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Translating the secrets of Makara Sankranti

India is a land of love, devotion, brotherhood, a land of culture and tradition. Respecting each other’s tradition and culture we celebrate many festivals here and it’s not wrong to say it’s a land of festivals. Makar sankranti is one of the important festivals in Hindu culture which is dedicated to Lord Sun. On this auspicious day, the Sun starts its northward, or uttarayan movement or moves towards the northern hemisphere. So it’s called Uttarayan. From Makar sankranti, days become longer and nights shorter, and it marks the end of the winter. Before this, the Sun was moved towards the southern hemisphere for which during winter, usually nights become longer than the days. It is also marked as the beginning of the spring. Another belief is that on this auspicious day Sun enters the zodiac makar, or capricorn. According to Hindu mythology and scriptures it’s believed that dakshinayan movement is God’s night which is considered as the darkest period and not an auspicious time, it’s marked as negative. But, uttarayan movement means God’s day which is very auspicious and very positive. It is also believed that on this day Sun visits the house of his son Shani, who is the swami of Makar Rashi, or capricorn. So it is a festival that highlights the strong bond between a father and son. This is the religious part of the story. Makar Sankrati is mainly observed as a festival of harvesting, harvesting of the ravi crops. So, this is a festival which has not only religious, but cultural significance. It is very much related to our life.

Besides this, the fragrance of sweets, especially sesame/ til chikkis, or tilgud, badam ladoos, coconut ladoos, aroma of melting jaggery, bonfires, yummy and healthy khichdi, makar melas/fairs and colourful kites make everyone a bit nostalgic and it takes us back in our childhood days.

It’s the one festival which is celebrated differently in various parts of India. Makar sankranti is one of the auspicious and propitious days for Hindus. As the Sun God is the symbol of light, it takes us from darkness to night. It is one of those fewest Indian festivals to be celebrated in many states and every year it falls on 14th/15th January. Each state has its own way of celebrating the festival. Kite flying, sesame chikkis, sweets and ladoos are the main attraction of the festival. Makar fairs are organised with lots of merrymaking and people visit fairs and enjoy a lot.

Makar sankranti in Delhi and Haryana:

Makar sankranti is celebrated with lots of love, devotion and family bonding in Delhi and Haryana, and there it is called Sakraat. All the brothers visit their married sisters and gift them warm clothes, sweets. The wives also gift their in-laws as a mark of love and respect. It is celebrated as a festival of love, bonding, sharing, caring and respect for each other. Friends and relatives gather in one place and celebrate it together with much excitement and fun. Uttarayan in Gujrat: Makar Sankranti is celebrated very specially in Gujarat and the state also witnesses a special International Kite Flying festival. After morning prayers and puja, people gather on terrace tops with their colorful kites. There are lots of kite games and competitions go on. Phrases like "Kai po che" is said to taunt the losing side. People feed each other sweets like chikki made of sesame seeds and peanuts and a special preparation of Undhiyu (a mix of winter vegetables). The state celebrates the festival uniquely.

Magha Saaji – Himachal Pradesh

Saaji is the local word for Sankranti and Magha is the name of the month, so it’s called Magha Saaji. People welcome spring by taking a holy dip in the rivers or bathe in holy water. They visit their friends and relatives, share sweets like chikki or khichdi and ghee (clarified butter). The locals also visit temples to offer prayers and seek God’s blessings, and do a lot of charity, give donations on this day. The evening is celebrated with singing folk songs and performing dances.

Poush Parbon – West Bengal:

Poush Parbon is celebrated in West Bengal with mouth watering sweets and aroma of fresh cut/harvested rice. Til ladoo, coconut ladoos, maalpoaa are some of the sweet treats from the state. The festival falls on the last day of the Hindu month of Poush and marks the beginning of Magha. Hence, it is named after the month. Special palm jaggery is used to prepare sweets and delicacies. Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped on the day of Sankranti. West Bengal famous, the Ganga Sagar carnival starts. It is very auspicious day, and people take holy dips and come to the confluence of river Ganges and Bay of Bengal to take holy bathe before dawn and worship Lord Shiva and Goddess Ganga.

Pongal – Tamil Nadu:

Tamil Nadu celebrates Pongal consecutively for 4 days and each day having a special significance. On the first day, people clean and decorate their houses, wear new clothes and dump the unwanted old things. On the second day, that is the main Pongal day, people celebrate by having various sweets and sweet rice preparations. The rice is boiled with milk and jaggery and allowed to boil over the pot. The minute the rice boils over, there is a special cry uttered and Pongal is celebrated. The rice is offered to God and then shared by the people. The other two days involve worshipping the cattle and visiting the relatives with sweets and gifts.

