Makar Sankranti is celebrated every year on the !4th of January. The festival of Makar Sankranti is considered to be extremely auspicious because it marks the first day of the sun’s transition into the sun sign Capricorn or Makara in Hindi. The festival is observed each year and is dedicated to the Sun God.
The festival is also hailed as the ‘festival of kites’ that marks the end of the winter and announces the arrival of spring. It is one of the few ancient festivals that is observed as per the solar cycles ones of the Hindu calendar. It is to be noted that the festival has different names and is celebrated in many parts of the country. For instance, while in Maharashtra it is known as Pedda Pandaga, in West Bengal it is called Poush Shongkranti. The Assamese call it Magh Bihu, and the Tamilians Thai Pongal.
According to legends, it is believed that Sankranti — after whom the festival is named — as a deity, who killed a demon called Sankarasur. In India, it is considered to be a date from when the sun begins to move north, as, before Makar Sankranti, the sun was shining on the southern hemisphere. The Hindus believe this period to be the uttaarayan — or the period of auspiciousness. According to the Mahabharata, Bhishma Pitamah had waited for the sun to be in uttarayan to embrace death.
On this day, people wake up early and express their gratitude towards the Sun God. Some people take a dip in one of the holy rivers and chant mantras. Others begin their day by dressing well and flying kites. In many parts of the country, kite-flying competitions are held. It is symbolic in nature, because it said that the higher your kite flies, the higher you go in life in terms of prosperity. Communities come together and share sweets and laddoos made of sesame (til) and jaggery (gur).
In different parts of the country this festival is celebrated by different names
- Lohri - One day before Makar Sankranti, on 13th January, Lohri is celebrated in Punjab and Haryana. At night, people gather around the bonfire and throw til, puffed rice & popcorns into the flames of bonfire. Prayers are offered to the bonfire seeking abundance and prosperity.
- Festival of donation or Khichdi - In Uttar Pradesh it is mainly the festival of 'Donation' . The Magh fair, which continues for one month on the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati in Allahabad, starts from the day of Makar Sankranti only. On this auspicious day, people do fast in Uttar Pradesh, eat and offer khichdi
- In Bihar, Makar Sankranti festival is known as Khichdi. On this day, donating Urad, rice, gold, woollen clothes, blankets etc. have their own importance.
- In Maharashtra, all married women doante cotton, oil and salt to other suhain or married women on their first Sankrant.
- In Bengal, there is a tradition of donating til after taking bath in Makar Sankrant. Huge fair is also organised every year in Gangasagar.
- Pongal- On the occasion of Makar Sankranti in Tamil Nadu, this festival is celebrated as Pongal for 4 days.
- Kite festival- In Gujarat, the kite festival is organised on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.
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