Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti is the day,when the sun enters the tenth house of the Indian zodiac i.e. Makara or Capricorn.It usually falls in the middle of January month.Scientifically, this day marks the beginning of warmer and longer days compared to the nights and it marks the termination of winter season and beginning of a new harvest or spring season.The movement of the earth from one zodiac sign into another is called Sankranti.

Makar Sankranti is begining of the 'Day' of Gods (Devatas),while 'Dakshinayana' ie the southward movement of the sun, is said to be the 'Night' of Gods,hence most of the auspicious things are performed during this time.Makar Sankranti identifies a period of enlightenment, peace, prosperity and happiness followed by a period of darkness, ignorance and viciousness with immense sorrow.The six months of northern movement of the sun is followed by six months of southern movement.

Since the Sun moves into the Capricorn zodiac ie Makar as per Hindus, this occurence is called "Makar Sankranti".As it is the festival of Sun God,who he is regarded as the symbol divinity and wisdom, the festival holds an eternal meaning.The importance of this day is also mentioned in Mahabharata.So, this day has a historical and religious significance.

Celebration

As per the lunar calendar, when the sun moves from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn or from Dakshinayana to Uttarayana, in mid-January ie Poush (Hindu), it commemorates the beginning of the harvest season.Makar Sankranti is considered as very auspicious and the major harvest festival celebrated in various parts of India.

Apart from a harvest festival it is also considered as the beginning of an auspicious phase in Indian culture. It is said as the "Holy phase of transition". It marks the end of an inauspicious phase which as per the Hindu calendar begins around mid-December.Makar Sankranti,due to geographic conditions, is celebrated as per the location, climate, agricultural environment and cultural background.

The auspicious time on this day is from sunrise to sunset and a holy dip during this period has a special significance.A holy dip at this time, in the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Krushna, Godavari and Kauveri at the divine places situated on this river banks, pays highest merits.Any auspicious ritual can be sanctified on this day onwards.Since the festival is celebrated in mid winter, food prepared for this festival is such that it keeps the body warm and gives high energy.Laddu of til made with Jaggery is a specialty of the festival.

Legends

*On Makar Sankranti day,as per Puranas,Surya(Sun) visits the house of his son Shani (Saturn), who is the lord of the Makar rashi ie Capricorn. The father and the son did not get along well,still Surya insisted to meet his son on this day for a month,which shows the strength of the relationship between father and son. *On this day,Lord Vishnu finished the Asuras (Demons) and buried their heads under the mountain of Mandara Parvata and ended the ever growing terror of Demons.So this day marks the end of 'Negativities' and beginning of an era of righteous living.

*As per another legend,sixty thousand sons of Maharaj Sagar were burnt to ashes at the Kapil Muni Ashram.Maharaja Bhagiratha,for their redemption,performed a great penance to bring Ganga down to the earth.It was this auspicious day when Bhagirath finally performed 'Tarpan' with the water of river Ganga for his unfortunate ancestors and thereby liberated them from the curse.

After visiting the Pataala(underworld) for the redemption of the curse of Bhagirath's ancestors the Ganges finally merged into the sea.On this day,a very big Ganga Sagar Mela is organized every year at the confluence of River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal.Many Hindus take a holy dip in the water and perform Tarpan for their ancestors.

*As per another reference,the great grand-sire of Mahabharata- Bhishma pitamah.He had the boon of Ichha-Mrityu (death at his will) from his father,so he kept lying on the bed of arrows till this day and then left his mortal coil on Makar Sankranti day.It is believed that the person, who dies during the period of Uttarayana,gets salvation ie 'Moksha'.

Makar Sankranti is celebrated with various names and rituals in different parts of the India,like Maharshtra,Gujarat,Andhra,Karnataka,Tamilnadu,Kerala,Orissa,Asam,Bengal etc.

Maharashtra

In Maharashtra people exchange Sugar-made "Phutane" with each other and say "Tilgul Ghya Goad Goad Bola" ie "eat sweets and talk sweet".Also people eat Laddus(Balls) made of "Teel" (Seesame)called "Teelache Laddu"The offering sesame seeds to Brahmans, lighting lamps of sesame oil in a temple of Lord Shiva is performed.The period from Makarsankrant to Rathsaptami is an auspicious period.Any donation and meritorious deeds in this period prove very fruitful.

An offering of followings things is done as per the indivisual capability - food, new vessels, a cow, a horse, clothings, food,sesame seeds, jaggery, gold or a piece of land. Married women organise a ceremony of haldi-kumkum (applying vermilion and turmeric on the forehead of another woman) and gift them articles.The married woman give sesame seeds and jaggery to unmarried ones as an offering and take things from them.

Giving a gift amounts to surrendering to the Divinity in the other, through the body, mind and wealth. Since the period of sankrant is favourable for spiritual practice, a gift given during this period results in bestowal of Divine grace and the self desire is fulfilled.

