Makar Sankranti is a major harvest festival celebrated in various parts of India.Makar Sankranti, apart from a harvest festival is also regarded as the beginning of an auspicious phase in Indian culture. It is said as the 'holy phase of transition'. It marks the end of an inauspicious phase which according to the Hindu calendar begins around mid-December. It is believed that any auspicious and sacred ritual can be sanctified in any Hindu family, this day onwards. Scientifically, this day marks the beginning of warmer and longer days compared to the nights. In other words, Sankranti marks the termination of winter season and beginning of a new harvest or spring season.
All over the country, Makar Sankranti is observed with great fanfare. Makar Sankranti is also known as Gupi, Lohri, Pongal, Thaipusam and by other names. In Tamil Nadu, New Year begins from the date of 'Sankrat'. Different cultural people enuciate various names of 'Sankranthi'.It is 'Thai Pongal' for South Indian, 'Uttarayan' for Gujartis , 'Makar Sankranti' or 'Til Sankrant' for Norther Indians and 'Tirmauri' for Sindhis.
The day begins with the bathing rituals and worshiping Lord Surya, as the Lord Surya offers knowledge, spiritual light and wisdom, and worshiping this Lord we can come out from the dark periods of our life.
During the festival, there is usually an exchange of gifts with relatives. The festival reminds us to thank all who have contributed to our well being and of the world around us. An exuberant celebration of peace and harmony! Prayers of thanks and gratitude are offered to the Sun for a good harvest.
On this day, many pray to the deity of education (Saraswati) for clarity of mind. The festival highlights the importance of withdrawing from unethical and disturbing behavior. Students are encouraged to study science, maths, astrology and astronomy emphasizing the astronomical basis of the festival.
Kites are flown in many parts of the subcontinent. Kite flying while lot of fun to young at heart, conveys a deeper message that God is the Sutradhara -- holding the string of man. Tensions of push and pull (of life) allow the kite to fly higher. If He lets it loose, the kite cannot fly.
No festival is complete without sweets. Sankranti sweets are made of sesame seed and sugar. They represent affection and sweetness.
Different Names of Sankrant in different culture
Different states in India celebrate this day with innumerable ways depending on their various cultures.In North India, this festival is also know as 'Til Sankrant', as people enjoy eating delicious dishes like til papdi, revdi, til laddoo and other food items which are prepared from sesame. Traditional taste of Khichdi,Dahi and chivda makes this day yummy. Many believers appreciate charity a way of getting the utmost happiness, so they distribute food items like rise, cereals, clothes and important assets to poor or needy people.
If you are fond of seeing colourful skies with full of kites and echo of crowd then don't miss to see the festival of Uttarayan. Makar Sankrant is traditionally known as 'Uttarayan' in Gujarat. People of all ages willingly fly endless number of colourful kites in this day. This day is also famous in the world with the name 'Kite Festival of Gujarat'. In Uttrayan, Sun begins to move northwards which indicates the decline of winter and arrival of spring season.
In Maharashtra, Marathi people recognize this occasion as the day of continuing good relationship with each other. They distribute 'tilgul' and til laddo among relatives and neighbors saying 'tilgul ghya, god god bola', means 'Partake this tilgul and speak sugary '.
South People celebrate this occasion as a 'festival of harvest' with a popular name 'Pongal' means 'boiling over'. They believe that the boiling over of milk in the clay pot denotes a great quantity of wealth at home. In fact, they cook number of luscious dishes using a vast amount of milk. In Tamil Nadu and Karnatka, South people cut harvest and offer crops to God for coming the blissful days in family.
Makar Sankranthi is 'Bhogali Bihu', a harvest festival, for people of north-east India, which is delightfully celebrated with the enjoyment of eating, and dancing in the state of Assam. Animal fights like Bird-fight, buffalo- fight are the major sights on this occasion. Gathering in a group, they melodiously play dhol, taal, papa, flute and other harmonious music instruments which really mesmerize listeners
Stories about Makar Sakranti
Apparently, Different people have different religious notions. Some Hindus opine that this special day introduced when the Lord Shiva bestowed his benisons towards his disciples and devotees on this day. Some mythologists have faith that the Sun moves to meet his son Saturn on this day. This meeting of Sun and Saturn is celebrated as 'Makar Sankranti'.
Another belief, Bhisma Pitamah in Mahabharat decided to leave his body on this day and so from that day, Sankrant is celebrated. Healthwise, this day is also very auspicious, especially to overcome skin ailments. Direct Rays of Sun on this day is very beneficial to remove deceases related to skin.