The Hindu festival of Makar Sankranti, celebrated on 14th or 15th January, marks the end of the winter solstice period, and the beginning of longer days,. As a dedication to Lord Surya, devotees take a holy dip in the river Ganges.
Celebrated across India, it is called as Makar Sankranti in Karnataka & Maharashtra, Bihu in Assam, Uttarayan in Gujarat, Khichdi and Magha Mela in North India, Pedda Panduga in Andhra Pradesh and Pongal in Tamil Nadu. The day before Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Lohri, the harvest festival in Punjab and Haryana.
The word ‘Sankranti’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Sankramana’ means ‘to begin to move’. In Hindu Calendar it signifies the transmigration of the Sun from one zodiac to another. Makar Sankranti marks the transition of the sun from Dakshinayan (Tropic of Capricorn) to Uttarayan (Tropic of Cancer), where the sun begins to move towards the northern hemisphere marking the beginning of summer. This therefore indicates the start of an auspicious phase.
The day marks the end of winter and celebrates the harvest of the Rabi crop. For most parts of India, this period is a part of early stages of the Rabi crop and agricultural cycle, where crops have been sown and the hard work in the fields is mostly over. Therefore Makar Sankranti festival is also referred to as the harvest festival because this is the time when harvesting is complete and there are big celebrations. This is the day we acknowledge all those who assisted in making the harvest. The time thus signifies a period of socializing and family get-together, taking care of the cattle, celebrating around bonfires and flying kites.
Ritual of Kite Flying On Makar Sankranti
Kite flying is an key activity on Makar Sankranti. kites are flown as an act of gratitude to the Gods awakening from their six-month long slumber. Kites being symbolic of high aspirations, the celebrants fly them as an attempt to reach for the stars.
While it is considered an invigorating sport for its aerial competitions it is much more than that. It is believed that the tradition of kite flying has been being carried out so that people are exposed to the sun. Early morning sunbathing helps keep skin infections and winter illnesses at bay.
Tradition Of Tilgud Ladoos
A shared cultural practice is making sweets from sesame and jaggery called ‘Tilgud Ladoos’. Maharashtrians, share these Ladoos with their loved ones, followed by wishing, “Tilgul ghya ani goad goad bola” which translates to ‘eat these sesame seeds and jaggery and speak sweet words’. The distribution of sweets signifies bonding and forgetting ill past and simply spreading sweetness. The sesame seeds not only keep the body warm, but provide oil which is essential to the preservation of the moisture in the skin during winters.
Tradition Of Khichdi
Another important foods preparation during the festival is the simple, light and easy to digest khichdi! or 'Khichdi', The dish is cooked in a single pot, as a symbol of unity. During this particular season, it is not only the perfect dish to satiate the appetite, but it also provides the body with much-needed warmth and nutrition too. As freshly harvested rice and lentils are used in its preparation, it signifies the process of life and regeneration and the celebration of the beginning of the new harvest year.
Makar Sankranti, by acknowledging the rising movement of Sun, helps us celebrate the Movement of Life itself and with it hope for our future.