Each year Makar Sankranti or Maghi, a festival day is celebrated in January to mark the winter solstice. It is a festival of the Hindu community, largely celebrated in India and Nepal according to their cultures. Although, a common practice on the day of Makar Sankranti is flying colorful kites in the sky. It also refers to other names such as Maghe Sankranti in Nepal. In Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh it is known as Maghi. Sakara in Central India and Thai Pongal in Tamil Nadu.
The event of Makar Sankranti is of spiritual importance. On this day, spiritual practices take place all around the world according to different cultures. It is a dedication to the religious Sun God Surya. The Hindu community regards this festival with great religious importance. In some parts of India, it is also believed that a demon was killed on this day. People celebrate this festival with different cultural rituals and practices. They start their day by wishing each other happy Makar Sankranti.
Celebration Day and Date
The occasion is set according to the solar cycle of the Hindu lunisolar calendar. It usually falls on the 14 or 15 January of the Gregorian calendar. Whereas according to the Hindu calendar, it is the solar month of Makara and the lunar month of Magha. The festival marks the end of the month with the winter solstice which signifies the start of longer days.
Furthermore, it is believed that the Sun comes to the same position 20 minutes later after every year. According to which the Sun needs one day extra after every 72 years in the sky. However, the Gregorian calendar does not calculate such differences so it sometimes shifts from 14 to 15 January. People believe that it is the longest night of the year.
How Do People Celebrate Makar Sankranti?
Makar Sankranti is an important festival for the Hindu devotees which is hard to miss. People all around the country celebrate and wish each other happy Makar Sankranti. It celebrates the Sun’s shift to Capricorn, known as makar in Sanskrit. This festival welcomes longer and warmer days while short, wintery days end. When the sun moves towards the North, the country rejoices at the long spell of sunlight and warmer days. It is also important for crop harvesting. Moreover, people celebrate the occasion with folk tales, songs, delicious food, and dance rituals as well.
Makar Sankranti 2019 was celebrated on January 14, while some parts of the country celebrated it on January 15. The duration was 5 hours and 19 mins while the exact Sankranti moment was at 8:05 pm on 14th January.
In Allahabad, thousands of people gather near the Ganga for Magh Mela. Priests and devotees sit and meditate. They also offer prayers to the Sun or Surya. This period is significant for the agricultural community, as this is the time when they start harvesting their rabi crops. In other regions, people wake up early, take a bath, and participate in kite-flying competitions. They also enjoy signature delicacies and offer Sankranti wishes to their friends and family.
Cultural Rituals and Practices
On the occasion of Makar Sankranti, many cultural and religious practices take place. In many cultures, Priests and other people take a holy dip in the rivers such as Ganga, Yamuna, Krishna, Kaveri, and Godavari. They believe that the holy dip or bathing in the water will be an absolution of past sins. Further, they also pray to the Sun God Surya and thank them for their health, prosperity, and success.
In many parts of India, this is the start of the agricultural cycle and the early stages of Rabi crops as well. In this period, farmers sow the crops and the hard work in the crops is mostly over. During this period, families socialize and enjoy each other’s company. They care for the cattle and also celebrate around bonfires. Other than that, both children and adults fly colorful kites.
Additionally, in some other cultures such as Hindus of Nepal and some areas of India, includes the practice of making til Ladoos. The til Ladoo is made up of nutritious sesame and jaggery, which is a classic Makar Sankranti preparation. Such sweets are a symbol of being together and sharing their peace and joy despite individual differences. In Maharashtra, despite wishing happy Makar Sankranti people greet each other by saying, ‘til-Gul ghana, Aani goad-goad Bola’. This means eat til and jaggery and speak well.
Maharashtrian culture also includes the preparation of delicious Puran Poli during Makar Sankranti. People around Delhi and Haryana prepare popcorns, Gajak, Revdi, and peanuts. In parts of Bengal and Orissa, people prepare kheer, Roshogolla, and other chenna-based sweetmeats on a large scale.
Moreover, in Bihar people make relish Khichdi on this important occasion. People of Uttarakhand, follow a ritual known as Kale Kava. They make dishes out of sweetened flour, deep fry it in ghee, and mold them into different shapes like drums and swords. Further, they feed the sweetmeats to black crows.
Melas and Fairs
Many Melas and fairs also take place during Makar Sankranti. The Kumbh Mela is very famous which takes place every 12 years at one of the four religious locations including Haridwar, Ujjain, Nashik, and Prayaraj. Other than that, people of West Bengal and Jharkhand celebrate Tusu Mela. Every year in January, Sikhs celebrate Mela Maghi in Punjab. It is in memory of 40 Sikh martyrs who gave their lives protecting Guru Gobind Singh, who is the tenth Guru of Sikhism.
The occasion of Makar Sankranti possesses great value in the lives of Hindus. Each year they celebrate it with cultural and religious rituals. They observe social festivities, for instance, colorful decorations, singing, cultural dance, children going house to house, and asking for treats or pocket money. Other activities such as Melas, bonfire, kite flying, and feasts also take place.
In conclusion, Hindus celebrate Sankranti to thank the Sun for their unlimited blessings. It is also one of the world’s largest mass pilgrimages, with more than 100 million people attending the event.