|Official name||Makar Sankranti|
|Observed by||Hindus, Indians|
|Significance||Festival of Harvest, Celebration of Winter Solstice|
Sankranthi, or Sankranti (Sanskrit, मकर संक्रान्ति), Makar Sankaranti marks the transition of the Sun into Capricorn on its celestial path. This is significant considering the Winter Solstice marks the beginning of the gradual increase of the duration of the day. Traditionally, this has been one of many harvest days in India.
The day on which the sun begins its journey northwards is referred to as Makar Sankranti. Sankramana means "to commence movement". Hence, the name Makar Sankranti is given to one of the largest, most auspicious, but varied festivals in the Indian subcontinent. It usually falls in the middle of January. Due to the geography and size of India, this festival is celebrated for innumerable reasons depending on the climate, agricultural environment, cultural background and location.
Origin of name & Significance
Sankranthi means transmigration of Sun from one Rāshi (zodiac in Indian astrology) to the other. Hence there are 12 such Sankrantis in all. However, the Shankaranti festival usually refers to Makara Sankaranti, or the transition of the Sun from Dhanu rashi (Sagittarius) to Makara rashi (Capricorn). For this purpose, the Zodiac signs are considered sidereally, and not tropically, as in western astronomy, thus accounting for the Earth's precession. The festival therefore takes place around 21 days after the tropical winter solstice (between December 20 and 23rd) that marks the starting of Uttarayana, which means northward journey of Sun.
While the traditional Indian Calendar is based on lunar positions, Sankranti is a solar event. So while dates of all Hindu festivals keep changing as per the gregorian calendar, the date of Makar Sankranti remains constant, 14 January. Makar Sankranti is celebrated in the Hindu Calendar month of Magha.
There is another significance of this day - after this day the days start becoming longer and warmer and thus the chill of winter declines.
Sankranti is celebrated all over South Asia with some regional variations:
In India, it is known by different names and celebrated with different customs in different parts of the country:
- Makara Sankranti or Sankranti - Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, orissa, Manipur, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa
- Uttarayan- Gujarat and Rajasthan
- Lohri - Himachal Pradesh, Punjab
- Pongal - Tamilnadu
- Makara Vilakku Festival - Sabarimala Temple
In other countries too the day is celebrated under different names and in different ways:
- In Nepal,
- In Thailand - สงกรานต์ Songkran
- In Laos - Pi Ma Lao
- In Myanmar - Thingyan
1. The Puranas say that on this day Sun visits the house of his son Shani, who is the swami of Makar Rashi. These father & son do not ordinarily get along nicely, but in spite of any difference between each other Lord Sun makes it a point to meet each other on this day. Father in fact himself comes to his son’s house, for a month. This day symbolized the importance of special relationship of father & son. It is the son who has the responsibility to carry forward his fathers dream and the continuity of the family.
2. From Uttarayana starts the ‘day’ of Devatas, while dakshinayana is said to be the ‘night’ of devatas, so most of the auspicious things are done during this time. Uttarayana is also called as Devayana, and the next half is called Pitrayana.
3. It was on this day when Lord Vishnu ended the ever increasing terrorism of the Asuras by finishing them off and burying their heads under the Mandar Parvat. So this occasion also represents the end of negativities and beginning of an era of righteous living.
4. The great savior of his ancestors, Maharaj Bhagirath, did great Tapasya to bring Gangaji down on the earth for the redemption of 60,000 sons of Maharaj Sagar, who were burnt to ashes at the Kapil Muni Ashram, near the present day Ganga Sagar. It was on this day that Bhagirath finally did tarpan with the Ganges water for his unfortunate ancestors and thereby liberated them from the curse. After visiting the Patala for the redemption of the curse of Bhagirath’s ancestors Gangaji finally merged in the Sagar. Even today a very big Ganga Sagar Mela is organized every year on this day at the confluence of River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal. Lakhs take dip in the water and do tarpan for their ancestors.
We salute such a great devotee & benefactor of his ancestors. One who can express such gratitude to his ancestors, work with tireless resolve to redeem the pride, pledges & resolves of his forefathers, alone possess a personality, which the history reveals to be a true benefactor of the world too. A person who has severed his own roots gets soon rooted out in the flow of time. Moral of the story is to see to it that the roots of the tree of ‘our’ life are not only intact but nourished well, thereafter alone the tree blooms & flourishes.
