Makar Sankranti also marks the transition of the Sun from the Sagittarius sign into Makara Rashi (Capricorn sign) on its celestial path, it marks the six-month Uttarayana period – the day on which the sun begins his northward journey. As per Hindu mythology, this day, Gods wake up after sleeping for 6 months. (Dakhisnayan, the period between Karka Sankranti and Makar Sankranti as per the sidereal zodiac and between the Summer solstice and Winter solstice as per the tropical zodiac). So, Uttarayan is the period between Makar Sankranti (which currently occurs around January 14) and Karka Sankranti (which currently occurs around July 16). After this day the days start becoming longer & warmer, and thus the chill of winter in on decline.
The date of Makar Sankranti remains constant over a long term, 14 January or occasionally, 15 January as the Sun begins to rise in Makara Rashi. From the day of Sankranthi, Muhurt of doing auspicious work begins. It is celebrated after Lohri which falls on 13 January every.
Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious days for Hindus and is celebrated in almost all parts of the country with devotion, fervour, enthusiasm & gaiety. Lakhs of people take a dip in holy places like Ganga Sagar & Prayag and pray to Lord Sun to bestow them with countless bounties, prosperity and progress.
In southern parts of the country this day is celebrated as Pongal, and in Punjab is celebrated as Lohri & Maghi. Gujarati’s soar thousands of their colourful beautiful kites all over the skyline.
Religious Significance of Makar Sankrani
1.This day is also called the Surya Upasana Day. The Puranas say that on this day Sun visits the house of his son Shani, the swami of Makar Rashi. Though relation between Sun and Saturn were not cordial but the father infact, comes to his son’s house, for a month. This day is also dedicated to celebrate the relationship of father & son.
2. From Uttarayana marks the day when Gods are considered to rise from 6 months of sleep, the dakshinayana period, which is said to be the ‘night’ of devatas. Uttarayana is also called as Devayana, and the next half is called Pitrayana.
3. It was on this day when Lord Vishnu slayed the never ending atrocities Asura (Devils). Lord Visnu buried their heads under the Mandar Parvat.
4. Maharaja Bhagirath pursued tough penance to bring river Ganga on earth. He did this to liberate wandering souls of his 60,000 ancestors who were burnt into due to the curse of Kapil Muni. Eventually, Maa Ganga materialised as a river on the Earth and provided salvation to all ancestors. As per the myth, the souls were liberated on the day of “Makar Sankranti”.
Gangaji finally merged in the Sagar. Even today a grand Ganga Sagar Mela is organized every year on this day at the confluence of River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal, West Bengal. Lakhs of devotees take a dip in the holy water and do tarpan for their ancestors.
5. It was the day of Makar Sankranti for which great archery and warrior Bhishma Pitamah waited for about 58 nights to give up his mortal body on the arrow bed to seek salvation. It is believed that the person, who dies during the period of Uttarayana, becomes free from transmigration. So this day was seen as a sure-shot Good Luck day to start your journey or endeavours to the higher realms beyond.
Celebrations across the country.
Makar Sankranti is celebrated in different manners across India. Bengalis make sweets, In Andhra Pradesh people, burn old items of the house, Punjabis create a bonfire.
Devotees get up early in the morning, Brahma murat and get ready with water & flowers for the sunrise. They offer water to the God Sun seeking his blessings and chanting the Gayatri Mantra. Taking a dip in the holy rivers, Triveni, Haridvar and Garh Mukteshwar on this day is regarded as most auspicious.
A big one-month long ‘Magha-Mela’ fair begins at Prayag (Allahabad) on this occasion in Uttar Pradesh. Similarly, in Bengal every year a very big Mela is held at Ganga Sagar.
One should never forget their ancestors. Hindu observe tarpan for their ancestors this day and offer food and water to them.
Anna Daan has been scored the highest among all kinds of daan. People donate cereals on this day. Many donate cotton cloths and money to needy people.
Ladoo and sweets of Til & Gur are prepared and offered to friends, relatives or poor people. The festival is celebrated for the span of three days, the first day is known as Bhogi, the second as Sankrant and the third day is known as Kinkrant.
In Maharashtra, people make gul polis, offered for lunch.Gul Poli, Gulachi Poli or Sesame Jaggery flatbread is a sweet chapatti that is typically prepared during the festival of Makar Sankranthi. Married woman, clad in black cloth, in Maharashtra, assemble for a get-together called ‘Haldi-Kumkum’ and give gifts of any utensil.
A special Khichiri, with whole black gram and rice, is made and eaten with lots of ghee.
Give some Daan on this day to someone who truly deserves.
Fathers should visit his son at his place and give presents to the son and the daughter-in-law.
In Gujarat Sankrant, elders in the family give gifts to the younger members of the family. Internationally renowned, Kite flying has been associated with this festival l at a grand level.
People from Bihar and Jharkhand celebrate the festival for two days and call it Sakraat or Khichdi in their local dialects.
In Tamil, Nadu, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as ‘Pongal’, which takes its name from the surging of rice boiled in a pot of milk. It is a thanksgiving festival for a good crop, particularly popular amongst farmers celebrated for four Days. The first day is Bhogi Pandigai and is celebrated by burning old things of the house and replacing them with the new the the the s, the second day is the most important and called as Thai Pongal or just PThe third died day is Mattu Pongal, which is marked by feeding the cattle and fourth day is known as Kaanum Pongal, is celebrated with family members. Rice and pulses cooked together in ghee and are offered to the family deity after the ritual worship.
People of Andhra Pradesh Telangana celebrate as Pedda Panduga’ or big festival which lasts for four days, first-day-day Bhogi, the second day Sankranti, third-day-day Kanuma and the fourth day, Mukkanuma.
In Assam, the festival is celebrated as Bhogali Bihu, which marks the end of harvesting season in the month of Maagha (January–February).
Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, huge bonfires are lit on the eve of “LOHARI“, following day to it is celebrated as MAGHI.
In Kerala, Makaravilakku festival held on Makar Sankranti at the holy shrine of Sabarimala, siuated 4000 feet above sea level surrounded by 18 hills, nestled in the hills of Pathanamthitta of Kerala. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu celibate deity Ayyappan, a syncretic deity, the son of Shiva and Mohini – the female avatar of Vishnu. The chief attraction of the festival is the grand Thiruvabharanam procession which is the procession of the sacred ornaments of the Hindu God of Growth, Shri Ayappan. Jewellery is brought from Pandalam Palace in a ceremonial precession, which starts from Valiya Koyikkal Sastha Temple at Pandalam three days prior to Makara Sankranthi.
The jewellery consists of the diamond diadem, golden bracelets and necklaces studded with precious gems, Lord’s swords, silver arrows and images of elephant, horse and leopard made of gold.
Makaravilakku (maker Sankranti) is the day of completion of the annual Sabarimala pilgrimage, which begins in mid-November.