Makar Sankranti is a significant festival in India, celebrated with enthusiasm and diverse traditions across various parts of the country. Let’s delve into what Makar Sankranti is, how it’s celebrated, its religious and cultural significance.
What is Makar Sankranti?
Makar Sankranti, also known as Maghi, is a major harvest festival celebrated in India, marking the first day of the sun’s transit into Makara (Capricorn), signaling the end of the winter solstice and the start of longer days. This festival is unique because it follows the solar calendar, making it one of the few Indian festivals that fall on the same Gregorian date every year: January 14th.
Celebrations Across India
- Gujarat and Rajasthan: Here, Makar Sankranti is synonymous with kite flying. The sky is adorned with colorful kites, and the festival is often accompanied by competitions. People gather on rooftops to fly kites, a symbol of reaching out to the divine.
- Punjab: Celebrated as Maghi, the day after Lohri is marked by taking a holy dip in rivers. It’s also a day for feasting on sugarcane and kheer (rice pudding).
- Tamil Nadu (Pongal): This four-day festival is known as Pongal. The first day, Bhogi Pongal, involves discarding old belongings to signify new beginnings. The second day, Surya Pongal, is dedicated to worshipping the sun god, and a special dish, also named ‘Pongal’, is prepared. The third and fourth days are dedicated to cattle (Mattu Pongal) and thanksgiving to family and friends (Kaanum Pongal).
- Assam (Magh Bihu): This is a time for community feasts and bonfires. Traditional Assamese games like Tekeli Bhonga (pot-breaking) and buffalo fighting are also part of the celebration.
- West Bengal and Odisha: Here, Makar Sankranti is associated with the worship of Lord Surya (Sun God) and Goddess Lakshmi. People take dips in the Ganges and offer prayers.
In Hindu mythology, Makar Sankranti is significant for many reasons. It’s believed that on this day, the sun visits the house of his son Shani, who is the swami of Makara Rashi. This symbolizes the special relationship between father and son. It is also said that anyone who dies on this day directly ascends to heaven.
Culturally, Makar Sankranti is a festival that signifies joy, prosperity, and new beginnings. It’s a time to celebrate the harvest, which is a symbol of abundance and prosperity. The festival also represents the spiritual aspect of awakening and realizing higher knowledge, as the days start getting longer and brighter.
Makar Sankranti is not just a harvest festival but a celebration of life, culture, and traditions, binding different parts of India in a unique thread of unity and festivity. The festival’s diverse celebrations reflect India’s rich cultural mosaic and the importance of nature in its spiritual and daily life.