There is another spiritually symbolic aspect of this story. The 60,000 cursed son of Maharaj Sagar represent our thoughts, who become dull & dead-like because of uncultured & blind ambition. Redemption of such people is only by the waters of Gangaji, brought down ‘to’ & later ‘from’ the Himalayas with great tapasya. This represents dedicated hard work to get the redeeming Brahma-Vidya, which alone enlightens, enthuses & enlivens the life of anyone.
5. Another well-known reference of this day came when the great grandsire of Mahabharata fame, Bhishma, declared his intent to leave his mortal coil on this day. He had the boon of Ichha-Mrityu from his father, so he kept lying on the bed of arrows till this day and then left his mortal coil on Makar Sankranti day. It is believed that the person, who dies during the period of Uttarayana, becomes free from transmigration. So this day was seen as a sure-shot Good Luck day to start your journey or endeavors to the higher realms beyond.
Traditions and Rituals
Makara Sankranti is also to honour, worship and to pay respect to the word mother, Saraswati Maa (Goddess of Knowledge). At the start of this significant event, there is also worship for the departed ancestors. The period is also considered an ideal time for aspirants to satisfy "the goals of life".
The day preceding Makara Sankranti is called Bhogi and this is when people discard old and derelict things and concentrate on new things causing change or transformation. Sweets in generous quantities are prepared and distributed. It is a time for families to congregate. Brothers pay special tribute to their married sisters by giving gifts as affirmation of their filial love. Landlords give gifts of food, clothes and money to their workforce.
On the day after Makara Sankranti, the animal kingdom is remembered and in particular, the cows. Young girls feed the animals, birds and fishes as a symbol of sharing. Travel is considered to be inappropriate, as these days are dedicated for re-union of the families. Pongal in this sense demonstrates their strong cultural values as well as a time for change and transformation. And finally, gurus seek out their devotees to bestow blessings on them.
Makara Sankranti has deep spiritual significance and is rooted in an unshakable divine history. Makara Sankranti has similarities to many, if not all, of the major festivals such as Shivratri, Saraswati Jayanti, Holi, Nau Ratum, Hanuman Jayanti, Raksha Bandhan, Pitri Paksk, Dusshera, Deepawali(Diwali) and Kartik.
Makara Sankranti identifies a period of enlightenment, peace, prosperity and happiness followed by a period of darkness, ignorance and viciousness with immense sorrow. The six months of northern movement of the sun is followed by six months of southern movement. This is the same analogy as the Kingdom of Rama that lasts for half the world cycle followed by the Kingdom of Ravana for the other half of the cycle. Analogously, the kingdom of Rama is heaven and the kingdom of Ravana is hell.
The celebrations cited above are similar to that of Shivratri when Shiva incarnates and descends on earth when there is irreligiousness, unrighteousness and lawlessness to preserve the righteous, destroy the evil and re-establish dharma.
This worship of Saraswati is for the same reason that they celebrate Vasanta Panchami that represents the first day of spring and falls in January-February. People are dressed in yellow that signifies auspiciousness and spirituality and it represents the ripening of the spring crops. The Bengalis call Vasanta Panchami Saraswati Pooja, where her image is finally immersed in the holy Ganges after parading for seven days with great pomp and splendour. Its background is based on Shiva who destroyed the demon Tarakasura to ashes. Ashes are symbolic of the conquest of purity over impurity which is the essence of Holika. These are but the same reasons that Saraswati is worshipped at Makara Sankranti. Vasanta Navaratri has the same significance to Makara Sankranti in terms of the time, reasons and seasons.
The disposal of derelict things is similar to Holika. This is where all old habits, the vices, attachment to relations and materials things are sacrificed in the sacrificial fire of the knowledge of Rudra, known as the "Rudra Gita Gyan Yagya. It represents realization, transformation and purification of the soul by imbibing and inculcating divine virtues.
The lavish distributions of sweets are similar to that of the fourth day of Diwali called Ankhood day. Diwali again represents the conquest of virtues over the vices. The giving of gifts to sisters is that element of the fifth day of Divali called Bhai Dooj. Sisters worship their brothers by doing aarti and brothers adore their sisters by giving gifts. This has similarities to Raksha Bandhan. The strong sense of values of Makara Sankranti is the same required for the observance of Diwali.
The worship and remembrance of departed ancestors is similar to the period of Pitri Paksh that precedes the second Nau Ratum. Dusshera follows immediately after and is symbolic of the burning the Rawan or mayic possessions. This again is done the day before Makara Sankranti and is called "Bhogi" day when all old and warn out possessions are destroyed. Pongal represents a time of change and transformation. This is the festival of Kartik that represents the change from kalpa to kalpa as humanity is transformed by inculcating the shrimat of the Gita. All these events represent the change from old too new. This is the reason many celebrate this event of Makara Sankranti as the beginning of the New Year.
