal:
 
In Bengal every year a very big Mela is held at Ganga Sagar where the river Ganga is believed to have dived into the nether region and vivified the ashes of the sixty thousand ancestors of King Bhagirath. This mela is attended by a large number of pilgrims from all over the country.
 
Tamil Nadu:
 
In Tamil Nadu Sankrant is known by the name of ‘Pongal’, which takes its name from the surging of rice boiled in a pot of milk, and this festival has more significance than even Diwali. It is very popular particularly amongst farmers. Rice and pulses cooked together in ghee and milk is offered to the family deity after the ritual worship. In essence in the South this Sankrant is a ‘Puja’ (worship) for the Sun God.
 
Andhra Pradesh:
 
In Andhra Pradesh, it is celebrated as a three-day harvest festival Pongal. It is a big event for the people of Andhra Pradesh. The Telugus like to call it 'Pedda Panduga' meaning big festival. The whole event lasts for four days, the first day Bhogi, the second day Sankranti, the third day Kanuma and the fourth day, Mukkanuma.
 
Maharashtra:
 
In Maharashtra on the Sankranti day people exchange multi-colored tilguds made from til (sesame seeds) and sugar and til-laddus made from til and jaggery. Til-polis are offered for lunch. While exchanging tilguls as tokens of goodwill people greet each other saying – ‘til-gul ghya, god god bola’ meaning ‘accept these tilguls and speak sweet words’. The under-lying thought in the exchange of tilguls is to forget the past ill-feelings and hostilities and resolve to speak sweetly and remain friends.
This is a special day for the women in Maharashtra when married women are invited for a get-together called ‘Haldi-Kumkum’ and given gifts of any utensil, which the woman of the house purchases on that day.
 
Gujarat:
 
In Gujarat Sankrant is observed more or less in the same manner as in Maharashtra but with a difference that in Gujarat there is a custom of giving gifts to relatives. The elders in the family give gifts to the younger members of the family. The Gujarati Pundits on this auspicious day grant scholarships to students for higher studies in astrology and philosophy. This festival thus helps the maintenance of social relationships within the family, caste and community.
Kite flying has been associated with this festival in a big way. It has become an internationally well-known event.
 
Punjab:
 
In Punjab where December and January are the coldest months of the year, huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Sankrant and which is celebrated as "LOHARI". Sweets, sugarcane and rice are thrown in the bonfires, around which friends and relatives gather together. The following day, which is Sankrant, is celebrated as MAGHI. The Punjabi's dance their famous Bhangra dance till they get exhausted. Then they sit down and eat the sumptuous food that is specially prepared for the occasion.
 
Kerala:
 
The 40 days anushthana by the devotees of Ayyappa ends on this day in Sabarimala with a big festival.
 
Bundelkhand:
 
In Bundelkhand and Madhya Pradesh this festival of Sankrant is known by the name ‘Sakarat’ and is celebrated with great pomp & merriment accompanied by lot of sweets.
 
Tribals of Orissa:
 
Many tribals in our country start their New Year from the day of Sankrant by lighting bonfires, dancing and eating their particular dishes sitting together. The Bhuya tribals of Orissa have their Maghyatra in which small home-made articles are put for sale.
 
Assam:
 
In Assam, the festival is celebrated as Bhogali Bihu.
 
Coastal Region:
 
In the coastal regions, it is a harvest festival dedicated to Indra.