Makar Sankranti is a Hindu festival that represents the journey of the sun from the southern to the northern hemisphere. It is the only Hindu festival celebrated according to the solar calendar and is observed on the day when the sun enters the Capricorn zodiac sign. Usually falling on the 14th of January each year, with some exceptions, the festival marks the beginning of a new harvest season and is celebrated with fervor across the country. It also symbolizes the restoration of peace and harmony on earth and the beginning of a new era after the end of a dark and evil power.
This festival is celebrated all around India, with different names and styles of celebration, making it a true symbol of Unity in Diversity.
Makar Sankranti: Journey from Darkness to Light
Makar Sankranti is also called Uttarayan as it denotes the movement of the Sun towards the northern solstice. From this day, the length of the day will increase, and the length of the night will decrease. Night represents darkness, and day represents light, so in a way, nature inspires us to move from darkness to light.
Darkness represents ignorance, evil intentions, negativity, and lust, whereas light is a symbol of knowledge, awakening, and positivity. This festival represents clearing darkness and filling it with light.
Sant Shri Asharamji Bapu mentions that the change in the length of the day is the way nature inspires us to march ahead towards the goal of God-Realization; to make an effort to dispel the darkness of ignorance with the light of self-knowledge.
Makar Sankranti: Astrological Importance
The time when the sun passes from one zodiac sign to another is called Sankranti. On Makar Sankranti, it passes through the zodiac sign Capricorn. It marks the end of the winter solstice and the beginning of longer and warmer days. The sun’s rays become more potent during this period, infusing the atmosphere with renewed energy. This is the first Hindu festival of the calendar year.
Makar Sankranti: One Festival Different Names
Makar Sankranti does not hold only spiritual and astrological importance, but it is also one of the major harvest festivals of Bharat celebrated every year. Bharat is an agricultural country where the change in the harvest season holds innumerable importance. The change in nature is honored by celebration and welcomed with pomp and show.
It’s an important festival celebrated almost everywhere in the country in myriad cultural forms and under different names. Every region celebrates it in innumerable ways, according to localization, culture, and traditions.
This festival has different names from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, and Assam to Gujarat. In some places, it is celebrated with bonfires and sesame delicacies, while in others, there are different ways to express the excitement of cutting the crops. Let’s have a look at how Makar Sankranti is being celebrated in different parts of Bharat.
In Assam, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as a two-day-long festival called Magha Bihu or Bhogali Bihu. People come together on this festival and perform traditional rituals to celebrate it. Here, this festival marks the celebration of the end of the harvesting season. The celebration includes people building makeshift huts, lighting bonfires, playing games like Tekeli Bhonga, cooking delectable Assamese cuisine like Shunga Pitha, Til Pitha, etc., and enjoying watching buffalo fights.
Uttar Pradesh and Bihar
In Uttar Pradesh, the festival of Makar Sankranti is commonly called Khichdi Parv. A dish made from rice and pulses, called khichdi, is prepared on this day and offered to the Sun God. It is believed that on this day, if people take a dip in the holy waters at Sangam in Prayag, Allahabad, all their sins are washed away.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as a four-day-long festival. The four days are known as Bhogi, Sankranti, Kanuma, and Mukkanuma. The festival begins with women of the house decorating the entrance with beautiful Rangoli and adorning the main entrance with flowers.
Bhogi: The first day involves creating a bonfire with old clothes, furniture, and cow dung. This signifies removing all the old items to initiate a new start.
Sankranti: This is the main festival day when people come together, share sweets, purchase new household items, and wear new clothes. Various rituals are performed to worship God. Kite flying and playing in the sun are also done to enhance family bonding.
Kanuma: This day is devoted to cattle worship. For farmers, cattle are very important; they not only help in farming but are also very useful in other normal household operations. Cattle are worshiped, decorated, and fed. In some areas, even bullock cart competitions are held on this day.
In Tamil Nadu, this festival is also celebrated as a four-day festival – Bhogi, Thai Pongal, Mattu Pongal, and Kaanum Pongal.
Bhogi: People burn old clothes and materials by setting them on fire; the belief says it is the end of the old and the emergence of the new.
Thai Pongal: This is the main festival day. On this day, people boil rice with fresh milk, jaggery, brown sugar, cashew nuts, and raisins in new pots and allow it to boil over the vessel. It is a way to express gratitude to the Sun God and thank him for all his blessings. People visit each other’s houses and exchange greetings. This festival has derived its name from the above-mentioned tradition. In Tamil, the root ‘pongu’ means to “boil over” or “spill over.”
