Makar Sankrant is celebrated on January 14 and is a harvest festival in India. It is celebrated in the Indian subcontinent as well as in Southeast Asia. Makar means Capricorn and Sankrant means transition. The festival is about the transition of Sun into Capricorn (Makar raashi) in its celestial path. It is also the winter solstice when the Sun begins its journey northwards. As a result the day starts to get longer and the nights warmer.
All over India, this day is celebrated in different ways. In Gujrat, people fly colorful kites, in TamilNadu it is celebrated as Pongal. In Maharashtra and Karnataka, people celebrate by making sweets out of Teel (sesame seeds) and Gul (jaggery). They exchange these sweets with a commitment to increase understanding and brotherhood (teel gul ghya gode bola). In Punjab it is celebrated as Lohri and in Andhra Pradesh it celebrated for 3 days. Beautiful and intricate “muggu” or rangoli adorn the front yards of the house. Day one is the Bhogi Panduga when the old clothes, wood and other articles are piled and burned. Day two is the pedda panduga or Sankranthi and day 3 is the Kanuma.
Sankranti is celebrated all over Southeast Asia with some regional variations:
* In North India,
o Himachal Pradesh - Lohri
o Punjab - Lohri
* In East India,
o Bihar - Sankranti
o Assam - Bhogali Bihu
o West Bengal - Makara Sankranti
o orissa - makara sankranti
* In Western India
o Gujarat and Rajasthan - Uttarayan (Kite flying festival)
o Maharashtra - Sankranti
* In South India,
o In Tamilnadu - Pongal
o In Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh - Sankranthi
o Makara Vilakku Festival in Sabarimala Temple
* Other parts of India as Makara Sankranti
* In Nepal,
o Tharu people - Maghi
o Other people - Maghe Sankranti or Maghe Sakrati
* In Thailand - สงกรานต์ Songkran
* In Laos - Pi Ma Lao
* In Myanmar - Thingyan
Makar Sankranth is the festival of Sun. People discard the old and the derelict and concentrate on the new. It is an ideal time to set goals for life and plan to achieve them. It is a time for change and transformation, a period for peace, prosperity and enlightenment.
On this day “Dakshinayan” ends and “Uttarayan” begins. In Mahabharat, Bheeshma, who has the power to choose the time his death, waits until Uttarayan to leave this earth and attain moksha.
According to the Puranas, Saturn is the lord of the Capricorn and the son of Sun. Sun and Saturn do not get along. Despite their differences, the father Sun makes it a point to visit his son Saturn every year on this day. This day symbolizes the importance of special relationships in our life and our duty to nurture them.
On this day Lord Vishnu killed all the asuras and buried them under the Mandar Mountain. This is the day to end all negativities and make new beginnings.
Another story has it that on this day Maharaj Bhagirath brought Ganga down to earth after great tapash-charya (penance). 60,000 sons of Maharaj Sagar were burnt to ashes at the ashram of Kapil Muni near modern day Ganga Prayag. On this day Maharaj Bhagirathi did tarpan with Ganga to redeem them from Patal. Ganga visited them in Patal and finally merged in Sagar. This story reminds us of not forsaking our ancestors and nurturing our roots. 60,000 sons of Maharaj Sagar represent our thoughts that become dull and dead with ambition and greed. Maharaj Bhagirathis tapshcharya is the importance of hard work towards the Brahma Vidya to enlighten our lives.
On this day, every 12 years the Mahakumbha Mela occurs at Prayag when over 60 million people come to take a dip in the holy water of Ganges.
This day signifies an event when god seems to remind us to
Tamaso ma jyothir gamaya – Lead me away from the darkness towards the light.