Since the festival is celebrated in mid winter, food prepared for this festival is such that it keeps the body warm and gives high energy. Laddu of til made with Jaggery is a specialty of the festival. In the western Indian state of Maharashtra it is called 'Tilgul'.
In Karnataka it is called 'Yellu-Bella'. Yellu means 'til' or Sesame seeds and 'Bella' is Jaggery. A mixture of sesame seeds, jaggery, coconut and groundnuts are distributed to relatives and friends. 'Yellu-Bella' is normally distributed by women. There is a saying in Kannada "Yellu bella thindu olle maathadi" which means 'Eat the mixture of sesame seeds and jaggery and speak only good'. Cattle are decorated with various colours and are made to jump over a bon-fire.
Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious days for the Hindus and is celebrated in almost all parts of India in myriad cultural forms, with great devotion. Millions of people take a dip in places like Ganga Sagar (point where the river Ganga meets the Bay of Bengal) and Prayag and pray to the Sun God (Surya). It is celebrated with pomp in southern parts of India as Pongal, and in Punjab as Lohri and Maghi.
In the western Indian state of Gujarat, the celebrations are even bigger. People offer thousands of their colorful oblations to the Sun in the form of beautiful kites. The act stands as a metaphor for reaching to their beloved God, the one who represents the best. Makar Sankranthi also happens to be the day on which Bhishma, the grand sire of Pandavas and Kauravas from the epic Mahabharata voluntarily left his mortal coil.
In the rural and coastal areas, cock fights are held and is a prominent event of the festival.
It is celebrated differently in different regions of India.
In Tamil Nadu
It is a four day festival in Tamil Nadu:
- Day 1 - Bhogi Pandigai (Bhogi)
- Day 2 - Pongal Pandigai,Thai Pongal,SANKRANTI
- Day 3 - Maattu Pongal Pandigai
- Day 4 - Kaanum Pongal
The festival is celebrated four days from the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi to the third day of the Tamil month Thai.
The first day of festival is Bhogi. It is celebrated by throwing away and destroying old clothes and materials, by setting them on fire, marking the end of the old and the emergence of the new.
The second day of festival is Pongal. It is the main day, falling on the first day of the Tamil month Thai. It is celebrated by boiling rice with fresh milk and jaggery in new pots, which are later topped with brown sugar, cashew nuts and raisins early in the morning and allowing it to boil over the vessel. This tradition gives Pongal its name. The moment the rice boils over and bubbles out of the vessel, the tradition is to shout of "Ponggalo Ponggal!" and blowing the sangu (a conch), a custom practiced during the festival to announce it was going to be a year blessed with good tidings. Then New boiled rice is offered to the Nature during sunrise, a gesture which symbolises thanks to the sun and nature for providing prosperity. It is later served to the people present in the house for the ceremony. People also prepare savories and sweets such as vadai, murukku, payasam and visit each other and exchange greetings.
The third day of festival is Maattu Pongal. It is for offering thanks to cattle, as they help farmer in different ways for agriculture. On this day the cattle are decorated with paint, flowers and bells. They are allowed to roam free and fed sweet rice and sugar cane. Some people decorate the horns with gold or other metallic covers. In some places, Jallikattu, or taming the wild bull contest, is the main event of this day and this is mostly seen in the villages.
The fourth day of the festival is Kaanum Pongal (the word kaanum means "to view"). During this day people visit their relatives, friends to enjoy the festive season. This day is a day to thank relatives and friends for their support in the harvest. It started as a farmers festival, called as Uzhavar Thirunaal in Tamil.
Kolam decorations are made in front of the house during Thai Pongal festival.
In Maharashtra on the Sankranti day people exchange multi-colored tilguls made from til (sesame seeds) and sugar and til-laddus made from til and jaggery. Gul-polis are offered for lunch. While exchanging tilguls as tokens of goodwill people greet each other saying – ‘til-gul ghya, god god bola’ meaning ‘accept these tilguls and speak sweet words’. The under-lying thought in the exchange of tilguls is to forget the past ill-feelings and hostilities and resolve to speak sweetly and remain friends.
This is a special day for the women in Maharashtra when married women are invited for a get-together called ‘Haldi-Kumkum’ and given gifts (utensil, clothes, etc.), which the woman of the house purchases on that day. Typically, women wear black sarees on this occasion.
