Happy Makar Sankranti

Makar 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.
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 event. