Makar Sankranti, the Harvest Festival in the North and the most favorite fiesta in the South of India is ever marked for its jubilance, festive spirit, celebration and pomp , since it denotes a grand festival, which is celebrated all over India by multilingual and diverse cultured people. Sankranti means ‘transit’ in Sanskrit and Makar Sankranti marks the transition of the Sun into Makar Rashi (Capricorn), which falls regularly on the 14 or 15 of January every year. It is a magnificent festival that signifies everything good, auspicious and ritualistic in Hindu culture and religion.
Makar Sankranti – A Harbinger of Good Omen
The transmigration of the Sun into the Zodiac sign Capricorn ushers in all bright and prosperous things in people’s life, since it notifies the end of the dark period, starting from mid-December to mid-January. (This period is known to be the night of Devathas, Dakshinayana and the setting of Makar Sankranthi is called Uttarayana, the day of Devathas). It is the threshold of goodness, benevolence, fineness and righteousness for people. People await the transition of the Sun God into his Son’s zodiac sign as it marks the start of good time and the end of the dark period. Not only that, it is the auspicious entry of the all-powerful Brahman Sun God into Saturn, his son’s house symbolizing the strength of the relationship of father and son.
A Symbol of Religious and Cultural Heritage
The religious and mythological background of Makar Sankranti is interwoven with great stories of Maharajah Bhahirath and the legendary icon Bhishma. Raja Bhahirath brought the river Ganges down the earth to redeem 60,000 sons of Maharajah Sagar. Bhishma decided to give up his mortal frame on this day with his special boon of iccha- mrithyu. Lord Vishnu ended up the lives of Asuras on this day by burying their heads under the hill called Mandar Parvat. Enriched with the undertones of religious significance, Makar Sankranti is ever celebrated with reverence for its religious and cultural heritage.
The Unique Grandeur of the Celebrations
In the North, the Festival is celebrated with much religious fervor. People make it a point to take a dip in the river Ganges and salute the Sun God for his benedictions. It is ceremonious for people to organize Ganga Sagar Mela at the confluence of the River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal, where thousands of people dip their heads in the river Ganges and pay homage to their ancestors. In Punjab, it is called Maghi, the harvest day, where people render their offerings as a form of thanks-giving. In Kerala, It is the time of the dharshan of Makar Jyothi of Ayyappa. Gujarat has a unique fashion of flying the kites in the sky as a symbol of trying to reach the eternal God in the sky. In the interior parts of Gujarat, cockfights are held to signify the celebrations. The festival is the start of warmer and longer days than the winter. So, food preparations like tilgul (laddu made with sesame seeds) is the famous foodie of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andra Pradesh.
The Southern States like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh celebrate the festival for three or four days. They start the first day with Bogi, wherein people destroy the old things and let in the new arrivals. While in Tamil Nadu, people celebrate Pongal with Sakarai pongal (sweet rice), sugar cane and manjal kotthu with pomp and gaiety, People in Andhra call it Pedda Panduga and offer their traditional food to the ancestors. The Tamilians mark the occasion with their joyous shouts of “pongalo pongal” on finding the mixture of jaggery and rice rise over the vessel. Ven Pongal, Til Ladoo, Urad Laddu, Til Papdi, Jackfruit Appam, gul papadi, undhiyu, dahi chuda, Pati Sapta etc are the delicacies prepared for Makar Sankranti in various states of India.
Yes, it is true that Makar Sankranti is a festival that speaks of the unity in the diversity of Indian States with its myriad traditions and cultural bindings.