Festive celebrations of Makar Sankranti
|Also called||Magha Mela|
|Type||Religious & Cultural|
|Significance||Festival of Harvest, welcome longer days, sun worship|
|Celebrations||Kite flying, bonfires, fairs, surya puja in river, feast, arts, dance, socialization|
|Date||14 January (Depends on Hindu Calendar Correlation)|
|2017 date||14 January|
|2018 date||15 January (Karnataka)|
14 January (Maharashtra)
15 January (Telangana & Andhra Pradesh)
|Related to||Maghe Sankranti, Magh Bihu, Shakrain, Maghi (Sikhism)|
Makar Sankranti, also known as Makara Sankrānti (Sanskrit: मकर सङ्क्रान्ति) or Maghi, is a festival day in the Hindu calendar, in reference to deity Surya (sun). It is observed each year in January. It marks the first day of sun's transit into the Makara (Capricorn), marking the end of the month with the winter solstice and the start of longer days.
Makar Sankranti is one of the few ancient Indian festivals that has been observed according to solar cycles, while most festivals are set by the lunar cycle of the lunisolar Hindu calendar. Being a festival that celebrates the solar cycle, it almost always falls on the same Gregorian date every year (January 14), except in some years when the date shifts by a day for that year. The festivities associated with Makar Sankranti are known by various names such as Maghi (preceded by Lohri) by north Indian Hindus and Sikhs, Makara Sankranti (Pedda Pandaga) in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Sukarat in central India, Magh Bihu by Assamese, and Pongal by Tamils.
Makar Sankranti is observed with social festivities such as colorful decorations, rural children going house to house, singing and asking for treats in some areas (or pocket money),melas (fairs), dances, kite flying, bonfires and feasts. The Magha Mela, according to Diana L. Eck (professor at Harvard University specializing in Indology), is mentioned in the Hindu epic (the Mahabharata), thus placing this festival to be around 5,000 years old. Many go to sacred rivers or lakes and bathe with thanksgiving to the sun. Every twelve years, the Hindus observe Makar Sankranti with one of the world's largest mass pilgrimage, with an estimated 40 to 100 million people attending the event. At this event, they say a prayer to the sun and bathe at the Prayaga confluence of the River Ganga and River Yamuna at the Kumbha Mela, a tradition attributed to Adi Shankaracharya.
Makara Sankranti is set by the solar cycle of the Hindu lunisolar calendar, and is observed on a day which usually falls on 14 January of Gregorian calendar, but sometimes 15 January. It signifies the arrival of longer days. Makar Sankranti falls in the Hindu calendar solar month of Makara, and lunar month of Magha (the festival is also called Magha Sankranti or Magha festival in parts of India). It marks the end of the month with winter solstice for India and the longest night of the year, a month that is called Pausha in lunar calendar and Dhanu in the solar calendar in the Vikrami system. The festival celebrates the first month with consistently longer days.
There are two different systems to calculate the Makara Sankranti date: nirayana (without adjusting for precession of equinoxes, sidereal) and sayana (with adjustment, tropical). The January 14 date is based on the nirayana system, while the sayana system typically computes to about December 23, per most Siddhanta texts for Hindu calendars.
The festival is dedicated to the Hindu sun god, Surya. This significance of Surya is traceable to the Vedic texts, particularly the Gayatri Mantra, a sacred hymn of Hinduism found in its scripture named the Rigveda. The festival also marks the beginning of a six months auspicious period for Hindus known as Uttarayana period.
Makar Sankranti is regarded as important for spiritual practices and accordingly, people take a holy dip in rivers, especially Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri. The bathing is believed to result in merit or absolution of past sins. They also pray to the sun and thank for their successes and prosperity. A shared cultural practices found amongst Hindus of various parts of India is making sticky, bound sweets particularly from sesame (til) and a sugar base such as jaggery (gud, gur). This type of sweet is a symbolism for being together in peace and joyfulness, despite the uniqueness and differences between individuals. For most parts of India, this period is a part of early stages of the Rabi crop and agricultural cycle, where crops have been sown and the hard work in the fields is mostly over. The time thus signifies a period of socializing and families enjoying each other's company, taking care of the cattle, and celebrating around bonfires, in Maharashtra the festival is celebrated by flying kites.
