In 2023, the festival of Makar Sankranti will fall on 14 January, a Saturday.
Makar Sankranti In India: Friday, 14 January 2023
Makar Sankranti is a Hindu festival that celebrates Sun’s transition into Makar (Capricorn). It is one of the few traditional Hindu festivals observed per solar cycles. The season marks the end of winter and the beginning of longer days. It is also the beginning of the month of Magh. Makar Sankranti is a harvest festival celebrated across the country with different names. Each state celebrates the festival as per its culture and tradition.
Importance of Makar Sankranti Holidays 2023
Makar Sankranti is devoted to the God Sun or Surya. The festival also symbolizes the starting of a six months auspicious period for Hindus called the Uttarayana period. Hence, it is considered a significant period for spiritual practices.
On the occasion of Makar Sankranti, lakhs of people take a holy dip at the Sangam – the confluence of Ganga and Jamuna. The holy dip is considered to result in the forgiveness of past sins. People also submit their prayers to God Surya and thank them for their wealth and triumph. As per the Hindu calendar, there are 12 Sankranti in a year. Out of all the Sankranti, Makar Sankranti is considered the most significant and is celebrated throughout the country.
Makar Sankranti History
Sankranti is deemed a Deity. As per the legend, Sankranti killed a devil named Sankarasur. The day next to Makar Sankrant is called Karidin or Kinkrant. On this day, Devi slew the devil Kinkarasur. The information on Makar Sankranti is available in Panchang. The Panchang is the Hindu Almanac that provides information on Sankranti’s age, form, clothing, direction, and movement.
According to the DrikPanchaang, “The time between Makar Sankranti and 40 Ghatis (roughly 16 hours for Indian locations if we consider 1 Ghati duration as 24 minutes) from the time of Makar Sankranti is considered good for auspicious work. This duration of forty Ghatis is known as Punya Kaal. Sankranti activities, like taking a bath, offering Naivedhya (food offered to deity) to Lord Surya, offering charity or Dakshina, performing Shraddha rituals, and breaking fast or Parana, should be done during Punya Kaal. However, if Makar Sankranti happens after Sunset, all Punya Kaal activities are postponed until the next Sunrise. Therefore, all Punya Kaal activities should be done in the daytime.”
How is Makar Sankranti celebrated?
Hindus worship the Sun God or Surya Deva; therefore, Makar Sankranti is an auspicious day in the Hindu calendar for the worship of the Lord. Although there are 12 Sankrantis in total, Makar Sankranti is paramount and is accompanied by several spiritual practices with nationwide celebrations.
Devotees take a religious bath in the waters of the Holy rivers, such as the Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, and others. It signifies that all their sins have been washed away, and prosperity will prevail. Besides worshipping the Sun God, people also pay homage to livestock and cattle. They also perform charity activities and donate food and clothes to the less fortunate.
A famous Hindu belief goes that if someone dies on Sankranti, they are not reborn; instead, they go to Heaven.
Some places observe Sankranti as the day of Uttarayana. Uttarayana comes from Uttara, meaning north, and Ayana, telling six months or the day of Winter Solstice when the Sun begins its journey northwards. In several other parts of India, the zest of Sankranti is embodied in the Harvest Festival since the harvest season coincides with this time of the year.
Food being a significant part of the celebration during any festival in India, Til (sesame) and gur (jaggery) laddoos are widely popular as the sweets of Sankranti in India.
Every twelve years, along with Makar Sankranti, people also gather for Kumbh Mela (well-famed as one of the world’s largest mass pilgrimages). The next Kumbh Mela will be held in January 2023.
Makar Sankranti holiday in different states of India
Makar Sankranti is celebrated unanimously in India. But, while the festive spirits remain the same throughout, Makar Sankranti takes many forms and names throughout the country, with various legends to go by as the origin of the celebration in any particular state.
Khichdi – Uttar Pradesh
Khichdi is the name of a dish made of rice and lentils, and in North Indian states like Uttar Pradesh, Khichdi is given out as donations during Makar Sankranti. Hence the name of the festival becomes Khichdi in these places. Clothes, blankets, and even gold are sometimes added to the offerings. In addition to making charities, people fast during the daytime. In Gorakhpur, a massive fair is organized known as the Khichdi Mela.
Magh Bihu – Assam and North East
Sankranti is celebrated as a harvest festival called Magh Bihu in Assam and the rest of North-East India. Makeshift huts called Bhelaghar or Mejhi are erected where friends and families flock together for a feast around a bonfire, and once it is over, the houses are burned down the next day. Several places in the state also host traditional games such as buffalo fighting and pot-breaking (likely Bonga).
Assam is also famous for Jonbeel Mela, which is held during the weekend of Magh Bihu and is based on a barter system – yes, a fair without any currency!
Maghi – Punjab
Sankranti is a Hindu festival, but it also finds its observance amongst the Sikh community and even some Muslims in Punjab as Lohri, a day before Makar Sankranti (also known as Maggi in Punjab). Apart from remembering Sun God Surya and celebrating winter crop season, Lohri also pays tribute to fire God Agni and is thus marked with the lighting of a bonfire. Bhangra and Gidha are performed in circles around the bonfire.
Youngsters go around collecting logs, gur (jaggery), grains, and other items for the day of Lohri. Some even play a local form of trick or treat and visit houses in their neighborhood, singing folk songs.
Makaravilakku – Kerala
In Lord Ayyappan’s holy shrine of Sabarimala, Kerala observes Makar Sankranti as Makaravilakku and is marked by the Thiruvabharanam (the Lord’s sacred ornaments) procession and congregation. The temple witnesses over half a million devotees who visit Sabarimala on Sankranti for the Lord’s darshan.
Aarti or Deeparadhana is performed in the temple, and the lamp lit during the ceremony is called Makara Vilakku. The light can be seen from several places, an opportunity that devotees await as a part of the religious celebration.
Pedda Panduga – Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
In Andhra Pradesh, Makar Sankranti is also termed Pedda Panduga. Telegu women decorate the entrance of their houses with Rangoli or Muggu and prepare traditional Telegu food and sweets such as bobatullu, paramannam, pulihora, arise, etc. In many villages, you would spot a decorated bull (gangireddu) with its master, accompanied by a flute and drum as they visit one door to another.
Poush Sankranti – West Bengal
Every year during Makar Sankranti or Poush Sankranti, West Bengal witnesses the organization of a massive fair at Ganga Sagar, the largest of its kind in West Bengal. Aartis are also performed at the fair to thank the Sun God for his bountiful blessings as devotees perform the ceremonial cleansing by taking a dip in the holy water. In this part of the country, rice sweet called pithy is the staple in Sankranti sweets, and there are multiple variants of the same, including Gokul concise, patisapta, Dudh puli, etc.
Thai Pongal – Tamil Nadu
Pongal is the name of a sweetened dish of rice boiled in milk and jaggery that people in Tamil Nadu consume ritually during Makar Sankranti and hence imparts the character of the festival in the state. It is also known as the thanksgiving festival for the year’s harvest. Celebrated over four days, different animated rituals mark the days of Bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal, Mattu Pongal, and Kanum Pongal. Kolam or rangoli is also a significant part of the festivities in the state.
Vasi Uttarayan – Gujarat
The pataang or kite festival during Makar Sankranti is most prominent in Gujarat. Preparations in Gujarat start months before January for the International Kite Festival Uttarayan, with people flocking from international destinations such as Italy, Malaysia, Japan, etc. Almost in every locality, makeshift kite-selling stores are set up, turning the whole place into a Pataang Bazaar.