December 8, 2023

Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti is a significant festival celebrated in various parts of India, known as Lohri in the North and Pongal in certain regions of the South. It commemorates the “ascent” of the sun to the Northern hemisphere and marks the coldest day of winter, typically observed on January 14th. This festival symbolizes the transition from the chilly winter season to the gradual arrival of warmer days.

In the North, the celebration involves lighting bonfires as a ritualistic practice. People gather around these bonfires and offer sweets, rice, and popcorn as a form of homage. The bonfires are symbolic of warmth, light, and the triumph of good over evil.

In the South, the focus of the festival is on honoring the sun god, as the sun plays a vital role in agricultural activities and a bountiful harvest. Prayers and offerings are made to express gratitude for the sun’s energy and its crucial role in sustaining life and enabling agricultural productivity.

Food plays a central role during Makar Sankranti. Sesame seeds and jaggery sweets are commonly consumed as they are believed to provide warmth and energy during the winter season. One popular dish prepared during this festival is ‘pongal,’ made by cooking rice with milk, jaggery, and sometimes flavored with spices like cardamom. Additionally, sugar drops or crystallized sugar are also enjoyed as a part of the festivities.

Jaggery, a dark crude sugar derived from palms, holds significance during Makar Sankranti. It is used as an ingredient in various sweets and dishes, adding sweetness and richness to the festive delicacies.

Makar Sankranti is not only a time for joyous celebrations and feasting but also holds cultural and agricultural significance. It brings communities together, strengthens bonds, and serves as a reminder of the importance of nature’s cycles and the abundance it provides.

Here are some fascinating facts about Makar Sankranti:

  • Makar Sankranti is a harvest festival that is celebrated in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. It is also celebrated by people of the Indian diaspora in other parts of the world.
  • The festival marks the sun’s transition from the zodiac sign Sagittarius to Capricorn. This is the first day of the sun’s northward journey, which is known as Uttarayan.
  • Makar Sankranti is a time for people to come together and celebrate the harvest. It is also a time for people to pray for a good year ahead.
  • The festival is celebrated in a variety of ways across India. In some parts of the country, people fly kites, eat sweets, and take a dip in the river. In other parts of the country, people celebrate the festival by visiting temples and exchanging gifts.
  • Makar Sankranti is a colorful and festive occasion that is a time for people to come together and celebrate the start of the new year.

Here are some more interesting facts about Makar Sankranti:

  • The name “Makar Sankranti” comes from the Sanskrit words “makara”, which means “sea-goat”, and “sankranti”, which means “passage”. This is because the sun enters the zodiac sign Capricorn, which is represented by a sea-goat.
  • Makar Sankranti is a time for people to give thanks for the harvest and to pray for a good year ahead.
  • On Makar Sankranti, people in some parts of India fly kites. This is a tradition that is said to bring good luck.
  • In some parts of India, people eat sweets on Makar Sankranti. This is a tradition that is said to bring sweetness into the year ahead.
  • Makar Sankranti is a time for people to come together and celebrate. It is a festival that is full of joy and excitement.

History of Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti is a festival with deep historical and cultural roots in India. Its origins can be traced back to ancient times and it holds great significance in Hindu mythology and traditions.

The festival marks the transition of the sun into the zodiac sign of Capricorn (Makar) as it begins its northward journey, moving from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn. This transition, known as Uttarayan, marks the end of the winter solstice and the beginning of longer days, symbolizing the return of warmth and light.

The festival finds mention in various ancient texts, including the Vedas, the oldest sacred scriptures of Hinduism. It is believed that during this time, Lord Surya (the sun god) visits the house of his son Lord Shani (the god associated with the planet Saturn), thus signifying the importance of family ties and relationships.

Makar Sankranti is celebrated on January 14th every year, which is believed to be the coldest day of the winter season. The festival holds agricultural significance as it marks the onset of the harvest season in various parts of India. It is a time of celebration and gratitude for the bountiful harvest and the blessings of nature.

Throughout history, Makar Sankranti has been celebrated in different regions of India with unique customs and traditions. In the northern parts of the country, it is known as Lohri and is celebrated with bonfires, singing, dancing, and feasting. In the southern states, particularly Tamil Nadu, it is called Pongal, and people offer prayers to the sun god and cook a special dish using freshly harvested rice.

The festival also holds religious and spiritual significance. Many devotees take holy dips in sacred rivers, such as the Ganges, Yamuna, and Godavari, to cleanse themselves of sins and seek blessings. It is believed that bathing in these rivers during the auspicious time of Makar Sankranti brings spiritual purification and liberation.

Makar Sankranti is a time of joy, unity, and cultural exchange, as people come together to celebrate and share festive greetings, sweets, and delicacies with each other. The festival reflects the rich heritage and traditions of India, showcasing the deep connection between nature, agriculture, and spirituality.

Over the years, Makar Sankranti has evolved and adapted to the changing times, but its essence of gratitude, renewal, and celebration of nature’s abundance remains constant, making it one of the most beloved and widely celebrated festivals in India.