Surya is the ruler of the planetary realm and when the ruler passes through the sign of Justice – owned by his son Saturn. This celestial event is celebrated all across India as Makar Sankranti. Makar Sankranti is a festival according to the Vedic calendar dedicated to Surya or the Sun. The auspicious things to do at the time of Makar Sankranti are Til ka Daan, Snaan and partaking of Prasad. There is also a tradition which married ladies follow by giving gifts to fourteen girls. The festival of Makar Sankranti is observed every year in the lunar month of Margashirsh. This is also known as the harvest festival for the people in India. Makar Sankranti basically marks the first day of the Sun’s transit into the Makar Rashi (Capricorn) making it the end of the month, and thus it signifies the start of long days and the end of winter season. The festival being one of the most ancient festivals of India is celebrated in various ways in different parts of India as Lohri, Pongal, Maghi, Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. This festival is also called Uttarayan as the Sun begins its northwest journey from this day. Saints and sages to attain higher level of consciousness perform Yajnas. To eliminate sins and sufferings people take dip in the holy rivers, and head towards new dawn and enlightenment.
Legends related to Makar Sankranti.
According to the Puranas the Surya Dev visits the house of his son Shani, who is known as the lord of Makar Rashi. This day symbolizes the healthy relationship between father and the son. It is believed that the son has the responsibility to carry forward his father’s dream and the continuation of the family line. Another legend says on this day Lord Vishnu ended the ever increasing terror of the Asuras by finishing them all and burying their heads under the mountain named Mandara. Therefore it is also said that this occasion represents the end of all negativities and the beginning of an era of righteousness and Dharmic existence.
Celebrations of Makar Sankranti across India.
Admist the fun and the varying rituals, this festival signifies auspiciousness in different parts of India.
Maharashtra: In Maharashtra people celebrate Makar Sankranti by exchanging sweet made of sesame seeds and jaggery (Til-Gul). The signifying reason for exchanging Til- Gul is to forget the past ill feelings and hostilities to resolve and speak sweetly and remain friends. Kite flying tradition is also enjoyed by the people here.
Gujarat: Makar Sankranti is known as Uttarayan in Gujarat. It is believed that there is no better place to celebrate this festival than the state of Gujarat. This festival in Gujarat is celebrated for two days, the first day is called Uttarayan and the next day is called Vasi-Uttarayan. Another big part involved in this festival is food, dishes like Undhiyu, Chikkis, Jalebi and much more are prepared. It is said that the scientific reason behind flying kites was to get exposure to the Sun after the long winter season, which is helpful in eradicating the infections.
Assam: Here the festival of Makar Sankranti is named as Magh Bihu. It marks the harvesting season, with fresh produce coming to the homes of farmers and the stores. Celebrations are made to appreciate the good harvest that is reaped. On the day of the Magh Bihu festival itself, bonfires called ‘Mejis’ are lit, made from the wood, bamboo and hay. On the night, before the festival community feasts and entertainment events are held in some parts of Assam, while people in some other parts prefer to give their thanks through prayer and fasts.
Haryana and Delhi: Here Sankranti is celebrated very much similar to the Hindu rituals of western UP and border areas of Rajasthan and Punjab. The ritual includes taking dip in the holy rivers or at sacred ponds to wash away past sins. People here prepare kheer, churma, halva with desi ghee and distribute til-gud laddoos or chikkis.
Tamil Nadu: In Tamil Nadu Pongal is celebrated and it lasts for four days. The first day is celebrated as Bhogi where people throw away or destroy the old clothes and other materials, by setting them on fire as marking the end of the old and embracing the new.
The second day is known as Pongal or Thai Pongal. It marks as the auspicious day as it falls on the first day of the Tamil month. On this day people prepare various savouries and sweets and visit each other and exchange greetings
Third day is celebrated as Maattu Pongal and it is the day to offer thanks to cattle, as they help farmers in agriculture. And on this day they are decorated with flowers and bells. In some parts Jallikattu, or taming the bull contest is held and this is mostly seen in the villages.
The fourth day is celebrated as the Kaanum Pongal; on this day people visit their friends, relatives to enjoy the festival.
Uttar Pradesh: The festival celebrated here is called Khichdi. Places of holy bathing such as Allahabad and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Haridwar in Uttarakhand are filled with people on this day. Kite flying is an inevitable part of the festival which is happily enjoyed.
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