Makarsankranti is a festival of harvest not only in the major agricultural nation one like India but also in the adjoining countries like Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Thailand in various cultural forms.
1. Makarsankranti is celebrated every year on 14th of January. This day marks the transition of the sun into the Tropic of Capricorn; Capricorn or ‘Makar’ being the sunsign of the month. The movement of the sun is known as ‘sankranti’. Hence, the name of the festival inspired by the cosmos is known as ‘Makarsankranti’
2. Makarsankranti also unites the world in one essence. It is celebrated as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Uttarayan in Gujrat, Maghi in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, Shishur Saenkrat in the Kashmir Valley, Khichri in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and Makara Sankramana in Kanataka. Across the border Makarsankranti is Maghe Sankranti in Nepal, Songkran in Thailand and various other names all over the world.
3. This festival holds significance even from the scientific lens. Flying kites high up in the sky and basking in the sun are major activities of the day. It releases endorphin in the body also known as “feel good hormones” and the sunlight provides enough vitamin D. After a month of dark winters, the warmer sunrays leave the atmosphere germfree.
4. An important myth goes behind the celebration of Makarsankranti. According to the legend ‘Bheeshmapitamah’ after being severely injured in the epic battle of Mahabharata waited until Uttarayan to take his final breath. Therefore, it is believed that anyone who dies on this day attains salvation and gains freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
5. Sweets made of sesame seeds and jiggery commonly known as til and gur respectively are made in generous quantity. It’s a day when family and friends meet and greet. It’s a traditional custom to have satvic or Vedic food like porridge or khichri and chuda-dahi (beaten rice and yogurt). However it may vary in bits from place to place.
6. One of the fundamental philosophies of Hinduism is to be greatful to the nature for it makes life sustainable. Therefore, Makarsankranti is also a “thankgiving day” where heartfelt gratitude is extended not only to the sun and the skies but also to the cattle especially cows that are treated as holy mothers in Vedas and Upanishads.
7. Ever wondered what “Kai Po Che”, the title of a popular Bollywood movie means? It literally means “I cut it”. It’s a phrase that people in Gujarat and Maharashtra exclaim in joy when they cut a kite in the festival of Uttarayan. It is to let others know of their victory.
8. Another significance of Makarsankranti is its association with the “Kumbh Mela”. This association is drawn from the legendary story of King Bhagiratha who drew Ganga to the ‘Paatala Lok’ on the day of Makarsankranti to get salvation for his ancestors from the curse of Sage Kapila. Hence, thousands of people gather to take a dip in the Ganges in hope to cleanse their sins and be one with the ‘brahma’ after death.