Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti is one of the major Hindu festivals. It is a four-day harvest festival in the Magh month of the Hindu Solar Calendar. This festival occurs every year on the 15th of January (14th on a leap year). This date is associated with the sun’s transition into a constellation, unlike most other festival dates, which are determined by the lunar day (tithi).

Makara is the constellation Capricorn; Sankranti is the sun’s transition from one constellation to another. Makar Sankranti marks the transition of the sun into the zodiac sign of Makara or Capricorn. It is also known as Uttarayana or the northward journey of the sun.

In a phenomenal example of our connection with ancient astronomy, we celebrate this celestial transition of the sun into Makara Rashi just as our ancestors did, for example, from the historical Mahabharata.

This Uttarayana period of six months is highly auspicious as it is the daytime of the devatas. Also, this is the only festival that invariably falls on the same date every year. Sankranti is celebrated all over India with some regional variations.

Until the arrival of Makara Sankranti, all celebrations are held off as the preceding lean period, marked as an inauspicious time, is usually ridden with debt and anxiety. It is only after harvest when cash flows in, hope for new beginnings, and a favorable turn of fate is renewed.

Months of toil and uncertainty end, and communities plan celebratory rites like weddings. Makara Shankranti is called Pedha Panduga, the great festival, by the Telugus, Lohri by Punjabis, and Pongal by Tamizhians. The prosperity of this festival sets the tone for the rest of the year.

After Makar Sankranti, Bharat is ready to celebrate after a month of austerities and prayer-filled days. The joy echoes natural bounty as fields are pregnant with produce and ripen. The sun’s warmth is felt longer as the days lengthen. The winter solstice has passed, and Uttaraayana Punya Kaalam has begun. Kites are set to soar against blue skies. Sesame seeds and jaggery are mixed in the colder realms to offer neighbors. Nature’s gifts are harvested in plenty even as the sweetness of sugarcane floods local markets.

Regional Variations

In Tamil Nadu, the festival is called Pongal, a four-day celebration. 

  1. The first day is called Bhogi Pongal. On this day, people throw away old clothes and other things. 
  2. The second day is Makar Sankranti, also known as Thai Pongal. Pongal is a sweet preparation made from newly harvested crops, and it is offered to the Sun God at sunrise as a prayer and thanksgiving for providing prosperity. 
  3. The third day is called Maattu Pongal, when people offer thanks to cattle, which are the farmers’ companions. On this day, the cattle are decorated, allowed to roam free, and fed sweet rice and sugar cane. In some places, Jallikattu or wild bull-taming contests are organized.
  4. The fourth day of the festival is Kaanum Pongal. People visit their relatives and friends on this day to enjoy the festive season.

In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the festival is celebrated similarly for four days.

  1. On the first day, called Bhogi, big bonfires are lit before the homes where old clothes are set on fire.
  2. On the festival’s second day, children are showered with ber or Indian Jujube, also known as Regi Pandlu in Telugu, to protect them from the evil eye. Also, in front of every house, people draw a Rangoli or ‘Muggu.’ A traditional sport of cock fights is held in the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh.

On the festival day in Karnataka, doors and windows are decorated with green mango leaves, and colorful rangolis adorn the entrances. People visit relatives and friends and exchange ellu and bella—a mixture of sesame seeds, jaggery, and sugarcane sticks.

In Maharashtra, it is a three-day festival. People exchange Tilgud, Halwa, and Puran Poli and greet each other, ’til-gul ghya, aani god-god bola’, which means ‘accept these sweets, and speak sweet words.’ Married women wear a special black saree called the Chandrakala, which is embossed with stars and small crescent moons. They get together, apply Haldi-Kumkum (turmeric-vermillion), and exchange gifts in clothes and utensils. 

In Bengal, the festival known as Poush Sankranti is noted for its Ganga Sagar Mela. The fair is held on Sagar Island, about 100 km from Kolkata. On this day, hundreds of thousands of devotees take a holy dip in the confluence of River Ganga and the Bay of Bengal and offer worship at the Kapil Muni temple. The special food preparation is Pithe, a sweet dish with rice, date palm jaggery, and coconut.

In North India, thousands of people throng pilgrimage places like Haridwar, Banares, and Allahabad to take a holy dip in the Ganga. In Bihar and Jharkhand, it is a two-day festival called Sakraat or Khichdi.

In Gujarat and Rajasthan, it is celebrated as Uttarayan and is noted for kite flying. Across the cities, competitions are held in kite flying, and in Ahmedabad, there is an International Kite Event where people from more than 40 countries participate. Illuminated kites are flown on the second night, creating a grand spectacle in the night sky. The special Gujarati preparation for Sankranti is Undhiyu, mixed vegetable preparation, and jalebis.

Makar Sankranti, in short, reminds people that our true wealth is the love and friendship of our relatives, friends, and neighbours. And we must be grateful to the land that grows our food and the livestock that support us.

Why Hindu

We, a group of youths born into Hindu families, were raised in the rich culture of Vedic Sanatan Dharma, embracing its cultures and traditions. Post-graduation, recognizing the immense value of our Sanatan Dharma for humanity, we initiated the "Why Hindu" project. With guidance from our elders, we aim to create awareness about Hindu Dharma, delve into Vedic scripture, explore Vedic mantras, and elucidate the significance of festivals. Through this endeavor, we strive to share the profound teachings of our heritage, fostering understanding and appreciation for the timeless principles of Sanatan Dharma.

Recent Posts