Celebrations in Goa closely resemble to that in Maharashtra. The men hardly take part in the celebrations but it is the women folk who celebrate 'haldi-kumkum'
In Gujarat Sankrant is observed more or less in the same manner as in Maharashtra but with a difference that in Gujarat there is a custom of giving gifts to relatives. The elders in the family give gifts to the younger members of the family. The Gujarati Pundits on this auspicious day grant scholarships to students for higher studies in astrology and philosophy. This festival thus helps the maintenance of social relationships within the family, caste and community. Kite flying has been associated with this festival in a big way. It has become an internationally well-known event.
It is a four day festival in Andhra Pradesh:
- Day 1 - Bhogi Panduga (Bhogi)
- Day 2 - Pedda Panduga,SANKRANTI (Surya)
- Day 3 - Kanuma Panduga (Kanuma)
- Day 4 - Mukkanuma
The first day of festival is Bhogi. At dawn people light up a bonfire with several old articles in their house. In many familities they celebrate Bhogi pallu, in the evening. These are the regi pallu with petals of flower and coins of money, will be put on the heads of kids(generally younger than 3 years)(like talambralu) to get rid of Dishti(drushti). The second day is Sankranti, the big festival, when everyone wears new clothes and pray to their favourite God by offering them sweets. Kanuma Panduga (Kanuma) is less celebrated but is an integral part of Sankranti culture. Mukkanuma is famous among the non-vegetarians of the society. People do not eat any non-vegetarian during the first three days of the festival and eat it only on the day of Mukkanuma.
Sankranti usually represents all the four days together. It is celebrated in almost every village with adventurous games in South India. Whether it is the cock fights in Andhra, Bull fighting in Tamil Nadu or Elephant Mela in Kerala, there is huge amount of illegal betting but the so called tradition continues to play a major role in the festival. Another notable feature of the festival in South India is the Haridas who moves around begging for rice wishing luck to the household. Rangoli competitions too are a common sight. The entire month from mid-December to sankranthi is celebrated with giant rangolis in front of the house which are drawn only at late night for the entire month. For all other days of the year, rangoli is typically drawn in mornings only.
In Punjab where December and January are the coldest months of the year, huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Sankara and is celebrated as Lodi or Lohri. Sweets, sugarcane and rice are thrown in the bonfires, around which friends and relatives gather together. The following day, which is Sankrant, is celebrated as Magi. The Punjabi's dance their famous Jahangir dance till they die. Then they sit down and eat the sumptuous food that is specially prepared for the occasion.
Makara Sankranti is celebrated in Kerala at Sabarimala where the Makara Jyothi is visible followed by the Makara Vilakku celebrations. The 40 days anushthana by the devotees of Ayyappa ends on this day in Sabarimala with a big festival.
In Bundelkhand and Madhya Pradesh this festival of Sankrant is known by the name ‘Sakarat’ and is celebrated with great pomp & merriment accompanied by a lot of sweets.
Tribals of Orissa
Many tribals in our country start their New Year from the day of Sankrant by lighting bonfires, dancing and eating their particular dishes sitting together. The Bhuya tribals of Orissa have their Maghyatra in which small home-made articles are put for sale.
In Assam, the festival is celebrated as Bhogali Bihu.
In the coastal regions, it is a harvest festival dedicated to Lord Indra.
Many Melas or fairs are held on Makar Sankranti the most famous being the Kumbh Mela, held every 12 years at one of four holy locations, namely Haridwar, Prayag (Allahabad), Ujjain and Nashik. The Magh Mela (or mini-Kumbh Mela held annually at Prayag) and the Gangasagar Mela (held at the head of the Ganges River, where it flows into the Bay of Bengal).
Subtle meaning in Sankranti
Makar Sankranti is the day when the Sun God begins its ascendancy and entry into the Northern Hemisphere. Sun for Hindus stands for Pratyaksha Brahman - the manifest God, who symbolizes, the one, non-dual, self-effulgent, glorious divinity blessing one and all tirelessly. Sun is the one who transcends time and also the one who rotates the proverbial wheel of time. The famous Gayatri Mantra, is directed to the Sun God to bless them with intelligence and wisdom. Sun not only represents God but also stands for an embodiment of knowledge and wisdom. Lord Krishna reveals in the Gita that this manifested divinity was his first disciple, and we all know it to be indeed a worthy one too.
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|This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Sankranthi. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.|