Maattu Pongal: This is the day of cattle worship. Farmers on this day decorate their bulls with paint, flowers, and bells and feed them with sweet rice and sugar cane.
Kaanum Pongal: The word ‘kaanum’ means “to view.” On this day, people visit their relatives and friends to thank them and to enjoy the festival.
In Maharashtra, people celebrate Makar Sankranti in its true and authentic sense. They share multi-colored tilguds (a sweet dish made from sesame seeds and jaggery) and til laddus. People greet each other with the phrase “til-gul ghya, god god bola,” which means to accept the sweets and speak sweet words. Through this festival, love and affection are spread around the world, thereby increasing positivity and reducing hatred in society.
Makar Sankranti stands out as one of the most celebrated festivals in Rajasthan. Residents of the state engage in the preparation of special delicacies such as til-paati, ghevar, gajak, pheni, kheer, pakodi, puwa, and til-laddoo, sharing these delectable treats with both family and friends. Newly married couples are honored with gifts from their in-laws, and married women partake in a unique ritual of exchanging makeup items, household goods, and special dishes with each other. As the day unfolds, the vibrant sky of Rajasthan comes alive with kites, as people engage in spirited kite-flying competitions during the evening festivities.
In Punjab, Lohri is celebrated a day before Makar Sankranti, as people harvest their crops and revel in festivities featuring singing, dancing, and lighting bonfires. On the day of Makar Sankranti, the people of Punjab celebrate Maghi, marking the beginning of the new harvest year. Indulging in sumptuous food and engaging in lively bhangra performances, they joyously welcome the New Year on Maghi.
Delhi and Haryana
In Delhi and Haryana, Makar Sankranti is celebrated with great enthusiasm, especially by married couples. Given that a significant number of weddings occur in November and December, Makar Sankranti becomes the first festival for newly married couples. Brides adorn themselves and craft special sweet dishes such as churma, halwa, and kheer as a token of love for their in-laws. Additionally, married women present makeup items and clothes to their in-laws on this auspicious day.
In Kerala, Makar Sankranti marks the conclusion of the 40-day-long anushthaan performed by devotees of Lord Ayyappa. The completion of this spiritual observance is celebrated with grandeur and festivity, particularly in Sabarimala. Pilgrims from various parts of the state and neighboring areas flock to the Sabarimala temple to offer prayers to Makara Jyothi, a star believed to be an incarnation of Lord Ayyappa.
In West Bengal, the revered site of Gangasagar hosts a grand mela or festival during the Makar Sankranti period. Devotees from various parts of the country gather here to partake in a sacred dip in the River Ganges at Gangasagar.
In Gujarat, people celebrate the festival of Uttarayan during Makar Sankranti. This two-day festival begins with Makar Sankranti. On this day, the sky is filled with colorful kites as people engage in kite flying throughout the state. Kite flying contests are also organized across Gujarat, and the echoes of “kai po che” resonate everywhere.
In Karnataka, Makar Sankranti is revered as a festival of goodwill and friendship. People exchange “yello bella,” a sweet made with sesame seeds, peanuts, gram, and jaggery, symbolizing the sweetness in their friendships. Additionally, they prepare rice and moong dal khichdi, serving it with a curry made from freshly harvested sweet potatoes, sweet pumpkins, and field beans to celebrate the abundance of the harvest season.
As it is evident, this festival of worshiping the Sun God has very diverse modes of celebration in different parts of the country. They have different names and also diversified delicacies. Irrespective of these differences, there are few things that are entirely common, which is the spirit of the festival. Every state celebrates this festival with the same goal of worshiping the Sun God and marking their harvest season. This unity in diversity is also evident in Uttarayan Dhyan Yog Shivir organized every year at the Sant Shri Asharamji Bapu Ashram Ahmedabad. People from all parts of Bharat gather here to celebrate Makar Sankranti uniquely and embark on a journey towards the sun of inner-self. Chanting, meditation, Surya Upasana, and Spiritual discourses aid them in worship of Lord Surya, the deity of Intelligence. This diversified festival comes with the common teaching of urging humans to identify their inner selves and work towards aiming for a positive, knowledgeable, and culturally strong Bharat.