Makar Sankranti, also known as Uttarayan, is a popular Hindu festival celebrated in different parts of India with great enthusiasm and fervour. It is observed every year on the 14th of January, marking the transition of the Sun into the zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn). This festival holds a significant place in Indian culture and is considered as one of the most auspicious occasions, symbolizing new beginnings and prosperity. In 2024, Makar Sankranti will be celebrated on January 15, adding more joy to this already joyous festival
The origins of Makar Sankranti can be traced back to ancient times when people used to worship the Sun god and celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of longer days. It is also believed that on this day, Lord Surya (Sun god) visits his son Lord Shani (Saturn) and forgives him for all his wrongdoings. This festival holds a special significance for farmers as it marks the beginning of the harvest season and is celebrated with great fervour in rural areas.
As Makar Sankranti is celebrated across India, let's take a look at how this auspicious festival is observed in different states of the country.
1. Uttar Pradesh: In Uttar Pradesh, Makar Sankranti is known as 'Khichdi' or 'Khichri' and is celebrated by preparing a dish made of rice and lentils. People take holy dips in the Ganges river and offer prayers to the Sun god. The famous Kumbh Mela, which is held every 12 years, also begins on this day in Uttar Pradesh.
2. Gujarat: In Gujarat, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as 'Uttarayan' and is one of the most vibrant festivals of the state. The skies are filled with colourful kites of all shapes and sizes, and people engage in friendly kite-flying competitions. The famous International Kite Festival is also held in Gujarat during this time, attracting kite enthusiasts from all over the world.
3. Maharashtra: In Maharashtra, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as 'Sankranti' and is marked by the exchange of sweets made of jaggery and sesame seeds. People also make special dishes like tilgul ladoos and greet each other with the traditional phrase "tilgul ghya, god god bola" which means "eat sesame seeds and speak sweetly". The festival is also celebrated by flying kites, similar to the tradition in Gujarat.
4. West Bengal: In West Bengal, Makar Sankranti is known as 'Poush Sankranti' and is celebrated as a harvest festival. People take dips in holy rivers like Ganga and offer prayers to the Sun god. The special dish prepared during this time is called 'Pithe', which is a sweet made of rice flour, coconut, jaggery, and milk.
5. Tamil Nadu: In Tamil Nadu, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as 'Pongal' and marks the beginning of the Tamil month of Thai. People decorate their houses with colourful rangolis and prepare sweet rice dishes called 'Pongal'. This festival is also celebrated as a thanksgiving to the Sun god for a bountiful harvest.
6. Punjab: In Punjab, Makar Sankranti is known as 'Lohri' and is celebrated with great pomp and show. People gather around bonfires, perform traditional dance forms like Bhangra and Giddha, and offer prayers to the Sun god for a good harvest. The festival is also marked by the distribution of sweets made of jaggery and sesame seeds.
7. Assam: In Assam, Makar Sankranti is known as 'Magh Bihu' and is celebrated for a week. People light bonfires, exchange sweets, and play traditional games like buffalo fights and cockfights. The celebrations also include traditional dance performances and feasts with delicacies made of rice, coconut, and jaggery.
8. Andhra Pradesh: In Andhra Pradesh, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as 'Pedda Panduga' or 'Sankranthi' and is a four-day festival. People decorate their houses with colourful rangolis, fly kites, and perform puja to the Sun god. The festival is also marked by the preparation of traditional dishes like 'Pulihora' and 'Pongal'.
9. Kerala: In Kerala, Makar Sankranti is known as 'Makaravilakku' and is celebrated at the Sabarimala temple. The temple is adorned with lights and people gather to witness the divine appearance of Makaravilakku (a celestial light) on the day of Makar Sankranti. The festival also marks the end of the Sabarimala pilgrimage season.
10. Rajasthan: In Rajasthan, Makar Sankranti is known as 'Sankrat' and is celebrated with great fervour. People wear traditional clothes, decorate their homes, and fly kites. Special dishes like 'Ghevar' (a sweet made of flour, sugar syrup, and ghee) are prepared during this time.
Apart from these states, Makar Sankranti is also celebrated in other parts of India with different names and customs. However, the common thread that binds all these celebrations is the spirit of joy, unity, and thanksgiving to the Sun god for his blessings.