What is Makar Sankranti ?
The festival of Makar Sankranti is celebrated on 14 or 15 January every year. People celebrate this festival with great joy. It is one of the important festivals of Hinduism that we celebrate to welcome the transition of the Sun God into the zodiac sign of Capricorn. 'Makar' means Capricorn, and 'Sankranti' means transition, so 'Makar Sankranti' means the transition of the Sun in the zodiac to Capricorn, which is considered one of the most auspicious occasions according to Hinduism.
Makar Sankranti is considered a very auspicious day, and bathing in holy rivers like Ganga brings prosperity and happiness in the lives of the devotees. We celebrate Makar Sankranti across the country with different names and customs, such as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Magh Bihu in Assam, Uttarayan in Gujarat, Maghi in Punjab and Haryana, Khichdi in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, etc. People distribute sweets in Maharashtra and Karnataka. The sky is filled with colorful kites on the day of Makar Sankranti. The practice of flying kites on this day is more in Rajasthan and Gujarat.
It is believed that donating rice, wheat, and sweets on the day of Makar Sankranti brings prosperity into a person's life and removes all obstacles. Makar Sankranti is incomplete without sweets made from sesame and jaggery. People prepare and share sweets like Gajak, Chikki, Til Ke Laddu, etc., with family and friends.
Why is Makar Sankranti celebrated ?
Many beliefs are behind celebrating the Makar Sankranti festival in India. On this day, Lord Vishnu ended the war between the Devas and the Asuras, which had been going on for a thousand years. Therefore for the people, it is the festival of the end of evil and the beginning of the era of truth. Apart from this, another belief is that Bhishma had gotten a boon from his father that he would be able to die whenever he wanted to give up his life; on this day, he decided to give up his mortal form. That is why it is considered a very auspicious day.
According to astronomy, the festival of Makar Sankranti is celebrated when the Sun moves from Dakshinayana to Uttarayan, or the Earth's northern hemisphere turns towards the Sun. According to the scriptures, when the Sun stays in Dakshinayana, that period is called the night of the deities, and the six months of Uttarayan are days. Dakshinayana is regarded as a symbol of negativity and darkness, and Uttarayan is regarded as a symbol of positivity and light.
It is believed that on the day of Makar Sankranti, the gods descend on Earth to receive the material given in the yajna, and through this path, the virtuous souls leave their bodies and enter the heavens, etc. According to Sanatan beliefs, on the day of Makar Sankranti, Lord Surya goes to his house to meet his son Shani. Shani Dev is the lord of the Capricorn sign, the effect of Saturn gets weakened just by the entry of the Sun in his house. Because no negativity can stand in front of sunlight. It is believed that by worshiping the Sun on Makar Sankranti and donating related to it, all the defects caused by Saturn are removed.
According to the scriptures, on the day of Makar Sankranti, Goddess Ganga, who came out of the thumb of Lord Vishnu, followed Bhagirath and joined the ocean through the ashram of Kapil Muni and the sons of Maharaj Sagar, the ancestor of Bhagirath, were liberated. That is why on this day, a huge fair is held at the ashram of Kapil Muni in Gangasagar, Bengal.
Significance of Makar Sankranti
The transit of the Sun in Makara or Uttarayan is of spiritual importance, and it is believed that taking a dip in holy rivers like Ganga helps wash away all our sins and makes our souls pure. Makar Sankranti shortens the nights and lengthens the days, which signifies the growth of spiritual light and the reduction of materialistic darkness. It is also believed that taking a holy bath at Triveni Sangam in Prayagraj on Makar Sankranti during 'Kumbh Mela' is of great importance, which washes away all our sins and removes all obstacles in life.
Taking a bath in Gangasagar is very important on the day of Makar Sankranti. According to another mythological story, Bhishma Pitamah kept waiting for the Sun to become Uttarayan after the end of the Mahabharata war. He gave up his life on Makar Sankranti. It is also believed that on this day, Mother Yashoda fasted to get Lord Krishna.
According to the Padma Purana, charity is of great importance on the day of Uttarayan of the Sun, that is, on the day of Makar Sankranti. One should take a bath before sunrise on the day of Makar Sankranti. By doing this, the fruit of ten thousand cows is obtained. On this day, the blessings of Lord Surya and Shani Dev are obtained by donating woolen clothes, blankets, and dishes made of sesame, jaggery, and khichdi. Although by bathing in any pilgrimage, river, and sea in the month of Uttarayan of the Sun, one can get freedom from sufferings by doing charity, the result of bathing in Prayagraj Sangam is salvation.