Makara Sankranti, also known as Sankranti, is one of the highly auspicious days in a Hindu calendar and the day is dedicated to the worship of Bhagwan Surya. Makara Sankranti is the day when the sun enters into the zodiac Capricorn or Makara. It is also known as Uttarayana Punyakalam. Makar Sankranti is usually observed on January 14 or January 15.
Makara Sankranti in Various Parts of India
Makara Sankranti is observed throughout India by all communities but with slight variations in the festivities.
In Bengal, Makara Sankranti is noted for the Ganga Sagar Mela, Tusu Puja and Pithe parbon.
Bhogali Bihu and Tusu Puja are celebrated on the occasion in Assam.
Makar Mela is observed in Orissa.
Ghughuti or Kale Kauwa in Uttarakhand.
Shishur Sankranti in Jammu and Kashmir.
Tila Sankranti in Mithila region.
Maghi in Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.
In North India, it is the time of Lohri and Khichdi Parv.
In Central India, it is Sankranti.
In Tamil Nadu, Makar Sankranti is observed as Pongal. (four day festival)
In Andhra Pradesh, it is known as Sankranthi. (four day festival)
In Karnataka – Sankranti or Ellu Bella
In Maharashtra it is known as Makar Sankranti and Tilgul – famous for Bhogichi Bhaji
In Kerala, the famous Sabarimala Pilgrimage comes to an end with sighting of the Makaravilakku.
In Gujarat and Rajasthan, it is known as Uttarayan and is noted for the kite flying event.
It is an important bathing date during the famous Magh Mela and Kumbh Mela at Sangam (Prayag) in Allahabad.
Stories Behind Makara Sankaranthi
The Sun has very important place in the Hindu’s philosophy. He is the abundant source of energy for all the living things on this planet. Yama, the god of Death and Sani, Karmic planet who is also the ruler of Makara Rasi (Capricorn), are the sons of Surya. There was an eclipse when Sani was born.
On the day of Makara Sankaranti, Surya visits with Shani. So, people are celebrating this day with great significance which marks the unity among the family members.
On this day, Lord Vishnu invaded the Asuras in the Mountain Parvata. This signifies the end of negativities and the beginning of righteous living.
One of the most important myths is the death of Bhishma Pitamaha in the Mahabharata. Bhishma chose the Uttarayan period. (Bhisma had got a boon from his father that he will only die when he wishes.) It is believed that people who die during Uttarayana merges with the Brahman, thus ending the cycle of rebirth.
Legend also has it that Lord Vishnu buried Asuras on this day beneath the Mandara Mountain. It signifies the end of evil and the dawn of righteousness.
Another legend is that King Bhagiratha brought Ganga down into Patala on Makar Sankranti day. This was to get salvation to his ancestors who were cursed by Sage Kapila and turned into ashes. On this day millions of people take bath in the Ganges. Makar Sankranti is also an important bathing date during Kumbh Mela and Magh Mela.
Rituals of Makara Sankaranti
The day of Makara Sankaranti is very auspicious, as people across the globe celebrate on this day with different festivals in different regions. People also associate harvest and agriculture. They offer their gratitude to the Sun God . On Makara Sankaranti, people used to go to the river beds, and offer their prayers. Prasadams are also made using sesame seeds and sugar or Jaggery. They cook sumptuous food in the clay pot, and offer it as a prasadam. The boiled rice with the choicest of the lentils is garnished with ghee and Jaggery which is not only aromatic, but also highly healthy. The prayers are often done as a community, where the entire people gather and celebrate along with their families, friends and relatives. Sugarcane is an important ingredient in the festival. The freshly harvested cane is also offered as a Prasadam, and are eaten with enormous enthusiasm.
Benefits of Celebrating Makara Sankaranti
It is the mark of the gratitude, and remains us to be thankful for all the benevolence bestowed on us.
It is the mark of happiness, celebrated with the family and friends, which brings enormous unity.
Special prayers are offered to the Gods, which brings enormous prosperity, happiness and abundance in our lives.