|January 14, 2017|
Makar Sankranti marks the beginning of the Sun’s journey to the Northern Hemisphere (Makara raasi ), signifying the onset of Uttarayana Punyakalam. A day of celebration all over the country, it day begins with people taking holy dips in the water and worshipping the Sun. Customarily, this period is considered as an auspicious time – Bhishma of Mahabharata chose to die during this period. Bhishma fell to the arrows of Arjun, with the boon to choose the time of his death; he waited on a bed of arrows to depart from this world during this period. It is believed that those who die in this period have no rebirth.
People from the Indo-Gangetic plain begin this day with taking dips in river Ganga and by offering water to the Sun god. It is believed that a dip purifies the inner soul and bestows punya. Special puja is offered as a thanksgiving for good harvest. According to the folklore, girls who take the holy dip get handsome husbands and boys get beautiful brides.
Til(sesame) and rice are two important ingredients of this festival. In the rice-eating belt of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, people have a special rice-centric meal on this day.
Furthermore, this is also known as Gangasagar Mela. On this day, people come from all over India for a ritual of purification in the river Hooghly, near Calcutta.
In Maharashtra, when two persons greet each other on this festive day, they exchange a few grains of multi-coloured sugar and fried til mixed with molasses and say “til gud ghya, god god bola” (hereafter, let there be friendship between us).
In Gujarat, the pandits consider Sankranti as a favorable day to grant scholarships and certificates of merit to students who have successfully completed their studies in philosophy. In a Hindu household, new utensils are bought and used for the first time. Brightly coloured kites dot the skies on this day.
In Karnataka, men, women and children dressed in colourful clothes visit friends and relatives. They exchange pieces of sugarcane, a mixture of fried til, molasses, pieces of dry coconut, peanuts and fried gram. The significance of this exchange is that sweetness ought to exist in all relations. As a part of the festival, cows and bulls are given a wash the horns are painted with bright colours and decorated with garland. They are taken in a procession in the village with pipes and drums. In the night a bonfire is lit and animals are made to jump over the fire.
It is a full-size occasion for the Tamils and the people of Andhra Pradesh. The Telugus name it ‘Pedda Panduga’ meaning big festival. The whole event lasts for four days, the first day Bhogi, the second day Sankranti, the third day Kanuma and the fourth day, Mukkanuma.
The month preceding Sankranti is called Dhanurmasam and is an auspicious phase. People wake up early, have a bath and go about the streets, singing devotional songs. Farmers clean their warehouses, whitewash their houses and colouful Rangoli(muggulu) is drawn in the front yards of every house. These artistic floral designs are drawn on the floor with rice flour or fine powder from limestone. These patterns are decorated with marigold placed on cow dung balls. Girls, dressed in colourful clothes, go around them, singing songs.