Makara Sankranti is a Hindu festival celebrated in almost all parts of India and Nepal in a myriad of cultural forms. It is a harvest festival. It is the Hindi/Indo-Aryan languages name for Makara Sankranthi (still used in southern areas as the official name). Makar Sankranti marks the transition of the Sun into the zodiac sign of Makara rashi (Capricorn) on its celestial path. The day is also believed to mark the arrival of spring in India and is a traditional festival. Makara Sankranti is a solar event making one of the few Indian festivals which fall on the same date in the Gregorian calendar every year: 14 January, with some exceptions when the festival is celebrated on 13 or 15 January.
Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations, Volume 2
Constance A. Jones in: Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations, Volume 2, ABC-CLIO, 13 September 2011
- Makar Sankranti (January 14) is a festival held across India, under a variety of names, to honor the god of the sun, Surya. Though often relegated to a secondary position relative to the three prominent Hindu deities — Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva. Surya was a key figure in the ancient Hindu texts, the Vedas, and is the subject of the most repeated texts of Hindu liturgy, the Gayatri Mantra.
- Makar Sankranti heralds the end of winter and the arrival of spring throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Through the next six months, called the Uttarayana period, the days will become longer and warmer, and the whole period is considered an auspicious time. The day is also tied to the just-celebrated Bhishma Astami, which remembered the death of the hero Bhishma from the ancient Hindu epic the Mahabharata, who chose to die just as the Uttrayana period began.
- Makar Sankranti is observed in the month of Magha as the sun enters Capricorn on or near January 14 on the Common Era calendar. It is also celebrated as Uttarayana Punyakala Makara Sankranti (in Karnataka), Uttarayana Punyakalam Pongal (in Tamil Nadu), and Pedda Panduga (in Andhra Pradesh).
- A variety of stories are told of Surya, which have implications for observance of this day(s). The sun god, for example, had a number of children, among them the Lord Shani, one the nine primary celestial beings in Hindu astrology; Shani is identified with planet Saturn. When Shanti was born, it is said, an eclipse of the sun occurred. It is also said that Surya and Shani have their differences, but always on Makara Sankranthi, Surya visits with Shani- thus fathers should visit their sons. Food, especially sweets, will be prepared using til sesame seed oil), which is valued for its stickiness or binding quality. Thus, the sweets that people will give those close to them are a symbol of being bound together, whatever differences might arise.
- Makar Sankranti is also fraught with implications for the early phases of the agricultural cycle. It is a time to pray for a prosperous growing season and a good future harvest, and a time to bathe one's cows, so essential to all aspects of [[w:Agricultural production|agricultural production.It is a time to remember ancestors and, in the evenings, to celebrate around bonfires.
- The largest gathering for Makar Sankranti is on Sager Island in West Bengal at the point the Hooghly River, a branch of the Ganges as it spreads out approaching the Indian Ocean and meets the Bay of Bengal. Each January, several hundred thousand pilgrims gather on the island for the beginning of spring. Makar Sankranti occurs in the middle of the lengthy
Kumbha Mela and Magh Mela celebrations and is a high point within them. p. 548
- Kite flying has become a popular activity in India, and for the more secular minded, it has become the dominant aspect of this day. The city of Delhi holds an annual Kite Flying Day festival on January 14, and the celebration has spread across the country.
Why do we celebrate Makar Sankranti on January 14 every year?
Mayank Vahia in: Why do we celebrate Makar Sankranti on January 14 every year?, DNA India, 9 March 2014
- On January 14 every year, Makar Sankranti, is the only Indian festival celebrated on a fixed calendric day of the solar calendar.
- Makar Sankranti is unique as it goes entirely by the solar calendar. The clue to this mystery lies in the fact that Makar Sankranti is also called Uttarayan, or the day on which the sun begins its northward journey.
- January 14 is the day on which the sun begins to rise in the Makara Rashi, Sankranti meaning entering.
- While the exact day on which the winter or summer solstice occurs remains steady (within one day error), there is a slight change in the way the Earth's rotation axis is aligned to the sun. Hence, over a period of a few hundred years, this drift means that even though the sun begins its Uttarayan on December 21, it is not in the Makara rashi as it was about 1,500 years ago. So, 1,500 years ago, during the time of Aryabhata, the Uttarayan and Makar Sankranti coincided. Now Makar Sankranti comes on January 14, but Uttarayan happens on Dhanu Sankranti!
- So what day to celebrate? Well, if you want to celebrate Uttarayan, do it on December 21, but if you want to celebrate Makar Sankranti, January 14 is about right. Incidentally, it also means that winter, which is at its peak in January and February, used to be at its peak in February and March at the time of Aryabhata.
Festivals Of The World
Grand Mother in: Festivals Of The World, Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd
- In India with the new year comes the festival of Makar Sankranti, a festival celebrated by Hindus. Makar Sankranti falls on the day of the year when the sun, the king of all planets, is in the rasi (house) of Makar (Capricorn). This is considered to be the most holy festival of the year. Makar Sankranti always falls on January 14. According to the Hindu calendar, it is celebrated in the month of Magha.
- In: p. 72.
- The day begins with a bath in a river or tank, when water is offered to the Sun god. The rivers and tanks are often crowded with people eager to have a bath. An important aspect of Makar Sankranti is giving charity. It is believed that people who perform charitable deeds earn a place in heaven.
- In: p. 72.
- In the west of India, in the state of Maharashtra, sweets made of sesame are exchanged. In Gujarat, kite-flying competitions take place. The sky is flooded with brightly- coloured kites.
- In: p. 73.
- In North India, apart from Makar Sankranti, Lohri is also celebrated around this time. It falls on 13th January. Primarily is celebrated in Punjab, it is a harvest festival.
- In: p. 73.
- Huge bonfires are lit in the evening and sweets and puffed rice are offered to the fire. People sing and dance around the fire to the beat of dholak (drum). The men dance the bhangra dance while the women dance the gidda.
- In: p. 73.