Maker Sankranti

Makar Sankaranti is one the most auspicious days for the Hindus.  It is as important to them as dussehra, Diwali, Ram Navmi and and Shivratri.  It is celebrated in almost all parts of the country in myriad cultural forms, with great devotion, fervor and gaiety.  Lakhs of people take a dip in places like Ganga Sagar and prayag.  They pray to Lord Sun.  It is celebrated with pomp in soughern parts of the country as Pongal.  In Punjab it is celebrated as Lohri and Maghi.
Gujaratis not only look reverentially up to the Sun, but also offer thousands of their colourful oblations in the form of beautiful kites all over the skyline.  They may be trying to reach up to their glorious God.  Or they try to bring about greater proximity with the one who represents the best.  It is day for which Bhishma Pitamah kept waiting to leave his mortal coil.
On this day the glorious Sun-God of Hindus begins its ascendancy and entry into the Northern Hemisphere.  Sun for the Hindus stands for Pratyaksha-Brahman-the manifest God, who symbolises the one, non-dual, self-effulgent, glorious divinity blessing one and all tirelessly.  Sun is the one who transcends time.  He is also the one who rotates the proverbial Wheel of Time.  The famous Gayatri Mantra is chanted everyday by every faithful Hindu.  It is directed to Sun God to bless them with intelligence and wisdom.  Sun not only represents God, but is also the embodiment of knowledge and wisdom.  Lord Krishna reveals in Gita that this manifested divinity was his first disciple. We all know it to be indeed a worthy one too.
The co-relation of cosmic events with individual life and values is one of the most astounding traits of Hindus Masters.  Once this co-relation is brought about, these cosmic events remind us of the best, which we cherish and value.  Of all the cosmic bodies, Sun is the most glorious and important.  Thus every Sun-centric cosmic even become very important spiritual, religious and cultural event.  On Makar Sankaranti day, the Sun begins its ascendancy and journey in to the Northern Hemisphere.  Thus it signifies an event wherein the gods seem to remind their children that ‘Tamaso Ma jyotir Gamaya’.  May you go higher and higher to more and more Light and never to darkness.

Astrological Significance

Makar means Capricorn and Sankranti is transition.  There is a Sankaranti every month when the Sun passes from one sign of the zodiac to the next.  There are twelve signs of thezodiac.  Thus there are twelve sankranti’s as well.  Each of these Sankaranti’s has its own relative importance.  But two of these are more important the mesh (Aries) Sankaranti and the most important, the Makar (Capricorn) Sankaranti.  Transition of the Sun from Sagittarius to Capricorn, during the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere is known as maker Sankaranti.
From this day begins the six-month long Uttarayana.  It is considered very auspicious for attaining higher worlds hereafter.  The traditional Indian Calendar is basically based on lunar positions.  But Sankaranti is a solar event.  So while dates of all festivals keep changing, the English calendar date of Makar Sankranti is always same, 14th January.  Makar Sankaranti is celebrated in the Hindu Calendar month of Magha.  There is another significance of this day.
After this day, the days start becoming longer ad warmer.  Thus, the chill of winter in on decline.

Religious Significance

  1. The Puranas say that on this day Sun visits the house of his son Shani.   He is the swami of Makar Rashi.  These father and son do not ordinarily get along nicely.  In spiteof 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 symbolised the importance of special relationship of father and son.  It is the son who has the responsibility to carry forward his father’s dream and the continuity of the family.
  2. From Uttarayana starts the ‘day’ of Devatas.  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;  the next half is called Pitrayana.
  3. It was on this day when Lord Vishnu ended the ever-increasing terrorism of the Asuras. He finished them off and buried their heads under the Mandar Parvat.  This occasion also represents the end of negativities and beginning of an era of righteous living.
  4. Mharaj Bhagirath, the great savoir of his ancestors, did great Tapasya to bring Gangaji down on the earth.  It was for the redemption of 60,000 sons of Maharaj Sagar.  They 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 Ganga water for his unfortunate ancestors.  He thereby liberated them from the curse.  After visiting the Patala for the redemption of the curse of Bhagirath’s ancedstors, Gangaji finally merged in the Sagar.  Even today a very big Ganga Sagar Mela is organized every year on this day.  It is held at the confluence of River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal.  Lakhs of people take dip into the water. They do tarpan for their ancestors.

We salute such a great devotee and benefactor of his ancestors.  He is oen who can express such gratitude to his ancestors.   One who worked with tireless resolve to redeem the pride, pledges and resolves of his fore fathers.  He alone possesses a personality.  The history revels him to be a true benefactor of the world, too.  One must see to it that the roots of the tree of ‘our’ life are not only intact but are nourished well.  Thereafter alone the tree blooms and flourishes.
There is another spiritually symbolic aspect of this story.  The 60,000 cursed son of Maharaj Sagar represent our thoughts.  We become dull and dead-like because of uncultured an blind ambition.  Redemption of such people is only by the water of Gangaji, brought down ’to’ and later ‘from’ the Himalayas with great tapasya.  This represents dedicated hard work to get the redeeming Brahma-Vidya.  This alone enlightens, enthuses and enlivens the life of anyone.

