India is a country of diverse cultures and each region has its own share of festivals. More often than not, many of these festivals are celebrated with a similar fanfare but in different ways. Makar Sankranti, a Hindu festival that is dedicated to express gratitude to the Sun God (Surya) is one such festival. Observed in the second week of January every year, people thank the nature for its abundant resources and good produce during the winter harvest festival.
The festival, celebrated in different parts of the country in diverse ways, denotes the entry of the sun into the zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn) as it travels on its celestial path. This year the festival will be celebrated on January 14. According to Drikpanchang – activities like taking a bath, offering food to lord Surya, or performing the rites and rituals – must be done during Punya Kaal. This year, it starts from 2pm and will go on till 5:41pm. Mahapunya Kaal – the highly auspicious time – will start from 2pm and will continue till 2:24pm.
The spirit of the festival is replete with decorating homes, flying kites and having sumptuous feasts. Several festivities are observed during Makar Sankranti and are known by different names in different parts of the country. Here’s a look at the different traditions of the festival and the way it is celebrated in different parts of India.
Taking a holy dip in sacred rivers
It is common for people to take a holy dip in rivers, especially Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari and Krishna. It is generally believed that such a practice would absolve them of their past sins.
Flying colourful kites
Flying kites is one of the most popular Makar Sakranti traditions, followed especially in places like Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Colourful kites, made of different shapes and sizes adorn the sky on that day.
Expressing gratitude to the Sun God
Considered one of the most ancient Hindu festivals, Makar Sankranti is dedicated to the Hindu god Surya and is observed to convey gratitude to nature for its resources.
Dancing around a bonfire at night
The festivities associated with Makar Sankranti is known by different names in different parts of the country. Lohri commemorates fertility and the joys of life – and harvested fields and farmyards are lit up during the festival. Lights and bonfires form an integral part of the celebration. The bigger the bonfire, the better is the Lohri celebration.
Making sweets treats and delicious desserts
During Makar Sankranti, there is a tradition especially in places like Maharashtra, to make sweets from jaggery and sesame. It is believed that during this period, the first sugarcane crop for the year is harvested. Til gur (sesame-jaggery sweet) is prepared and exchanged on this day among friends and relatives.