Makar Sankranti is an auspicious day for Hindus and marks the arrival of spring. The festival usually falls on 14th January every year. It is primarily celebrated as a harvest festival in India, and the regional variation of this celebration makes it infinitely varied and beautiful.
Makar Sankranti- The month of Transition
Makar Sankranti is known as Uttarayan in Gujarat and is celebrated on a massive scale as ‘the kite festival’. Gujaratis keenly wait for this festival to fly a kite, which is called patang in Gujarati. Thousands of people fly brilliantly colourful kites in Pech Ladana, a kite competition.
Bengali households make delicious delicacies such as Puly, Chetai, Pakan, Kushli, Khira, Bhapa, Patisapta and Mutho to celebrate the day. The Ganga Sagar Mela is a world-famous event which is held on the banks of the River Ganga. People from all over India come to Bengal for a sacred dip in the river on this auspicious day.
The main theme of the festival takes glow on the temple of Konark which is dedicated to the Sun God himself. The mantras of Surya Dev are chanted throughout the three days. Households make special rice dishes on this day.
The festival is celebrated as Bhogal Bihu. A traditional rich Assamese folk dance takes place all over the state. A holy dip is taken in the River Brahmaputra to offer prayers directly to the Sun God.
Sankranti is celebrated for 3 to 4 days and every single day carries special significance. Day one is called Bhogi as special attention is showered on children. On Sankranti, the attention shifts to newly married couples. The third day is called Kanuma where the attention turns to people who have served society during that year. The fourth day is called Mukkanuma, when women and children take pairs of dolls and put them in boats to cross the river. This ritual signifies the journey of the Sun across the sky.
In Tamil Nadu, this festival is called Pongal in reference to the sweet rice dish which exemplifies the day. The first day is dedicated to express gratitude and respect to the Sun God, particularly to nourish the rich and bountiful harvest. This sweet dish is cooked using newly harvested rice and offered to the Sun God.
In Maharashtra, people exchange til-guls made of til and jaggery in terms of spreading goodwill among each other. People greet each other saying “Til-gul ghya, god god bola”, which means accept these til-guls and speak good words.
In Punjab, Sankranti is called Lohri. The festival starts with children going door to door, singing songs in praise of Dulha Bhatti, a Punjabi version of Robin Hood who robbed the rich and helped the poor. In the evening, huge bonfires are lit up and newly harvested crops such as rice, sugarcane and grains are offered to the fire.
Sankranti here is first celebrated by having a holy dip in the River Ganga. The renowned Kumbh Mela begins on this day. All sweets and delicacies on this day are made of newly harvested grains.
In Madhya Pradesh, the festival of Sankranti is known as Sukarat or Sakarat. A special pooja is performed by the women of the house as a special prayer to the Sun God.