What is Makarsankranti?
India is a country with numerous festivals having different cultural, religious and historical significance. Makarsankranti is one such festival with an important cultural background. Though it is a seasonal festival, more specifically, a harvest festival, people worship God Dharma thereby elevating it to a religious level as well. Every year on the 14th of January we celebrate Makar Sankranti. This festival is celebrated to mark the end of winter and welcome a new harvest season.
The Astral and Religious Significance of Makarsankranti
According to Hindu religion, Makarsankranti festival is dedicated to the Sun Lord. It is considered to be an auspicious day because of its astrological significance. According to Indian astrology, Makarsankranti is a specific solar day that marks the entry of the sun into the zodiac of Makar or Capricorn. This day also marks the end of winter months in India. After this day, the short winter days start to become longer and the long winter nights start to become shorter. Another important significance of this day is that it is the last day of the month of Poush or Posh and it is followed by the beginning of the month of Magha according to the Indian calendar. To coincide with the revolutionary movement of the earth with respect to the sun, the day of Makar Sankranti is deferred by one whole day after 80 days. It is observed that after the day of Makar Sankranti, the sun starts its movement towards the north. This movement is also known as Uttarayan. It is for this reason that this day is also known as Uttarayan.
The Cultural Significance of Makarsankranti
Makarsankranti is a part of our cultural heritage the roots of which go deep into Indian mythology. According to it, there once lived a powerful god named Sankranti. He defeated a demon named Sankarasur. To commemorate this win, Makar Sankranti is celebrated. It is also believed that on the next day of Makar Sankranti, the deity killed another demon named Kinkarasur. This day is also celebrated as Kinkarant. One can find the mention of Makar Sankranti in Panchang, the Hindu Almanac. This Almanac gives information on the clothing age, form, direction as well as the movement of Sankranti.
According to ancient religious scriptures, Dakshinayan is an epitome of the night of the God or the period of negativity. Uttarayan, on the other hand, symbolises the day of Gods and is taken as a sign of positivity. In accordance with the belief that the sun starts its northward movement on this day, people in the northern part of the country take dips in the holy water of rivers like Ganga, Godavari, Krishna, and Yamuna while chanting mantras for spiritual and religious upliftment. According to astrology, the Sun enters all the zodiac signs but its entry in the signs of Cancer and Capricorn are deemed to be the most fruitful periods.
Before this day the sun is in the Southern Hemisphere thus the country experiences long winter nights and short mornings during this period. After Makar Sankranti as the sun begins its northward movement, the nights become smaller and the days get longer. The people of India express their gratitude towards the Sun God by worshipping his many forms all through the year. However, this day is considered to be very auspicious so especially on this day, people gather near rivers and holy places to show their gratitude and respect to the Sun God. Any good deed or donation is believed to be more fruitful on this day. It is believed that performing religious ceremonies like Haldi Kumkum on this day invited quiescent waves from the Adi-Shakti (God) in the Universe. This is believed to strengthen the impression of Shagun devotion in the mind of worshippers and improves spiritual connection with God.
Makar Sankranti Celebration in Different Parts of India
In Uttar Pradesh, this day is celebrated as the festival of donation "or" Khichdi ". It also marks the beginning of the month-long Magh fair on the point of confluence of the spiritual rivers namely, Yamuna, Ganga and Saraswati in Allahabad. People fast on this day and eat and offer Khichdi too as part of the celebrations. At Gorakhdham of Gorakhpur, a Khichdi Mela is also organised.
In Bihar also, the day is celebrated with Khichdi. Donation of urad, rice, gold, clothing and other items are also an important part of the celebrations.
In Maharashtra, married women celebrate this auspicious day by donating cotton, oil and salt to other married women.
In Bengal, people donate sesame after taking a bath. There is also a huge fair of Makar Sankranti at Gangasagar every year. People make special sweetmeats called “pithe” with rice flour, coconut and jaggery.
In Tamil Nadu, this day is celebrated as Pongal. However, Pongal celebrations continue for 4 days in this region.
Gujarat has a vivacious celebration of kite festival on this day.
Punjab and Haryana
This day is celebrated as Lohri. People gather around a bonfire and dance while throwing puffed rice and popcorn into the fire.
Thus, Makarsankranti is celebrated with a joyous mood across the country. The movement of planets around the sun heralds the onset of this festival which is an integral part of the Indian culture.