Makar Sankranti, the harvest festival celebrated by Indians across the world, falls on January 14, this year. Also known as Makara Sankranti, the festival denotes the entry of the sun into the zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn) as it travels on its celestial path. This change is the first and marks the end of the winters. It falls on the first day of the month of Magha, according to the Hindu calendar. As much as it is a seasonal observance celebrating the onset of spring, it is a harvest as well as a religious celebration.
Dedicated to the sun god, the festival marks Uttarayana or the auspicious period of six months. The importance of Uttarayana is emphasised in Mahabharata too, in which Bheeshma Pitamah was believed to have waited for the sun to be in Uttarayana so he could die willingly. The festival is known as Thai Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Maghi in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, Uttarayan in Gujarat and Bhogali Bihu in Assam. Another legend around the festival is that Yashoda, Krishna’s mother kept a fast for an year, to have him as her son. Another story goes that it was on the day of Makar Sankranti that Ganda followed Bhagirath Muni and merged with the ocean. Which is why, people take holy dips, believing it will cleanse them of their sins.
People celebrate by flying kites on the day. They take a dip in the holy waters of Ganga and Yamuna. Kumbha Mela during Makara Sankranti is one of the most popular festivals where people come together to celebrate the festival.
Kumbh Mela is held more or less, after every 12 years in Haridwar, Ujjain, Mashik and Prayag (Allahabad). In Prayag, it is called the Magha Mela or mini-Kumbh Mela, Tusu Mela in parts of Jharkhand and West Bengal and Makara Mela in Odisha. An interesting fact about the festival is that it marks the end of long nights and on this day, the duration of the day and night is believed to be equal.
The festival is considered to be the day when auspicious rituals and ceremonies can be solemnised. It is believed that just like Bhishma Pitamah, people who die on this day will attain moksha or enlightenment. People worship the Sun god for the bountiful harvest and ask for prosperity and happiness.
People start preparing for the puja in the morning itself. They clean their houses and take holy dips or early oil bath before they worship the sun. Traditionally, brahmins were invited to the households for a meal on this day, and were given token of gratitude in kind and/or money.
The auspicious time for Makar Sankranti puja is as follows:
Punya Kaal Muhurta = 07:50 to 17:41
Duration = 9 Hours 51 Mins
Sankranti Moment = 07:50
Mahapunya Kaal Muhurta = 07:50 to 08:14
Duration = 0 Hours 23 Mins