Makar Sankranti is an important pan-Indian solar festival, known by different names though observed on the same date, sometimes for multiple dates around the Makar Sankranti. It is known as Makara Sankranti in Karnataka, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Pedda Panduga in Andhra Pradesh, Magh Bihu in Assam, Magha Mela in parts of central and north India, as Makar Sankranti in the west, and by other names.
Nomenclature and regional names
Makara or Makar Sankranti is celebrated in many parts of Indian subcontinent with some regional variations. It is known by different names and celebrated with different customs in different parts of the region:
- Suggi Habba, Makara Sankramana, Makara Sankranthi :Karnataka
- Makara Sankranthi: Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala
- Makar Sankranti:Chhattisgarh, Goa, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Jammu
- Thai Pongal, Uzhavar Thirunal:Tamil Nadu
- Maghi:Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab.
- Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu: Assam
- Shishur Saenkraat:Kashmir Valley
- Khichdi:Uttar Pradesh and western Bihar
- Poush Sangkranti: West Bengal
- Tila Sakrait:Mithila
In other countries too the day is celebrated by Hindus, but under different names and in different ways.
It is celebrated differently across the Indian subcontinent. Many people take a dip in places like Ganga SagarPrayag and pray to the Sun God (Surya). It is celebrated with pomp in southern parts of India as Sankranti in Karnataka (Pongal in Tamil Nadu), and in Punjab as Maghi.
Many melas or fairs are held on Makar Sankranti the most famous being the Kumbha Mela, held every 12 years at one of four holy locations, namely Haridwar, Prayag (Allahabad), Ujjain and Nashik. The Magha Mela (or mini-Kumbh Mela held annually at Prayag) and the Gangasagar Mela (held at the head of the Ganges River, where it flows into the Bay of Bengal). Makar Mela in Odisha. Tusu Mela also called as Tusu Porab is celebrated in many parts of Jharkhand and West Bengal. Poush Mela is an annual fair and festival that takes place in Santiniketan, in Birbhum District of West Bengal.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
The festival, Sankranti (మకర సంక్రాంతి), is celebrated for four days in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana:
- Day 1 – Bhoghi (భోగి) (Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka )
- Day 2 – Makara Sankranti (మకర సంక్రాంతి-పెద్ద పండుగ), the main festival day
- Day 3 – Kanuma (కనుమ) (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana)
- Day 4 — Mukkanuma (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana)
The day preceding Makara Sankranti is called Bhoghi (భోగి). This is when people discard old and derelict things and concentrate on new things causing change or transformation. At dawn, people light a bonfire with logs of wood, other solid fuels and wooden furniture that are no longer useful.
- Makara Sankranti(మకర సంక్రాంతి)
The second day is Makara Sankranti. People wear new clothes, pray to God, and make offerings of traditional food to ancestors who have died. They also make beautiful and ornate drawings and patterns on the ground with chalk or flour, called "Rangoli" or "muggu" in Telugu, in front of their homes. These drawings are decorated with flowers, colours and small, hand-pressed piles of cow dung, called "gobbemma" (గొబ్బెమ్మ).
For this festival all families prepare Chakinalu, Nuvvula Appalu, Gare Appalu or Katte Appalu or karam appalu, Madugulu (Jantikalu), Bellam Appalu, kudumulu, Ariselu, Appalu (a sweet made of jaggery and rice flour) dappalam (a dish made with pumpkin and other vegetables) and make an offering to God.
On the third day, Kanuma (కనుమ) is celebrated. Kanuma is very intimate to the hearts of farmers because it is the day for praying and showcasing their cattle with honor. Cattle are the symbolic indication of prosperity. On the day after Makara Sankranti, the animal kingdom is remembered and, in particular, cows. Girls feed the animals, birds and fish as a symbol of sharing.
