Mesha Sankranti is the day when according to the solar calendar, the omnipotent Sun leaving the Meen Rashi enters the Mesha Rashi of the zodiac, thereby starting a the new year.
Therefore it is an important celebration according to the Hindu religion. Since it actually falls around the time of the Vernal equinox, it is also known as the Maha Vishuva Sankranti.
Despite the event occurring around the vernal equinox which is in March 21st, this day is marked and observed in the month of April, sometimes around 13th or 14th of April.
Regions which follow the Mesha sankranti
Not all regions of India observe the Mesh Sankranti and follow suit. There are many regions of India who follow the lunar calendar and celebrate the initiation of their year as per the lunar calendar. Gudi Padwa in Maharastra, Cheti Chand of the Sindhis, Navroj of the Kashmiris etc are all lunar New Year celebrations.
Thus the Mesh Sankranti is celebrated by various regions of India. In fact some parts of India, where Lunar calendar is followed also celebrated the Mesh Sankranti, which because of its juxtaposition in Vaisakha month is also called Vaisakha Sankranti. States like, Odisha, Bihar, Bengal, Kerala, Assam & Tamil nadu begin their traditional New Year from the Mesha Sankranti.
Significance and Rituals followed in Mesha Sankranti
- This is the day when the Sun enters the Mesha rashi from the Meena Rashi
- Worshipping Lord Shiva, Goddess kali , Lord Ganesha and Lord Vishnu are supposed to be auspicious on this day
- A special drink called Pana, is consumed by the people in Odisha for this special occasion
- People go to pray in various temples on this day
- This festival indicates the end of the spring and the onset of summer
- Taking a holy dip at day break is auspicious on this day
The Mesha Sankranti Festivals
This day is considered to be an auspicious day for the Hindus, and many regions celebrated and welcome the traditional New Year on this day. Thus in most places it is considered to be holy taking a bath early in the mornings.
In Bihar people take a holy dip to begin the day and then eat an admixture of Sattu and Jaggery, this ritual is called Satuan. This is also celebrated as Jurshital in the Mithal and Nepal regions. It is customary to have sattu in the lotus leaves on this day.
In Uttarakhand, this day is celebrated with the Bikhoti Festival, which has people taking holy baths and then beating stones with sticks. This is a symbolic depiction of beating away the demons. This festival and the fair is celebrated in a number of places such as Bageshwar, Dwarahat or Sealdah. The local people here make merry by singing and dancing to music.
In Kerala the Mesha sankranti is celebrated as Vishu. It is an auspicious festival of scintillating lights and joyous fireworks. The bursting of firecrackers or the Vishupadakkam is considered to be an integral part of the festivity. This celebration sees people buying new clothes, which are known as Puthukodi. People give money also on this occasion which is called Vishukkaineetam and prepare a special ritual of a food item called the Sadya which is made with equal proportions of sweet, salt, sour and bitter items representing all the four feelings prevalent in life. The food items prepared for a grand feast this day includes items such as Veppampoorasam, the very tasty Mampazhappulissery, the Vishu kanji and lastly the Vishu katta. In Kerala people also observe a ritual of the Vishukkani which is seeing the first thing in the morning of the Vishu. This is made of various fruits and vegetables, rice, betel leaves, arecanuts, a metal mirror, yellow flower, the Gita and some coins.
The Assamese people start celebrating the New Year on the 13th of April. This is known as the Bohag Bihu or the Rongili Bihu. It is generally celebrated 7 days after the vernal equinox in the month of Baisakh which is known as the month of Bohag according to a local Bhaskara calendar. This festival signifies the time for the harvest. This festival has seven phases, which are celebrated with much fanfare. These 7 phases are – Chot, Raati, Goru, Manuh, Kutum, Mela and Chera; all of which are celebrated on different days and signify different things.
In Punjab, this is known as Vaisakhi. This is the day when the grateful farmers thank the almighty for giving them abundant harvest and also prays to the God for future bliss and happiness. This day also acquires a different significance as on this day, in the year 1699, the great Guru Gobind Singh called for all the Sikhs to congregate in the city of Anandpur Sahib for the foundation of the sikh community which is known as Khalsa. Thus this day holds dual implications for the people of Punjab.
In Odisha, the highlight of the Mesha sankranti is drinking a water mixture called Paana which is considered to be symbolic with the rain. This drink is prepared with Mishri which is sweet and water. It is customary also to have gram flour, banana and curd. A tribal dance called Danda Naach is also performed on this auspicious occasion.
- Tamil Nadu
In Tamil Nadu this celebration is known as the Puthandu, which begins their new year with the month of Chitterai. In the Meenakshi Temple the Chitterai Thiruvizha is celebrated. Houses all over are decorated with mango leaves. On the eve of the Puthandu people prepare a plate containing three fruits like the mango, banana and jackfruit, betel leaves and some areca nuts, some coins, some jewellery in silver or gold, flower and a mirror which is to be viewed the first thing in the morning of the Puthandu.
- West Bengal
In West Bengal and Bangladesh the celebration of the New Year in Mesha sankranti is known as Poila Baisakh as it marks the first day of the first month which is Baisakh according to the lunisolar calendar. The festivities are called shubho noboborsho or happy New Year. On this day people offer special pujas and they buy the almanac or the panjikas for the upcoming year. On a note of festivity, people are known to buy new clothes and exchange pleasantries and greetings. Fairs and ceremonies are held on this day. For the traders it is a major day as this signifies the new fiscal year for them. People throng to the temples to offer pujas. It also signifies the new agricultural season.