Makar Sankranti is one of the major harvest festivals celebrated in India. It is understood that on this auspicious day Sun enters the Makar Rashi as per traditional Hindu astrology or the sign of the Capricorn.
It is probably the only Hindu religious date which is fixed and is celebrated on a fixed day every year. It is believed that from this day onwards, Spring arrives after months of winter and cold.
It is believed that Makar sankranti also coincides with the Winter Solstice. In 2017, Makar Sankranti will be celebrated on the 14th of January, Saturday.
Celebrations and Tradition of Makar sankranti in India
Makar sankranti is celebrated in various forms and in different ways all across India in different states.
In Andhra Pradesh and Telengana people celebrate the Makar sankranti for 4 days. The first day is known as the BHoghi, the 2nd day is known as the Makara sankranti, the 3rd day is known as the Kanuma and the 4th day is known as the Mukkanuma. People before the onset of the sankranti clean their houses and dump all unrequited things in heaps. After discarding and making a bonfire out of used and discarded things in the morning, people wear new clothes and make rangoli or the Muggu in various colors. The food that is prepared are – Bellam Apallu, Chakinalu, Nuvvula Appalu, Appalu, dappalam to name a few. On the day of the Makar Sankranti, cows and sheeps are considered to be lucky and as such are worshipped. People in coastal Andhra Pradesh abstain from non- veg food on the first 3 days of the celebration.
In Bihar and Jharkhand this is known as the Makar sankranti or Khichdi. Devotees take early ritual bath in the morning and worship the sun. Special sweets are created like chura, tilgul, tilwa etc as a celebration of good harvest. On the Sankranti day people eat Khichdi, a preparation of rice, lentils cauliflowers etc. People on this auspicious day start off by putting til or sesame seeds into fire and eating dahi-chuda.
In Delhi and Haryana, the farming belt and the Yadavs considers this to be perhaps the most important celebration of the year. Churma of ghee, kheer and halwa are prepared for this auspicious occasion. Brother of every married woman visits them on this day called Sidha.
In Gujarat, maker sankranti is called Uttarayan. On 14th of January Uttarayan is celebrated and the next day Vasi-Uttarayan or stale Uttarayan is celebrated. This happens mostly in Surat. Kite flying is a major celebration in Gujarat on this day. Undhiyu and Chikkis are made especially for this day.
In Karnataka, this is called the Suggi or the harvest festival, when girls wearing new clothes offer pleasantries in a plate and accept the same from other close family members. This ritual is known as the Ellu Birodhu. Ellu literally means white sesame seeds, with fried groundnuts, dry coconuts and bella or jaggery. This concoction is called Ellu Bella. A piece of sugarcane is also placed in this plate. In some parts of Karnataka, a newly married woman has to give away bananas in the multiples of five for five years to married women. There is also the ritual of giving Yalchi kai or red berries too. Cows and bulls are decorated and displayed in the open fields on this auspicious day.
In the state of Maharashtra on the auspicious day of Makar sankranti, people exchange halwa of multiple colors and laddus made of til and gud. The mixture of til and gud signifies letting go of the past bitterness and embracing the future. Women in Maharshtra on this day are also invited for an occasion called the Haldi-Kumkum, meaning the turmeric and vermillion. On this occasion gifts such as utensils or clothes are exchanged. Women wear black sarees or black outfits on this day as black retains heat and this occasion falls on the winter.
Apart from these, Ganga Sagar Snan on this day major devotees for a dip in the Bay of Bengal on Sagar Island, near Kapil Muni’s ashram in West Bengal. It is also known as Poush Parbnon when the freshly harvested paddy and date palm jaggery is used in rustling up great sweetmeats. Pitha is a famous sweet made during this time with ground rice, coconut and jaggery.
There is a tradition of preparing the Makara Chula in the state of Odisha. Gods are given offerings of – newly harvested rice, banana, chhena pudding, Rosogolla etc. The Sun God is worshipped with lot of arts and cultural traditions in Konark. Special rituals are carried out in the Jagannath temple. Makara mela is organized in Dhabaleswar, in Cuttack and in Hatakeshwar at Atri. In places like Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Kalahandi, sundargarh and Koraput where there is a thriving tribal population, the observation is greater.
In Tamil Nadu, this day is observed as Thai Pongal and is a 4 day celebration. The first day is known as the Bhogi, second as the Thai Pongal, 3 rd as the Maattu Pongal and the 4th day is known as the Kaanum Pongal.
Uttar Pradesh witnesses the influx of devotees on this day for the first of the bathing days. Almost over 2 million people converge on Allahabad, Varanasi and Haridwar in Uttarakhand on this day. It is a compulsion and considered to be extremely pious to have an early bath in the morning.
In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh too this day is celebrated with much fanfare. Women observe a ritual of giving an object of household, make-up or food to 13 married women. Special feats called Sankranti Bhoj are also prepared.
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