One of the very rare occasions, when the Hindu festival falls on the same date in local calendars every year, is Makar Sankranti. It literally means the transition of the sun into the zodiacal sign of Makara (Capricorn) on its celestial path, Widely known as the Harvest festival, it is celebrated widely in India, Nepal, and parts of Bangladesh.
Astrological Significance of Makar Sankranti
It marks the day where there is a significant movement in the zodiac – the arrangement of the earth’s dial around the sun. This movement brings about a new change in the way we experience the planet itself as from this day onwards, the northern movement is strong. From Makar Sankranti onwards, winter is being relieved step by step.
This time is most important for yogis to make a new, fresh effort in their spiritual process. Accordingly, people who have a family also make a fresh attempt in whatever they do in their lives.
Religious Significance of Makar Sankranti
This day also signifies the northward journey of the Sun which is called ‘Uttarayan’. According to Mahabharata on this day Bhishma Pitamaha chose to leave his body. As per the boon granted to Devavrata (young Bheeshma), he could choose his time of death and he chose this day when the sun starts on its course towards the northern hemisphere.
According to Hindu tradition, the six months of Uttarayana are a single day of the Gods; the six months of Dakshinayana are a single night of the Gods. Thus a year of twelve months is a single day of the Gods.
People attend holy fairs like the ‘Kumbh Mela‘ in Prayag and the ‘Gangasagar Mela‘ at the junction of River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal and take a dip in the holy waters to wash off their sins.
The harvest festival
It is referred to as the harvest festival because this is the time when harvesting is complete and there are big celebrations including animals who aid. so the following day is for them and is called Mattu Pongal. The first day is for the earth, the second is for us and the third is for the animals and livestock.
Many cities in Gujarat and other cities in India organize kite competition between their citizens. The symbolism of this festival is to show the awakening of the Gods from their deep sleep.
Festivities in Nepal
The festival marks an end to the month of Poush when all religious ceremonies are forbidden. Sankhamul on the Bagmati river near Patan; in the Gandaki/Narayani river basin at Triveni near the Indian border; Devghat near Chitwan Valley and Ridi on the Kaligandaki; and in the Koshi River basin at Dolalghat on the Sun Koshi become areas where people take a dip to wash away their sins.
Festive foods like sesame laddoo, ghee, yam, Chaku, and sweet potatoes are distributed to relatives and friends. The mother of each household wishes good health to all family members.
Celebration In India
Goa and Maharastra celebrate the festival for three days, Bhogi’, ‘Sankrant’ and ‘Kinkrant’ in honor of ‘Goddess Sankranti’ who killed ‘Sankrasur Rakhsasa’ or Demon on this day. Married women celebrate ‘Haldi-Kumkum’ while the men and boys fly kites.
In Odisha, it is believed that ‘Lord Surya’ got over his anger with his son ‘Shani’, the master of ‘Makar Rashi’, and paid him a visit on this day. They celebrate by offering fresh fruits to ‘Lord Surya.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana celebrate the festival for 4 days. Bonfires are lit on the first day, food is shared with the livestock for the next day while farmers pay their homage to nature’s elements and offer gifts to gods and goddesses on the third.
In Delhi and Haryana, men visit their sisters’ homes with gifts. The women sing folk songs giving away gifts known as ‘Manana’ to their in-laws.
It is known as SUGGI in Karnataka where girls and women wear new clothes and exchange food like sesame seeds, dried coconut, groundnuts and jaggery with other families.
Source: Wikipedia, festivals.iloveindia.com