In Odisha:

In Odisha, any festival is first to be celebrated at Puri in Jagannath Temple. Makar Sankranti is observed as Uttarayana Yatra & Uttarayana Vandapanna of Lord Jagannath with lots of love, devotion and infinite faith, people offer a special kind of newly harvested rice and sugarcane mixed with jaggery, grated coconut, banana, crushed ginger, chenna (cheese), various fruits, dry fruits and milk called “Makara Chaula” to offer it as prasad, or bhog to the deity, the Sun God.

Sakraat or Khichdi – Bihar and Jharkhand:

The festival is a 2-day festival in Bihar and Jharkhand where the people take holy dips in the river, ponds early in the morning and then have bonfires into which they offer sesame seeds.

Sweets are prepared with sesame seeds and jaggery, a special sweet tilgud made of sesame seeds and jaggery. The women folk in villages come together and celebrate the festival while cooking khichdi which is a one pot dish prepared out of rice cooked in with vegetables which is a very healthy and yummy dish.

Makara Sankranti – Andhra Pradesh and Telangana:

In Andhra and Telangana, Makar Sankranti is a 4-day festival and is celebrated with a lot of excitement. The families come together and celebrate it with a lot of sweets and in traditional ways. The first day is Bhoghi, second Makara Sankranti, third is Kanuma and fourth is Mukkanuma. The traditions and celebrations on each day are different, while the first three days a strict vegetarian diet is followed.

Ghughuti or Kale Kauva (Black crow) – Uttarakhand

In Uttarakhand, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as the festival of welcoming the migratory birds as they believe, it is the season for the birds to end their painful migration and return home and it’s their homecoming. The locals give khichdi and other food as charity and organise fairs and visit each other. Sweetmeats are made out of sweetened flour (flour and jaggery/gur) deep fried in ghee by giving them different shapes like sword, knife, drum etc. and those are strung together and an orange is put in the middle and children wear those as garlands to attract crows, birds, and offer those sweets to crows and birds as a blessing for the migratory birds on their return back to home. Puri, vade, puwe are also cooked and fed to crows early in the morning. The child who is able to feed the crow first is considered as lucky.

Suggi – Karnataka

Suggi is the harvest festival of Karnataka celebrated mainly by farmers and the women. The women visit each other’s houses in a ritual known as Ellu Birodhu and they carry a plate of offerings containing sesame seeds and jaggery, and other nuts like fried ground nuts and coconut, sugar-cane pieces and sweets with them for exchange. Women also make rangolis outside their homes and decorate the cattle with colourful decorations and paint their horns.

Magha Saaji – Himachal Pradesh

Saaji is the local word for Sankrant and Magha is the name of the month and the sun-sign (capricorn) that commences with the arrival of the festival. The day signals a change in seasons and people welcome spring by taking a dip in the rivers or bathe in holy water. They visit their neighbors and share sweets like chikki or khichdi and ghee (clarified butter). The locals also visit temples and do a lot of charity on this day. The evening is celebrated with folk songs and dances.

Lohri /Maghi – Punjab

The residents of Punjab bathe early in the morning and light lamps with sesame oil to drive away the darkness (from life) as it brings in prosperity. They also have huge bonfires in the evenings and enjoy their day with song and dances. Lohri marks the beginning of the end of winter, beginning of spring. The festival is traditionally associated with the harvest of the rabi crops. Lohri is seen by some to be a harvest festival. On the special day, offerings of phulley (popcorn), moongphali (peanuts) and rewri (a sweet delicacy made out of jaggery and sesame seed) are offered to the fire.

Bihu in Assam: In Assam it is celebrated as Bihu to celebrate the end of the harvesting season as corps are ready and stored in houses. People celebrate it by feasting, bonfires and making and distributing sweets.

Maghe Sankranti – Nepal

Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Maghe Sankranti and like most regions, they too celebrate the festival with sesame seeds, so sesame seed has a lot of relevance in celebrating the festival. There is a belief that years ago, a businessman had a sack of sesame seeds which never seemed to end. On digging through the bag, he found an idol of Lord Vishnu in the bag and hence, sesame seeds became auspicious and Makar Sankranti is an auspicious day to start new work and do sacred things.

So, Makar sankranti is celebrated across the country with lots of fun, feasting, harvesting, fairs, foods, sweets, spending time with friends and relatives, making bonfires, doing charity, giving donations, feeding animals and birds to spread happiness, and positive energy. Such a beautiful festival which not only gives the message to love the people around you, but to love all the animals and birds.