The fourth day is called Mukkanuma (ముక్కనుమ) which is popular among the non-vegetarians of the society. On this day, farmers offer prayers to the elements (like soil, rain, fire for helping the harvest) and the (village) goddesses with their gifts which sometimes (and these days mainly) include animals. People in Telangana and Coastal Andhra do not eat any meat (or fish) during the first three days of the festival and do so only on the day of Mukkanuma. Kanuma, Mukkanuma and the day following Mukkanuma call for celebrations with union of families, friends, relatives. People play with kites and the sky is filled with beautiful kites.
Another notable feature of the festival in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh is the Haridasu who goes early in the morning around with a colourfully dressed cow, singing songs of Lord Vishnu (Hari) hence the name Haridasu (servant of Hari). It is a custom that he should not talk to anyone and only sing songs of Lord Vishnu when he goes to everyone's house.
Magh Bihu (মাঘ বিহু) (also called Bhogali Bihu (ভোগালী বিহু) (Bihu of eating foods and enjoyment) or Maghar Domahi (মাঘৰ দোমাহী) is a harvest festival celebrated in Assam, India, which marks the end of harvesting season in the month of Maagha (January–February). It is the Assam celebration of Makar Sankranti, with feasting lasting for a week.
The festival is marked by feasts and bonfires. Young people erect makeshift huts, known as Meji and Bhelaghar, from bamboo, leaves and thatch, and in Bhelaghar they eat the food prepared for the feast, and then burn the huts the next morning. The celebrations also feature traditional Assamese games such as tekeli bhonga (pot-breaking) and buffalo fighting. Magh Bihu celebrations start on the last day of the previous month, the month of "Pooh", usually the 29th of Pooh and usually the 14th of January, and is the only day of Magh Bihu in modern times (earlier, the festival would last for the whole month of Magh, and so the name Magh Bihu). The night before is "Uruka" (28th of Pooh), when people gather around a bonfire, cook dinner, and make merry.
During Magh Bihu people of Assam make cakes of rice with various names such as Shunga Pitha, Til Pitha etc. and some other sweets of coconut called Laru or Laskara.
Bihar and Jharkhand
In Bihar and Jharkhand, the festival is celebrated on 14–15 January.
On 14 January, it is celebrated as Makar Sankranti or Sakraat or Khichdi (in local dialects). As in other parts of country, people take baths in rivers and ponds and feast upon seasonal delicacies as a celebration of good harvest. The delicacies include chura, gur (jaggery), sweets made of til (sesame seeds) such as tilgul, tilwa, maska, etc., curd, milk and seasonal vegetables. Kite flying festivals are organised, albeit on a small scale.
On 15 January, it is celebrated as Makraat (in some parts of the state) when people relish special khichdi (dal-rice replete with cauliflower, peas and potatoes).
The festival is one of the most important. People start their day by worshiping and putting til (sesame seeds) into fire followed by eating "dahi-chuda", a dish made of beaten rice (chuda or poha, in Hindi, or avalakki, in Kannada) served with a larger serving of dahi (curd), with cooked kohada (red pumpkin) that is prepared specially with sugar and salt but no water. The meal is generally accompanied by tilkut and lai (laddu made of til, chuda and rice). The festive meal is traditionally made by women in groups. Since the meal is heavy, lunch is generally skipped on the day and the time is, instead, spent on socializing and participating in kite flying festivals.
At night a special khichdi is made and served with its four traditional companions, "char yaar" (four friends) — chokha (roasted vegetable), papad, ghee and achaar. Since such a rich khichdi is generally made on this festival, the festival is often colloquially referred to as "Khichdi".