Sugad

A bath is taken with water containing sesame seeds and "Utne"(scented powder) is applied to body before the bath.Then Gods are worshipped and small mud pots called "Sugad" (Marathi word) are taken and Vermilion and turmeric powder are applied to the pots.

A thread is tied around them.They are then filled with vermilion,turmeric,carrots,jujube,fruits,pods, sugarcane pieces,cotton, chickpeas, sesame seeds with jaggery etc.Five pots are placed on a wooden plate,a design of rangoli is drawn around the plate and worshipped.Three of these are gifted to married women,one is offered to the tulsi plant and one is retained.On this day it is a tradition to fly kites in the sky.In the state of Gujarath kites flying on this day is a major event and full family is engrossed the whole day in kites flying.

Gujarat

This is one of the major festivals in the state of Gujarat where the celebrations are even bigger.Makar Sankranti is worship and respect of Mata Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge).At the begining,people worship their departed ancestors.People offer thousands of their colorful oblations to the Sun in the form of beautiful kites. This is symbolic of reaching to the beloved God. In the rural and coastal regions,cock fight is a major event of the festival.It is a two day festival here:14 January is Uttarayan 15 January is Baasi-Uttarayan(stale Uttarayan)

Gujarati keenly await this festival to fly kites.The Indian generic name for a kite is 'Patang'. The kite is a rhombus shaped, made of a light-wight colored paper and sticks and flied with a string.There is a competition in cutting each other's kites in the air.

In Gujarat,just before Makar sankranti, kids and youngsters enjoy Uttarayan.Festive sweets like Undhiyu(mixed winter vegetable) and chikkis, made from til (sesame), peanuts and jaggery are the special recipes of the season.

Andhra Pradesh

The festival, Sankranti is celebrated for four days in Andhra Pradesh as under:Day 1 - Bhogi Day: 2 - Makara Sankranti (Pedda Panduga): Day 3 - Kanuma: Day 4 - Mukkanuma. The day preceding Makara Sankranti is called Bhogi.At dawn people light a bonfire with logs of wood, fuels and old wooden furniture.This is the time when people discard old things and concentrate on new things causing a fresh change in life.

The disposing of things is leaving old habits,vices and materials things,which are sacrificed in the sacrificial fire of the knowledge of Rudra, called as ' Rudra Gita Gyan Yagya '. It represents realization,purification and transformation of the soul.

Some families,shower fruits on infants (upto 3 years),which is called 'Regi Pandlu'.It is believed that doing this protects the children from evil eye.Sweets are prepared and distributed.It is a time for families to congregate.Brothers pay special tribute to their married sisters by giving gifts as affirmation of their filial love.Employers give gifts of money,food and clothes to their employees. The second day is Makara Sankranti ,called ' Pedda Panduga ', which literally means 'The big festival', On this day people wear new clothes, worship God, and make offerings of traditional food to dead ancestors.

The next day of Makar Sankranti,is the animals' day especially the cows.Animals, birds and fishes are fed by small girls as a symbol of sharing.On this day families want to get toegter,hence they avoid travelling.In this sense Sankranti demonstrates strong cultural values.

Kanuma Panduga is an integral part of the Sankranti and not celebrated in a big way.Mukkanuma is the day when people eat non-vegetarian food like meat and fish. The Telangana people observe only the first two days as part of the festival and eat non-veg food on the second day of the festival ie Makara Sankranti (Pedda Panduga).The God is worshipped by offering Ariselu, Appalu (a sweet of Jaggery and Pumpkin).

In South India the Haridas roams around with a decorated cow, begging for rice wishing luck.This auspicious day is also celebrated in almost every part with adventurous games like cock fights etc.with a huge amount of illegal betting.

Bihar

In Bihar, the festival is celebrated on 14 & 15th January.On 14 January, it is celebrated as Makar Sankranti or Sakraat (in local dialect).People take sacred bath in rivers,lakes and ponds and as a celebration of good harvest enjoy decicious speciality food items.The special items include Chura, Gud (jaggery),sweets made of til (Seesame seeds) such as Tilkut,Maska,Tilwa,milk,curd and seasonal vegetables.Kite flying is also enjoyed by may people.

On 15 January,in some parts,the day is celebrated as Makraat.The people feast with special dish called 'Khichri' made up of Dal,Rice ,cauliflower,peas and potatoes. This is one of the most important festivals,when people begin their day by worshiping and putting til (sesame seeds) into fire and then eat Dahi-chuda along with Tilkut and Lai.

Karnataka

For the farmers of Kaveri and basin of Karnataka,this is the harvest festival called Suggi.On this auspicious day,kids and young girls dressed in new clothes,visit their beloved people with a Sankranti offering in a plate and exchange the same with other families.This ritual is called 'Ellu Birodhu'.The offering plate contains 'Ellu-Bella',which has 'Ellu' (white sesame seeds) mixed with fried groundnuts, dry coconut and fine cut bella Jaggery.It also contain sugar candy molds of various shapes (Sakkare Acchu) with a piece of sugarcane.

