India is a country of festivals, and various festivals take place in India, like Holi, Diwali, Raksha Bandhan, Shivratri, etc. There are many festivals in India, but one of the most significant is Makar Sankranti. Makar Sankranti happens when the Sun enters the Capricorn sign in the Paush month.
Every year, Makar Sankranti falls on the 14th or 15th of January, when the Sun has to leave Sagittarius and enter Capricorn.
Makar Sankranti is celebrated in different names and forms; in Tamil Nadu, Makar Sankranti denotes Pongal. On the other hand, in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala, known as Uttarayan, the Sun moves North. However, it is known as Uttarayan, which means North facing the Sun, as the tilt of the earth changes every six months.
Lord Surya was worshipped on this day. As per the Hindu calendar, it also follows solar days. Makar Sankranti marks the beginning of the long days and the end of the winter season. Also, on Sankranti day, the Sun begins its Uttarayan journey. And on an auspicious day, the country's farmers wish for a prosperous harvest.
There are various stories about Makar Sankranti. According to Hindu mythology, it is the day when the father, Surya, meets his son, Shani, even though father and son are not in harmony. Saturn and the Sun are considered the most powerful planets through which man can reach such heights. Because of this, devotees pray to both Saturn and the Sun.
Another legend states about Makar Sankranti that Bhishma, one of the most famous personalities of Mahabharat, died around this time. Bhishma died after being wounded by Arjun's arrow on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
Bhishma could choose the time of his death, so he waited until Makar Sankranti since those who died during this period would not have a second chance at life.
Another legend about Makar Sankranti is that on this day, King Bhagirath took a bath in the holy river Ganges for the salvation of his ancestors. Thus, Makar Sankranti is also the originator of the day when we can be free of sorrow and pain.
Makar Sankranti is a day with various spiritual meanings. On this spiritual day, devotees dip into any holy river, like the Godavari, Ganga, Yamuna, Narmada, Kaveri, etc., to absolve themselves of sins. And for success and prosperity, many devotees worship the Lord Sun.
Traditional sweets consisting of sesame seeds and jaggery are eaten on this auspicious day. Symbolising living together in harmony and peace, this sweet represents living in happiness and peace. It's believed that eating sesame seeds can lead to the internal purification of a human being. And then, on this day, people donate food, clothing, and other things to the needy. Finally, people also fly kites together.
Makar Sankranti is celebrated in different ways with different names in other areas. In Punjab and Haryana, it is known as Lohri. In Lohri, people gather around a bonfire and throw puffed rice, popcorn, and sesame seeds into the flame.
In Tamil Nadu, Makar Sankranti, known as Pongal, is a four-day festival. The first day is Bhogi-Pongal, the second day is Surya-Pongal, the third day is Keanu-Pongal, and the last day is Kanya-Pongal. Traditionally, the major Prasad on this day is kheer, and the daughter and her husband are especially welcoming.
In the Assam region, it's known as Magh Bihu. On this day, young people make a temporary hut out of bamboo, thatch, and leaves, known as Bhelaghar. The people prepared delicious food for the feast in that temporary hut and then burned it the next day. The celebration also includes some traditional sports like buffalo fighting and tekali bhoga. It is also celebrated with various names and traditions throughout the country.
As per the scriptures, Uttarayan is a symbol of positivity, and Dakshina is a symbol of negativity. Remove negativity. People take a holy bath in holy rivers. People eat sesame laddu and fly kites during the celebration.