  1. Another well-known reference of this day in our epic Mahabharata.  The great grandsire of Mahabharata fame, Bhishma, had declared his intent to leave his mortal coil on this day.  He had the coon of Ichha Mrityu from his father. Therefore, he kept lying on the bed of arrows till this day. He left his mortal coil on Makar Sankaranti day.  It is believed that the perso, who dies during the period of Uttarayana, becomes free from transmigration. So this day was seen as a sure-shot Good Luck.  This is a good day to start one’s journey or endeavours to achieve desired results.

Uttar Pradesh

In Uttar Pradesh, Sankrant is called ‘Khichiri’. Taking a dip in the holy rivers on this day is regarded as most auspicious.  On this occasion, a big one-month long ‘Magha-Mela’ fair begins at Prayag (Allahabad).  Apart from Trivenim ritual bathing also takes place at many places like Haridvar and Garh Mukteshwar in Uttar Pradesh and Patna in Bihar.

Bengal

In Bengal, every year a very big Mela is held at Ganga Sagar.  Here the river Ganga is believed to have dived into the nether region.  It vivified the ashes of the sixty thousand ancestors of King Bhagirath.  This mela is attended by a large number of pilgrims from all over the country.

Tamil Nadu

In Tamil Nadu Sankrant is known by the name of ‘Pongal’.  It takes its name from the surging ofrice boiled in a pot of milk.  This festival has more significance them even Diwali in Tamil Nadu.  It is very populr, particularly amongst farmers. After the ritual worship, rice and pulses cooked together in ghee and milk are offered to the family deity.  In essence in the South, this Sankrant is a ‘Puja (Worship) for the Sun God.

Andhra Pradesh

In Andhra Pradesh, it is celebrated as a three day harvest festival Pongal.  It is a big event for the people of Andhra Pradesh.  The Telugus like to call it ‘Pedda Panduga’ meaning big festival.  The whole event lasts for four days.  The first day is Bhogi.  The second day is Sankranti.  The third day Kanuma and the fourth day is Mukkanuma.

Maharashtra

On the Sankranti day in Maharashtra, people exchange multi-coloured til-guds made from til (sesame seeds).  Also til-laddus made from till and jiggery are exchanged.  Til-polis are offered for lunch.  While exchanging til-guds as tokens of goodwill, people greet each other saying – ‘til gud ghya, god god bola’.  It means accept these til guds ad speak sweet words.  The underlying through in the exchange of til-guds 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.  Married women are invited for a get-together called ‘Haldi-Kumkum’.  They are given gifts of any utensil, which the woman of the house purchases on that day.

Gujarat

In Gujarat Sankrant is observed more or less in the same manner as in Maharashtra. The only difference is that in Gujarat there is a custom of giving gifts to relatives.  The elders in the gamily 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.

Punjabi

In Punjab, December and January are the coldest months of the year.  Huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Sankrant.  That evening is celebrated as ‘Lohri’.  Sweet, sugarcane and rice are thrown in the bonfires.  Around this friends and relatives gather together.  The following day is Sankrant.  It is celebrated as Maghi.  The Punjabi’s dance their famous Bhangra till they get exhausted.  Then they sit down and eat the sumptuous food. The food is specially prepared for the occasion.

Kerala

The 40 days anushthana by the devotees of Ayyappa ends on this day in Sabarimala with a big festival.

Bundelkhand

In Bundelkhand and Madhya Pradesh this festival of Sankrant is known by the name ‘Sakarat’.  It is celebrated with great pomp and merriment accompanied y lot of sweets.

Tribal’s of Orissa

Many Tribals in our country start their New Year from the day of Sankrant.  They light bonfires, dance and eat their particular dishes sitting together.  The Bhuya tribals of Orissa have their Maghyatra.  On this occasion, small homemade articles are put for sale.

Assam

In Assam, the festival is celebrated as Bhogali Bihu.

Coastal region

In the coastal regions, it is a harvest festival dedicated to Indra.

How to celebrate

  1. Get up early in the morning, before Sun rise.  Have bath.  Be ready with water and flowers for the Sun rise.  Worship the rising Sun. Offer wate and flowers with both the hands.  Then pray with folded hands by chanting the Gayatri Mantra.  Pray for knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment to rise in the similar way to greater and greater heights.  Prays for blessings to live a dynamic, inspired and righteous life.
  2. Do tarpan for your ancestors. Offer water to the ancestors while praying for their blessings.  Resolve to redeem the pledges and pride of your forefathers.  Live life in such a way that wherever your forefathers may be, their head in held high by the life and deeds of their children.
  3. Have a special session of Meditation.  In this you bring about the awareness of the self effulgent subjective divinity.  Affirm the greatest importance of your spiritual goal very clearly.
  4. Prepare laddus or other sweet of Til and Gur and offer them to your friends and relatives.
  5. Have the lunch of Khichiri.  This stands for inculcating simplicity in your life and habits.  Khichiri is the simplest food that can be cooked.
  6. Give some Daan (donation) on this day to someone who truly deserves.
  7. Visit your son at his place.  Give presents to the son and the daughter-in-law.  If it is not possible to visit, then organise to send presents to them to express your love and affection.