For years, it has been a tradition in India to celebrate every important or non-important event of the world. The residents of Bharatvarsha are termed as the merriest people who associate every celestial event with a festival. Be it the harvesting of sugarcane in the form of Lohri festival or be it the observance of fast during the transition of seasons as Navratri, every single event has been associated with a scientific reason as well as a way to be happy and jolly.
After going through with the festivals of farmers that is Lohri in the previous night, the people of India prepare themselves for Makar Sankranti. Makar Sankranti falls on January 14 every year. But this date is consistent for some 100 years or so. In the 17th century, Makar Sankranti was around January 9 and in the 27th century, it shall be around January 23. It keeps on shifting, which is contrary to the belief that it stays on the same day.
The celebration of this event can be traced back to millions of years. As per the authority of puranas, there is an injunction which asks the people to take bath in holy rivers and perform pujas on this day to propitiate Lord Suryadev. As per the traditions and customs prevalent in India, people used to visit holy rivers, temples and sun temples and used to offer oblations and worship to the deities.
Lord Suryadev transits in all the 12 zodiac signs throughout the year and this transit is termed as Sankranti. Every transit is important but the transit in Makar Rashi or Capricorn is especially meaningful since it is considered as the most important day to worship him with all paraphernalia associated with him.
The most eventful day which is mentioned in the shastras is the simultaneous occurrence of Uttarayan that is the day when sun goes to the northern hemisphere and Makar Sankranti in Dwapara Yuga and this very day Bhishmadeva left his body for the spiritual abode.
Customs and traditions
The festival of Makar Sankranti has been celebrated in India over ages. Since ages, the festival has been associated with various customs and traditions which people follow and pass over the same to the upcoming generations.
People know this festival by various names all over India. The list is as follows:
*Makara Sankranthi : Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala
*Shishur Saenkraat: Kashmir Valley
*Khichdi: Western Bihar
*Makar Sankranti: Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Rajasthan
*Poush Sangkranti: West Bengal
*Tila Sakrait: Mithila
*Maghi: Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab.
*Magh Bihu : Assam
Since water changes every ten miles and food every fifteen, the traditions associated with Makar Sankranti are numerous. Every state has a different name and hence, a different way of celebration. In some places, it is celebrated by flying kites in the sky and somewhere, it is celebrated by huge veneration programs and big feasts.
In North India, people generally make khichdi and other items of jaggery and sesame seeds. People visit their relatives and send them “Sakraat”, a collection of dal, rice, grains, sweets, jaggery, sesame seeds and other items. People in Gujarat and Rajasthan celebrate this festival by flying kites and exchanging gifts and celebrate it as a festival.
In Central India like Maharashtra, people make sweets of sesame seeds and jaggery. They make laddoos out of it and give it to everyone and say, “tilgul ghya, ani goad-goad bola”. This means that eat this sesame sweet and speak out as
sweet as the laddoo.
In South India, people celebrate it as Pongal. They have a 4 days festival which is organized in a grand way. Each day is dedicated to some auspicious work, generally cleaning the house on the first day, making offerings and bhoga to Lord Suryadev on the second day, worshipping the cattle on the third day and visiting the relatives on the fourth day.
In areas like Uttar Pradesh where there is confluence of a holy river, people go to take a holy dip in the Ganges and after taking bath, they offer prayers and bhoga to Suryadev and other demigods. They usually fast on this day and spend time in listening to Hari Katha and feeding the Brahmins.
Science behind Makar Sankranti Puja
As per the Ayurvedic shastras, the Makar Sankranti falls in the Shishir Ritu, the season of biting cold. Since the influence of harshness has already been established in the atmosphere after the winter solstice, the general populace
needs more protection. Therefore, they are given items of sesame seeds, jaggery, sweets, rice, dal and other heavy items which they can prepare and eat nicely. And as people observe a fast on this day to render it all auspicious, they exchange items for making khichdi, which should be consumed to open the fast next day.
Saumyaa Vardhan is the Founder of Shubhpuja.com – India’s top-most platform for authentic Vedic puja services and research worldwide. Awarded by Department of Science & Technology.