Delhi and Haryana
Kayastha community which have been building blocks of Delhi today and Other neighbouring rural communities like Yadavs, Jats which mainly belong to Haryana and Punjab consider Sakraat or Sankranti to be a main festival of the year. Churma of ghee, halwa and kheer are cooked specially in Jats and Yadavs homes on this day. One brother of every married woman visits her home with a gift of some warm clothing for her and her husband's family. It is called "Sidha". Women used to give a gift to their in-laws, and this rituals called "Manana". The recipient will sit in a haweli (main palace where men sit together and share hookka). Women go to haweli to sing folk songs and give gifts.
Known as Sankrant in Goa and like in the rest of the country, people distribute sweets in the form of granules of sugar-coated till pulses among family members and friends, with the words,Till gull gheiat, godd uloiat, meaning Eat seasame and jaggery and sweeten your talk.
12-day Haldi Kumkum festival begins on Makar Sankranti,married women celebrate the festival till Ratha Saptami.Married women visit each other's homes where the women apply Halad(turmeric) and Kumkum (vermilion) to the foreheads of other women and put flowers in their hair,and offer them household gifts. Newly married women offer five sunghat or small clay pots with black beaded threads tied around them,to the deity. These pots are filled with newly harvested food grains and are offered with betel leaves and areca nut. Its observance takes place on a rather subdued note,unlike major festivals of the region like Ganesh chaturthi.
Main article: International Kite Festival in Gujarat – Uttarayan
Uttarayan, as Makar Sankranti is called in Gujarati, is a major festival in the state of Gujarat which lasts for two days.
- 14 January is Uttarayan
- 15 January is Vasi-Uttarayan (Stale Uttarayan).
Gujarati people keenly await this festival to fly kites, called 'patang'. Kites for Uttarayan are made of special light-weight paper and bamboo and are mostly rhombus shaped with central spine and a single bow. The string often contains abrasives to cut down other people's kites.
In Gujarat, from December through to Makar Sankranti, people start enjoying Uttarayan. Undhiyu (spicy, baked mix of winter vegetables) and chikkis (made from til (sesame seeds), peanuts and jaggery) are the special festival recipes savoured on this day. The Hindu Sindhi community in western regions of India, that is also found in southeastern parts of Pakistan, celebrate Makar Sankranti as Tirmoori. On this day, parents sending sweet dishes to their daughters.
In the major cities of Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, and Jamnagar the skies appear filled with thousands upon thousands of kites as people enjoy two full days of Uttarayan on their terraces.
When people cut any kites they yell words like "kaypo chhe", "e lapet","jaay jaay","phirki vet phirki" and "lapet lapet" in Gujarati.
In Shimla District of Himachal Pradesh, Makar Sankranti is known as Magha Saaji. Saaji is the Pahari word for Sakranti, start of the new month. Hence this day marks the start of the month of Magha.
According to Hindu religious texts, on the day of Uttarayani the sun enters the zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn), i.e., from this day onwards the sun becomes 'Uttarayan' or it starts moving to the north. It is said that from this day, which signals a change of season, the migratory birds start returning to the hills. On Magha Saaja people wake up early in the morning and take ceremonial dips and shower in the springs or baolis. In the daytime people visit their neighbours and together enjoy khichdi with ghee and chaas and give it in charity at temples. Festival culminates with singing and Naati (folk dance).
This is the Suggi (ಸುಗ್ಗಿ) or harvest festival for farmers of Karnataka. On this auspicious day, girls wear new clothes to visit near and dear ones with a Sankranti offering in a plate and exchange the same with other families. This ritual is called "Ellu Birodhu." Here the plate would normally contain "Ellu" (white sesame seeds) mixed with fried groundnuts, neatly cut dry coconut and fine cut bella (jaggery). The mixture is called "Ellu-Bella" (ಎಳ್ಳು ಬೆಲ್ಲ). The plate contains shaped sugar candy moulds (Sakkare Acchu, ಸಕ್ಕರೆ ಅಚ್ಚು) with a piece of sugarcane. There is a saying in Kannada "ellu bella thindu olle maathadi" that translates to 'eat the mixture of sesame seeds and jaggery and speak only good.' This festival signifies the harvest of the season, since sugarcane is predominant in these parts. Ellu Bella, Ellu Unde, bananas, sugarcane, red berries, haldi and kumkum and small gift items useful in everyday lives are often exchanged among women in Karnataka.
