Makar Sankranti in 2016
Friday, 15 January
Makar Sankranti is one of the major harvest festivals of India and is the first big festival celebrated in a year. It is celebrated all over India though with different names. It is called Uttarayan in Rajasthan and Gujarat; Maghi in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh; Pongal in Tamil Nadu; Bhagali Bihu in Assam; Shishur Saenkraat in Kashmir; Makara Vilakku in Kerala; Khichdi in Uttar Pradesh; Paush Parbon in West Bengal; and Makar Sankranti in rest of the states in India.
What is Makar Sankranti Festival?
The term ‘Sankranti’ in Hindu astrology refers to the movement of sun from one Rashi (zodiac sign) to another Rashi. Makar (Capricorn) is one of the 12 Rashis. When the sun migrates from Dhanu Rashi (Sagittarius) to Makar Rashi (Capricorn), it moves from Dakshinayan (South) towards Uttarayan (North). Thus the names Makar Sankranti and Uttarayan both represents the celestial significance of this festival.
Traditionally, Makar Sankranti is one of the harvest festivals of India which is celebrated with great zeal through culture and area specific rituals all over the country. Apart from being a harvest festival, Makar Sankranti is also considered as the beginning of an auspicious phase. It ends the inauspicious phase which begins around mid-December when no sacred ritual can be performed in a family. With Makar Sankranti, all the holy rituals can be resumed.
What is the Date of Makar Sankranti?
While most of the festivals in India are celebrated based on lunar calendar, Makar Sankranti is based on a solar event. Therefore, the date of Makar Sankranti remains the same every year. It is celebrated on 14th January each year, a day after Lohri festival of Punjab.
How is Makar Sankranti Celebrated?
Although there are different rituals and traditions that are followed by people of all the states on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, some of the rituals are similar to each other. People take holy dip in sacred rivers, especially Ganga and pray to their mighty Sun God.
One important similarity can be seen in the food items prepared on the day of Makar Sankrati. Almost all the special sweets of Makar Sankranti use til (sesame) and gur (jaggery) be it til ke laddoo of North India; Tilgul of Maharashtra; Yellu-Bella of Karnataka; Tilkut, Tilwa of Bihar; til chikkis of Gujarat; makar chaula of Orissa; revri of Punjab; til-patti of Rajasthan; gajak of Uttar Pradesh; or tiler nadu of Bengal. One more similarity in food is the ‘Khichdi,’ the delicious preparation made of rice and pulses. While almost all the people eat khichdi on Makar Sankranti day, the festival itself has come to be known as Khichdi in Uttar Pradesh- such is the importance of this dish on Makar Sankranti!
People also engage themselves in charitable activities on this day by donating clothes, blankets, money and especially rice, pulses and til (sesame) to Brahmins as well as poor people.
Makar Sankranti Fairs
Fairs, popularly called ‘Mela,’ are the very indigenous aspects of not only Makar Sankranti but of all the Indian festivals. Some of the very big fairs are organized on Makar Sankranti day like the Kumbh Mela which is held every 12 years at one of four holy locations – Haridwar, Prayag (Allahabad), Ujjain and Nashik. Magh Mela of Prayag and Gangasagar Mela which is held where Ganga river flows into the Bay of Bengal, are also two of the major fairs held each year on Makar Sankranti. Millions of people come here to have holy dip and pay homage to their ancestors in form of ‘tarpan.’
Kite Flying and International Kite Festival
Kite flying is one of the major activities observed on the day of Makar Sankranti. The skies over Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and adjoining areas can be seen patched up with colourful kites of different sizes on this day. The whole atmosphere reverberates with joyous sounds like ‘woh kata’ ‘woh mara’- an expression of victory when someone wins a kite competition with even an unknown kite flyer. The international kite festival of Gujarat attracts master kite makers and flyers from all over the world to the city of Ahmedabad on this day.
Ahmedabad has been hosting the International Kite Festival since 1989 as a part of the official celebration of Uttarayan. Not only kite makers and flyers, even people who are kite enthusiasts come to visit this spectacular event where one can witness finest of kites from countries like USA, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Italy, China and of course India. The amazing kite flying skills master kite flyers and from traditional hand made artistic kites to modern high-tech kites have made this International Kite Festival a major attraction of Gujarat tourism.