Makar Sankranti is one of the most popular Indian festivals. According to Hindu calendar Makar Sankranti is celebrated as the Sun’s journey to Northward region and enters the Makar sign (Capricorn) from the Tropic of Cancer. This period is regarded as highly auspicious in Hindu communities. The Sun’s movement from the Southern to Northern Hemisphere is considered to be very auspicious for crop harvesting. This has made Makar Sankranti, the harvest festival of India.
Generally Sankranti means the transition of Sun from one zodiac to another. There are 12 such Sankrantis in a year. but in Makar Sankranti, the Sun transits from Sagittarius (Dhanu Rashi) to Capricorn (Makar Rashi) which is of much significance in Hindu religion. Throughout the country, Makar Sankranti is celebrated with much joy and enthusiasm. It is one of the few festivals in India that falls on a fixed date. Makar Sankranti has a date and that is on 14th of January every year.
The history behind Makar Sankranti holds it s significance of being the day of religious significance. With Sun entering the Northern Hemisphere the day and nights become equal on this day and days become longer and nights become shorter. It is also said a day of victory of good over evil as on this day Lord Vishnu conquered the terror of demons and buried them under the Manadara Parvata. Makar Sankranti is also termed as very auspicious even in the epics of Mahabharata. Bhisma Pitamaha after being wounded in the battle field chose to wait for the Uttarayan to set in so that he would get salvation and free himself from the cycle of rebirth. The festival is also given due importance in the Sikh communities as the tenth Sikh Guru Govind Singh brought Moksha, Salvation or Mukhti for fourteen Sikhs. Makar Sankranti is marked as the starting point for all the festivals fall throughout the year.
The various rituals and process to celebrate 2019 Makar Sankranti varies from state to state. People from different region celebrate it with different names. In Southern India, it is the biggest festival called Pongal which goes for three days. Rain gods is worshipped on the first day with milk boiled rice and on the second day it is offered to the Sun. bulls and cows are honored on the third day for their hardship on the fields. Particularly in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, the occasion is called ‘Pedda Paadunya’ which is a four day event. People begin that day by taking bath in early morning and worshipping Sun with great devotion. all the houses are cleaned and front yards are designed with rangolis and beautiful marigold flowers. People in this region have a mythological belief that those who die during this period get rid from the cycle of rebirth. This festival is also widely celebrated with offering prayers to the Sun in Karnataka. Kerala and other states of Southern India. The cows and bulls are washed and their horns are adorned with various colors and garlands. In the Sabarimala Temple of Kerala the festival is celebrated with a name called Makara Vilakku. The Hindu communities of the states Bihar, Goa, Sikkim, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal also term it as ‘Makar Sankranti’. In Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh people visit friends and relatives. Colorful kites are flown everywhere. In Punjab, Makar Sankranti is called Lohri and observed during the month of December-January by arranging huge bonfires and dance ‘Bhangra’ around the bonfire. In Assam Valley and Kashmir Valley, it is rightly called as Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu and Shishur Saenkraat festival respectively. Gujarat and Rajasthan people call it Uttarayan where as the Hindu communities of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh celebrate it as Maghi. Moreover, the celebration of Makar Sankranti is not restricted to India only. Outside the country, in Nepal, Thailand and Myanmar, Makar Sankranti is observed in different customs and different ways. In Nepal, it is celebrated as Maghi or Maghe Sankranti where as in Thailand it is name as Songkran.
No festival in India is celebrated without rich and delicious foods. Makar Sankranti is no exception. It is a harvest festival and Like other important festivals, Makar Sankranti (2019) is also flooded with lot many sweets and delicious recipies. People from different parts of the country go on with preparing different food items of their region to make the most out of the joyful celebration. In South-Indian states, ‘Bandaru Laddu’ is a famous sweet made during the occasion of Makar Sankranti. Ariselu and Kajji-Kaayalu are some of the other special dishes related to it. in Karnataka, a mixture of fried til, fried gram, molasses, dry coconut pieces and peanuts are prepared and distributed among friends and relatives to prevail the sweetness among them throughout the year. Tilgul is a famous sweet exchanged by the Maharashtrian people to speck sweetly and signify the friendship among them. In the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, people prepared rice centric meals for this auspicious occasion. In Punjab and Rajasthan, sweets like Kheer and Ghevar are eaten and special meals or ‘Sakrat Bhoj’ is arranged for friends and relatives. In Orissa, people offered puja to the god by preparing and exchanging ‘Makar Chaula’ to make friendship.
Various fairs and Melas are organized during Makar Sankranti. Kumbha Mela and Magha Mela are the two famous Melas held on the day of Makar Sankranti. Kumbha Mela is held once in 12 years at any of the four locations namely Haridwar, Prayag, Ujjain and Nashik. The Magha Mela is held annually. It is also known as the Mini Kumbha Mela and held at Prayag. On the banks of Ganaga River, another Mela called Gangasagar Mela is organized. Many other Melas like Makar Mela and Tusu Mela are held in Orissa and Jharkhand respectively.
Festivals are the heart and soul of Indian people and Makar Sankrantib 2019 is a festival with which we begin a year with great joy and celebration. With historical, mythological and scientific reasons, it truly satisfies its own significance to cherish it.