In some parts of Karnataka, a newly married woman is required to give away bananas for five years to married women (muthaidhe/sumangali) from the first year of her marriage and increase the number of bananas in multiples of five. There is also a tradition of some households giving away red berries "Yalchi Kai" with the above. In north Karnataka, kite flying with community members is a tradition. Drawing rangoli in groups is another popular event among women during Sankranti.
An important ritual is display of cows and bulls in colourful costumes in an open field. Cows are decorated for the occasion and taken on a procession. They are also made to cross a fire. This ritual is common in rural Karnataka and is called "Kichchu Haayisuvudu."
Makar Sankranti is celebrated in Kerala at Sabarimala where the Makara Jyothi is visible followed by the Makaravilakku celebrations.
In the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, Makar Sankranti is celebrated with great gusto. The Uttarayani fair is held in the month of January every year in Bageshwar The religious ritual of the fair consists in bathing before daybreak at the confluence of Saryu and Gomati. After Bathing, an offering of water to Lord Shiva inside the Bagnath Temple is essential. Those who are more religiously disposed, continue this practice for three days in succession, which is known as "Trimaghi".
According to Indian religious texts, on the day of Uttarayani also called Ghughuti (घुघुति) in Kumaon, the sun enters the Zodiacal sign of 'Makara' (Capricon), i.e. from this day onwards the sun becomes 'Uttarayan' or it starts moving to the north. It is said that from this day, which signals a change of season, the migratory birds start returning to the hills. On Makar Sankranti people give Khichadi (a mixture of pulses and rice) in charity, take ceremonial dips in holy rivers, participate in the Uttarayani fairs and celebrate the festival of Ghughutia or Kale Kauva. During the festival of Kale Kauva (literal translation 'black crow') people make sweetmeats out of sweetened flour (flour and gur) deep fried in ghee, shape them in shapes such as drums, pomegranates, knives, and swords. These are fed to crows and other birds.
In Maharashtra on Makar Sankranti (मकर संक्रान्ति) day people exchange multicoloured halwa (sugar granules coated in sugar syrup) and til-gul laadoo (sweetmeats made from sesame seeds and jaggery). Gulachi poli/puran poli (गुळाची पोळी / पुरण पोळी) (flat bread stuffed with soft/shredded jaggery mixed with toasted, ground til [white sesame seeds]) and some gram flour, which has been toasted to golden in pure ghee, are offered for lunch. While exchanging til-gul as tokens of goodwill people greet each other with the words "तिळगुळ घ्या, आणि गोड-गोड बोला / til-gul ghyaa, aani goad-goad bolaa" meaning ‘Accept this til-gul (sweet) and utter sweet words’. The underlying thought in the exchange of til-gul is to forget the past ill-feelings and hostilities and resolve to speak sweetly and remain friends.
The festival is known as Makar Sankranti in Odisha where people prepare makar chaula (Odia: ମକର ଚାଉଳ): uncooked newly harvested rice, banana, coconut, jaggery, sesame, rasagola, Khai/Liaa and chhena puddings for naivedya to gods and goddesses. The withdrawing winter entails a change in food habits and intake of nourishing and rich food. Therefore, this festival holds traditional cultural significance. It is astronomically important for devotees who worship the sun god at the great Konark temple with fervour and enthusiasm as the sun starts its annual swing northwards. According to various Indian calendars, the Sun's movement changes and the days from this day onwards become lengthier and warmer and so the Sun-God is worshiped on this day as a great benefactor. Many individuals at the start of the day perform a ritual bath while fasting. Makar Mela (Fun fair) is observed at Dhabaleswar in Cuttack, Hatakeshwar at Atri in Khordha, Makara Muni temple in Balasore and near deities in each district of Odisha. In Puri special rituals are carried out at the temple of Lord Jagannath. In Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Kalahandi, Koraput and Sundargarh where the tribal population is greater, the festival is celebrated with great joy. They celebrate this festival with great enthusiasm, singing, dancing and generally having an enjoyable time. This Makara Sankranti celebration is next to the Odia traditional new year Maha Vishuva Sankranti which falls in mid April. Tribal groups celebrate with traditional dancing, eating their particular dishes sitting together, and by lighting bonfires.