Lessons learned…

Makar Sankranti is an amazing festival which is celebrated all over the country with lots of fun, feasting, foods, fairs, flying kites, folk songs and dance. It is a festival of yummy foods, sweets, ladoos, chikkis, khichdi, and tilgud. The sweet aroma of melting jaggery, sweetness of sesame seeds chikki, the yummy coconut ladoos, and the ground nuts chikki make this festival unique one. Every Indian festival is a good teacher as it teaches us so many good things and instills the good values in us; it removes our ignorance and helps us immensely to become a good human being. So, we must understand the message behind each festival.

Makar Sankranti is a PAN India festival. It marks the end of the winter and beginning of the spring. Sun starts the uttarayan movement, or moves towards the northern hemisphere, so from Makar Sankranti days become longer and nights become shorter. Let’s know the reasons behind the rituals followed in Makar sankranti:

Kite Flying: Makar sankranti is celebrated in different ways in various parts of the country. However, kite flying is common in Makar Sankranti. People gather on terrace tops to fly kites. Flying kites require a lot of run, rush, walk and body movements which is good exercise for our body. Exposure to early rays of sun while flying kites is beneficial for our body. Sun rays are the rich source of Vitamin-D which cures skin diseases and other diseases caused by chilly Winter. The message is very clear that &”leave the sedentary lifestyle and do exercise everyday” as it will keep you happy and healthy.

Eating tilgud ladoos/ sweets made of sesame seeds and jaggery, badam and coconut ladoos: Firstly, eating and sharing sweets with each other spreads love, happiness and positivity. Besides, sesame seeds are rich source of Vitamam-E which keeps the body warm and provides, good amount of oil that works as a good moisturizer for the body. Coconut and ground nuts are also rich sources of Vitamin- E which needs to be eaten during winter.
Eating Khichdi: Makar sankranti is also celebrated as Khichdi festival. Khichdi is prepared and fed to people. Khichdi is a very yummy and healthy one pot Indian dish which is made of rice, pulses cooked with so many vegetables and it’s very healthy to eat vegetables steamed along with rice. Khichdi is prepared with rice, ghee, pulses, vegetables, Indian herbs and dry fruits which makes it a super power pack dish. It is a lesson learned that “always eat healthy to stay healthy”. Eating foods prepared with less oil, steam cooked foods and adding leafy, green fresh vegetables to your diet keeps us healthy.

Kale kauva (black crow): Makar sankranti is also celebrated as Kale Kauva, which literally means “black crow”. It is celebrated in Uttarakhand to show love towards birds as they return from their painful migration. So preparing sweetmeats, khichdi, puri, and vade people feed the crows and other birds. It teaches us to be kind towards the innocent birds around us and not to cause any harm to the innocent birds.

Donations and charity: One of the most special aspects of this festival is to do charity and help the needy and poor. People donate various items to the underprivileged like warm clothes, blankets, food, metal utensils and so on. For Hindus, donation is an important part of one’s religious duty as each person has the duty towards the society, towards the whole world and all the living beings, besides his own family.

Feeding Poors, Birds and animals: To many people, Makara Sankranti ushers in the New Year. The corn that is newly-harvested is cooked for the first time on that day. Servants, farmers and the poor are fed and clothed and given money as donations. On the next day, the cow, which is regarded as the symbol of the Holy Mother, is worshipped. Then there is the feeding of birds and animals.

Friendship: Makar Sankranti is also the festival to strengthen the bond of friendship and people promise to become friends with each other forever. In Odisha, people make “Makara Chaula” that is newly harvested uncooked rice mixed with milk, ghee, honey, jaggery, grated coconut fruits, dry fruits , chhena (cottage cheese) etc. as eating healthy in this changing season is very much necessary. Eating this “Makara Chaula” the two persons bind each other in the bond of friendship forever. If two girls become friends, they call each other “Makara” and don’t call each other by names; and if two males they call each other “Maharshad”. Hence,it’s an amazing festival to celebrate the bond of friendship.

Bonfires/ Burning Fires: On Makar sankranti people make bonfires, sing and dance around it, throw tils/sesame seeds, popcorns, puffed rice, sugar canes into the fire offering it to God and pray the Sun God and Fire God to provide warmth to the planet, to all the human beings, animals, birds, and plants to keep them safe in this cold winter and provide warmth so that crops will grow properly. In some parts of the country people clean and decorate their houses and whatever rejected, unused old stuff, and garbage are found, they burn it in the fire.

Hence, this festival teaches us to be unselfish, to tread the path of love, purity, forgiveness and kindness.

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Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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