Makar Sankranti, a festival known for its religious as well as seasonal significance, is widely celebrated all over India on January 14th. Hindus across the country celebrate this festival with great joy and enthusiasm.
On this day, devotees pray for success, prosperity and happiness for themselves as well as for their loved ones.
Why is Makar Sankranti celebrated?
In the religious front, Makar Sankranti is celebrated in order to pay homage to the almighty Sun God and marks the sun's transit into Makara (Capricorn) raashi. Known as the giver of life, the sun is worshipped by Hindus with reverence.
In seasonal terms, the festival indicates the end of winters as well as the beginning of longer days on account of the sun's northward journey. For this reason it is also known as 'Uttarayan'. The legend of Mahabharata states that Bhishma Pitamah had waited for the sun to be in Uttarayan to embrace death.
Especially auspicious to farmers, it is a festival of new beginnings. For them, the festival translates into a celebration for the successful completion of the harvest season.
Hindus, country-wide, indulge into various traditional activities to celebrate the festival.
Devotees take a dip in holy rivers like Ganga, Yamuna and Godavari. They believe that doing so will help wash away the negativity in one's life and rid them of their sins. As a part of the rituals, people distribute sweets like chikki and til-gud. The sharing of sweets signifies living in peace and harmony with everybody, despite the differences that may exist between people. In Gujrat, Makar Sankranti is marked by the fun-filled activity of kite-flying.
The day of Makar Sankranti usually ends with families and friends sitting together and relishing a simple meal. The staple menu includes khichdi, mashed potatoes and hot pakodas. Some believers even perform the act of ‘Daan Dakshina’, in which sesame laddoo, rice, masoor ki dal and gajak are offered to the almighty, as a way of thanking him for all the resources of life.
The festival is known with different names depending upon the state it is celebrated in. For instance, in the north (primarily by northern Hindus and Sikhs) it is called Maghi. Further, it is recognized as Makar Sankranti and Poush sôngkrānti in Maharashtra, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka and Telangana.
In central India, the festival takes the name of Sukarat, Magh Bihu by Assamese, and Pongal by Tamils.
The Makar Sankranti Punya Kala, meaning the auspicious time, is from 08:30am to 05:46pm. However, the most auspicious time of the day or Makar Sankranti Maha Punya Kala is from 08:30 am to 10:15 am.