It is the only Indian festival celebrated on a fixed day of the Gregorian calendar. Besides the usual rituals, people of Orissa, especially Western Orissa, reaffirm the strength of the bond of friendship with their best friends during this occasion. The practice is called ‘Makar Basma’. After a man binds himself with one of his friends in the shackles of friendship during Makar Sankranti, afterwards he addresses the other as ‘Maharshad’ or ‘Marsad’; if two women tie the friendship lace on each other’s wrist, they call each other ‘Makara’. They don’t utter each other’s name. This goes on for one full year till the next Makar Sankranti. In Eastern Orissa, on many occasions, two friends feed each other ‘Mahaprasad’, the offering made in the famous Jagannath temple of Puri, and continue the friendship for at least one year. Orissa Post talks to some women about their experiences when they tied the friendship knot on Makar Sankranti.
Main article: Maghi
In Punjab, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Maghi which is a religious and cultural festival. Bathing in a river in the early hours on Maghi is important. Hindus light lamps with sesame oil as this is supposed to give prosperity and drive away all sins. A major mela is held at Sri Muktsar Sahib on Maghi which commemorates a historical event in Sikh history.
Culturally, people dance their famous "bhangra". They then sit down and eat the sumptuous food that is specially prepared for the occasion. It is traditional to eat "kheer", rice cooked in milk and sugarcane juice. It is also traditional to consume khichdi and jaggery. December and January are the coldest months of the year in the Punjab. Maghi represents the change of the season to warmer temperatures and increase in daylight. Maghi fairs are held in many places.
Rajasthan and Malwa (Western Madhya Pradesh)
"Makar Sankrati" or "Sankrat" in the Rajasthani language is one of the major festivals in the state of Rajasthan. The day is celebrated with special Rajasthani delicacies and sweets such as pheeni (either with sweet milk or sugar syrup dipped), til-paati, gajak, kheer, ghevar, pakodi, puwa, and til-laddoo.
The nation has geared up to welcome not just the warmth of the Lohri bonfire, but also spread the Makar Sankranti cheer and convey greetings of Pongal. Yes, it is indeed the most joyous occasion as the series of winter harvest festivals starting with Lohri, Makar Sankranti and Pongal kick off. Read on to know about the festivals.
Lohri marks the beginning of the end of winter, coming of spring and the new year. The festival is traditionally associated with the harvest of the rabi crops. The traditional time to harvest sugarcane crops is January, therefore, Lohri is seen by some to be a harvest festival. And thus, Punjabi farmers see the day after Lohri (Maghi) as the financial New Year.
There are some interesting socio-cultural and folk-legends connected with Lohri. According to the cultural history of Punjab, Bhatti, a Rajput tribe during the reign of Akbar, inhabited parts of Rajasthan, Punjab, and Gujarat (now in Pakistan). Dulla Bhatti, Raja of Pindi Bhattian, was put to death by the Mughal king for revolting against him. The tribal mirasis (street singers) trace the history of the tribe and interestingly, claim Maharaja Ranjit Singh as one of its scions.
Dulla Bhatti, like Robin Hood, robbed the rich and gave to the poor. The people of the area loved and respected him. He once rescued a girl from kidnappers and adopted her as his daughter. His people would remember their hero every year on Lohri. Groups of children moved from door to door, singing the Dulla Bhatti folk-song: "Dulla Bhatti ho! Dulle ne dhi viyahi ho! Ser shakar pai ho!" (Dulla gave his daughter a kilo of sugar as a marriage gift).