This festival signifies the harvest of the season, since sugarcane is predominant in these parts.Like in Maharashtrian they say "Tilgul ghya goad goad bola",there is a saying in Kannada 'Ellu bella thindu olle maathadi' which translates the same a 'Eat the sweet mixture and speak only good'.

In some regions,it is a custom for newly married women to give away bananas,to married women (muthaidhe),for a period of five years,after the marriage.However, in some households giving 'Yalchi Kai' ie red berries along with the above is also followed.In Northen Karnataka,kite flying and Drawing rangoli groups is also a tradition.

There is also an important ritual called 'Kichchu Haisodhu', which is common in rural areas.It is displaying of decorated cows and cattles in an open field and taken on a procession who are made to cross a pyre.

West Bengal

Sankranti,also known as Poush Sankranti named after the Bengali month in which it falls.It is celebrated as a harvest festival 'Poush Parbon'.The people participate in a three-day fete which begins on the day before Sankranti and ends on the next day.On this day the Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped.

In Darjeeling, the festival is known as 'Magey Sakrati',which is distinctly associated with the worship of Lord Shiva.As per the tradition people take a sacred bath before the sunrise and then commence their pooja.The food that is consumed consists primarily of sweet potatoes and various yams.The freshly harvested paddy along with the date palm syrup and Patali, is used to prepare a variety of traditional Bengali sweets.Patispta is served as a winter dish.

Kerala

Makar Sankranti in Kerala is celebrated at Sabarimala where the Makara Jyothi is visible followed by the Makara Vilakku celebrations.The anushthana of 40 days by the Ayyappan devotees ends on this day with a big celebration.

Rajasthan

In Rajasthan Makar Sankaranti is one of the major festivals.In Rajasthani dialect it is called 'Makar Sakrat'.On this auspicious day sweets like Ghevar, Til-paati, Gajak, kheer etc.are distributed among near and dear ones. During this festival the sky in Jaipur is filled with colorful kites.People invite friends and relatives to their home for 'Sakrat Bhoj' ie a special festival meal.

Uttar Pradesh

This is the first of the big bathing ceremony in Hindu Mythology.More than 20 lakhs people take sacred bath at their respective divine places like Haridwar, Allahabad and Varanasi. Like in many states of India such as Gujarat and Maharashtra,kite flying is enjoyed in Uttar Pradesh in large numbers. Also Til (Sesame seeds) and Gud (Jaggery) references are found in the songs sung on this day by locales.

Meethe gud main mil gaya teel,
Udi patang aur mil gaye dil,
jeevan main bani rahe sukh aur shanti,
Mubarak ho apko Makar Sankranti.

Kumaon (Uttarakhand)

In the Kumaon,Uttarakhand Makar Sankranti is celebrated in a big way.It is observed that from this day, of season change,the migratory birds start returning to the hills.On Makar Sankranti people take sacred dips in holy rivers, participate in the Uttarayani fairs and celebrate the festival of Ghughutia or Kale Kauva.Khichadi (a mixture of pulses and rice)is distributed in charity.

During the festival of Kale Kauva (black crow),people make sweetmeats out of flour-gur by deep frying in ghee and those are shaped such as drums, pomegranates, knives, and swords.They are worn as necklace by tyeing an orange in the middle.

Children wear these necklaces early morning and sing 'Kale Kauva' song to attract crows and other birds. They offer them portions of these necklaces, as a token of welcome for all the migratory birds, coming back after winter.The children chant the following lines-

Kale kauwa kale ghughuti mala khale,
le kauwe bda make suno ghada,
le kauwe dhal make suno thal.

The meaning is as follows-"Come dear crow, come daily you will enjoy eating bara and puwa.Take the bara and give me a pitcher full of gold.Take the shield and give me a golden plate."

Orissa (Uttarakhand)

In Orissa "Makar Chaula" is offered to Gods and Goddesses, as Nivedyam,which is made up of- uncooked newly harvested coconut,jaggery,sesame,rasagola,chhena and khoi.Makar Mela is observed near various deities in each district of Orissa and at Dhabaleswar in Cuttack, Makar Muni temple in Balasore, Hatakeshwar at Atri in Puri.

This festival is observed as 'Uttarayana Yatra',in the temple of Lord Jagannath.In regions of tribal populations like Mayurbhanj,kalahandi ,Keonjhar, Sundargarh and koraput, it is celebrated in a bigger way,with great enthusiasm by singing and dancing. Also in many tribal regions in India,people begin their New Year from the day of Sankranti by lighting bonfires.They celebrate by eating their traditional dishes.