Makar Sankranti – Celebration In India

Makar Sankranti – Cultural and Religious Significance

Makar Sankranti is a Hindu festival that is celebrated every year on the 14th of January. It marks the transition of the sun into the zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn) and the beginning of the harvest season. This festival is observed in many parts of India and Nepal, and it is also known by different names such as Sankranti in Andhra Pradesh, Pongal in South India, Maghi in Punjab, and Bihu in Assam.

Makar Sankranti has a deep cultural and religious significance in Hinduism. It is considered to be an auspicious time for rituals and ceremonies, and people offer prayers to the sun god on this day. Also this festival marks the end of the winter solstice and the beginning of longer days. It is a time to give thanks for the bountiful harvest and to celebrate the end of the cold winter months.

In Hindu mythology, the sun god is believed to be the source of all life and energy, and the festival is seen as a way to pay respect to this deity and seek his blessings.

The history of Makar Sankranti can be traced back to ancient India, where it was celebrated as a festival of harvest. It is mentioned in the ancient Hindu texts such as the Mahabharata and the Puranas, and is believed to have been celebrated for thousands of years. The festival has also been mentioned in the Buddhist texts such as the Jataka Tales, which suggest that it was celebrated by the ancient Buddhists as well.

Traditions of Makar Sankranti

One of the most important aspects of Makar Sankranti is the offering of prayers and pujas to the sun god Surya. On this day, people take a dip in holy rivers such as the Ganges and the Godavari, and offer prayers and offerings to the sun god, seeking his blessings for a good harvest and prosperity. It is believed that by doing so, people will be able to gain the blessings of the sun god and will be protected from the negative influences of the planet Saturn.

Another important aspect of Makar Sankranti is the exchange of sweets and gifts with loved ones. On this day, people exchange sweets such as Til-gud (sesame and jaggery sweets) and Pitha (rice cakes) with their family and friends, symbolizing the sharing of love and joy. The traditional sweet dish that is common in most parts of India during Makar Sankranti is Til-Gud. It is made of sesame seeds and jaggery and is considered a symbol of sweetness and love.

Flying kites is also an integral part of Makar Sankranti celebrations. People fly kites on this day as a symbol of letting go of the past and embracing the future. It is believed that flying kites on Makar Sankranti will bring good luck and prosperity for the coming year. Flying kites also symbolizes the freedom from the darkness of winter and the arrival of the bright and warm days of spring.  Kite flying is not only a tradition but also a popular activity in many parts of India, especially in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan, where large-scale kite flying competitions are held.

Celebration in Different Parts of India

Makar Sankranti Celebrations

Makar Sankranti is celebrated differently in various parts of India. Some of the notable celebrations are:

Celebration of Makar Sankranti in Maharashtra

In Maharashtra, Makar Sankranti is celebrated with great fervor and enthusiasm. People start their day by taking a dip in the holy rivers, and perform puja to the sun god. Flying kites is a popular activity during Makar Sankranti, and people of all ages can be seen flying kites on rooftops and open spaces. Traditional sweets like til-gud and chikki are prepared and shared among friends and family.

Celebration in Andhra Pradesh

Sankranti is celebrated as Pongal in Andhra Pradesh. It is three-day festival, where people prepare traditional sweets and savories. They also prepare a special sweet dish called “pongali” which is made of rice, lentils, and jaggery. This dish is offered to the sun god as a prasad, and is then distributed among friends and family. People also take a bath in the holy rivers, and perform puja to the sun god.

Celebration in South India

In South India, Pongal is celebrated as a four-day festival. The first day is called Bhogi, where people discard old clothes and items, and start anew. The second day is called Surya Pongal, where people prepare the special sweet dish “Pongal” and offer it to the sun god. The third day is called Mattu Pongal, where people worship cows and bulls, who are considered sacred animals. The fourth day is called Kaanum Pongal, where people visit friends and family, and enjoy traditional foods and sweets.

Celebration in Punjab

In Punjab, Maghi is celebrated as a three-day festival. The first day is called Maghi Mela, where people take a dip in the holy rivers, and perform puja to the sun god. The second day is called Lohri, where people gather around bonfires and sing traditional songs. The third day is called Maghi, where people exchange sweets and gifts with friends and family.

Celebration in Assam

In Assam, Bihu is celebrated as a three-day festival. The first day is called Bhogali Bihu, where people prepare traditional foods, and gather around bonfires. The second day is called Magh Bihu, where people take a dip in the holy rivers, and perform puja to the sun god. The third day is called Kati Bihu, where people offer prayers to the ancestors and to the gods of agriculture.

Celebration in Gujarat

In Gujarat, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Uttarayan. Here people fly kites on rooftops and open spaces. Kite-flying competitions are also held, and people prepare traditional sweets like til-gud and chikki to share with friends and family.

Celebration in Rajasthan

In Rajasthan this festival is celebrated as Makar Sankrant. This festival is marked by the exchange of sweets and gifts. People also take a dip in the holy rivers and perform puja to the sun god.

Celebration in Uttar Pradesh

Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Khichiri in Uttar Pradesh. People prepare a dish made of rice, lentils, and ghee, and offer it to the sun god. They also take a dip in the holy rivers and perform puja to the sun god.

Celebration in West Bengal

Makar Sankranti is called as Poush Sankranti in West Bengal. Here people prepare traditional sweets like pithe, which is made of rice flour and jaggery. They also perform puja to the sun god and offer prayers to the ancestors.

Celebration in Odisha

In Odisha, this festival is celebrated as Makara Sankranti, where people take a dip in the holy rivers, perform puja to the sun god, and prepare traditional sweets like chakuli pitha.

Celebration in Himachal Pradesh

In Himachal Pradesh, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Maghi, where people prepare traditional sweets like dham, which is made of wheat flour, jaggery and ghee, and offer it to the sun god.

Celebration in Kerala

In Kerala, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Makara Vilakku, where people perform puja to the sun god and prepare traditional sweets like Unni Appam and Paal Payasam (sweet prepared in milk, such as Khir).

In conclusion, Makar Sankranti is celebrated in different ways across India with great enthusiasm and devotion everywhere, each region has its unique customs, rituals, and traditional foods that are served during the festival. All the regional variations are an expression of the devotion and gratitude towards the sun god and the bountiful harvest, and the celebration of new beginnings and unity in diversity.

Makar Sankranti is not just a festival of harvest, but also a time for spiritual reflection, and for celebrating the bonds of love and friendship. It is a time to give thanks for the bountiful harvest, to celebrate the end of the cold winter months, and to mark new beginnings. It is important to celebrate Makar Sankranti responsibly and be respectful of the environment and the traditions.

Happy Makar Sankranti !!!

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