Considered one of the most ancient Hindu festivals, Makar Sankranti is celebrated in different parts of the country with great fanfare. Observed in different parts of country in different ways, Sankranti denotes the entry of the sun into the zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn) as it travels on its celestial path. This celestial transition welcomes longer and warmer days. The Hindu calendar also states the end of harvest festival and marks the arrival of spring. The festival is associated with colorful decorations, fairs, kite flying, bonfire and elaborate feasts.
While most Hindu festivals are celebrated as per the lunar cycle, Makar Sankranti follows the solar cycle. Dedicated to Lord Surya, the day marks the onset of summer and beginning of auspicious period Uttarayan. The connection with Uttaraayan dates back to the mythological era of The Mahabharata when Bhishma Pitamah lay down on a bed of arrows and waited for the sun to be in Uttaraayan to breath his last.
For most parts of India, this period is a part of early stages of the Rabi crop and agricultural cycle, where crops have been sown and the hard work in the fields is almost complete. The longer spell of sunlight is important for the crops, and also acts as a retreat for everybody who has been dreading the winter months. The harvest festival is celebrated across the country with much fervor and gaiety. While the harvest festival in Punjab is called as Lohri, in Assam its known as Bhogali Bihu and the southern states term it as Pongal.
Makar Sankranti also marks the beginning of six months auspicious period for Hindus known as Uttarayana period. Every twelve years, the Hindus observe Makar Sankranti with one of the world's largest mass pilgrimages and bathe in the holy rivers at the Kumbh Mela. This year, the Ardh Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj will begin from January 14 and continue till March 3 at the Triveni Sangam - the holy confluence of river Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati. Thousands of devotees are expected to arrive in the city to take a holy dip in the Triveni Sangam.
Seasme seeds (til) are used in almost every Makar Sankranti recipes. As per the Hindu mythology, sesame seeds helps to cleanse the soul and improve spiritual awakening. In Maharashtra, the practice of exchanging sweets made of til (sesame seeds) such as tilgul ladoo and gulachi poli is common. The exchange is considered as a token of goodwill, while these foods give energy as well as helps to keep us warm. While exchanging, people greet each other with the words, “Til gul ghyaa, goad goad bola!’ meaning ‘eat tilgul and speak sweet words’.
In Delhi and Haryana, people cook ghee churma, kheer and halwa. In Punjab, it is a tradition to consume khichdi and jaggery. Sankrati is one of the major festivals of Rajasthan. The day is celebrated with special Rajasthani delicacies and sweets such as pheeni (either with sweet milk or sugar syrup dipped), til-paati, gajak, kheer, ghevar, pakodi, puwa, and til-laddoo.
The morning of Makar Sankranti witnesses colorful kites wafting in the sky. In Gujarat, flying kites and competing with others is regarded as one of the biggest festivals. Scores of people from not only around the country, but across the world, come to participate in the annual International Kite Festival (Uttarayan), the preparations for which begin months in advance.
Updated Date: Jan 13, 2019 12:13:38 IST