Lohri is essentially a festival dedicated to fire and the sun god. It is the time when the sun transits the zodiac sign Makar (Capricorn), and moves towards the north. Gur rewri, peanuts and popcorns are the three munchies associated with this festival. Besides these, in Punjab villages, it is a tradition to eat gajjak, sarson da saag and makki di roti on the day of Lohri. It is also traditional to eat 'til rice'--sweet rice made with jaggery (gur) and sesame seeds.
Makar Sankranti also known as Makara Sankranti is celebrated in various parts of the Indian subcontinent to observe the day which marks the shift of the sun into ever-lengthening days. The festival is a seasonal observance as well as a religious celebration.
Though extremely popular as Makar Sankranti, the festival is predominantly a harvest festival and is celebrated throughout India, from north to south and east to west. While Makar Sankranti is most popular in West India, down south, the festival is known as Pongal and in the north, it is celebrated as Lohri. Uttarayan, Maghi, Khichdi are some other names of the same festival.
Makar Sankranti is the festival of til-gul where sesame and jaggery laddoos or chikkis are distributed among all.
The festival Makara Sankranthi is a solar event making it one of the few Hindu festivals which fall on the same date in local calendars every year: 14 January, with some exceptions when the festival is celebrated on 15 January.
Makar Sankranti is believed to be a time for peace and prosperity. The day is regarded as important for spiritual practices and accordingly people take a holy dip in rivers, especially Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery. The bathing is believed to wash away sins.
Makar or Makara Sankranti is celebrated in many parts of South Asia with some regional variations. It is known by different names and celebrated with different customs in different parts of the region.
The festival is one of bonding where every member of society is asked to bury the hatchet with enemies and foes and live in peace. Makar Sankranti generally marks the beginning of the Kumbh Mela in Uttar Pradesh while in South India, in Kerala, one of the most austere and difficult pilgrimages of Shabrimala ends on this auspicious day. Other parts of the country too, celebrate by taking a dip in the holy rivers flowing through states to cleanse themselves of sins. It is also believed that if you die during Makar Sankranti, you are not reborn but go directly to heaven.
(Also Read: 8 Traditional Delicacies One Can Dig Into on Makar Sankranti)
Thai is the first month of the Tamil Almanac, and Pongal is a dish of sweet concoction of rice, moong dal, jaggery and milk. This festival is celebrated by one and all as it is non-relevance to any particular religious faith. The whole Tamil population of the world celebrate it without any differences. Therefore it is widely known as "Tamil Thai Pongal" or the "Festival of the Tamils". It is celebrated on the first day of the month Thai of the Tamil calendar.
The festival is a thanks giving ceremony in which the farmers celebrate the event to thank the spirits of nature spirit, the Sun and the farm animals for their assistance in providing a successful harvest. The rest of the people celebrate the festival to pay their thanks to the farmers for the production of food. Overall, it is a festival to encourage social cohesiveness and unite people by bringing them together in a common function. There are many songs about Thai Pongal and there is much Tamil literature about it.
Thai Pongal generally includes customs & celebrations that are the expression of jubilation over life's renewal. On Thai Pongal, the family begins the day early. The traditional Pongal (rice pudding) is prepared in the front garden which is pre-prepared for this ceremonious cooking. A flat square pitch is made and decorated with kolam drawings, and it is exposed to the direct sun light. A fire wood hearth will be set up using three bricks. The cooking begins by putting a clay pot with water on the hearth.
A senior member of the family conducts the cooking and the rest of the family assists him or her or watches the event. When the water has boiled the rice is put into the pot - after a member the family ceremoniously puts three handful of rice in first. The other ingredients of this special dish are chakkarai (brown cane sugar) or katkandu (sugar candy), milk (cow's milk or coconut milk), roasted green gram (payaru), raisins, cashew nuts and few pods of cardamom. When the meal is ready it is first put on a banana leaf and the family pray for few minutes to thank the nature sprit, the sun and farmers.
(Also Read: 5 Types of Payasams You Must Try)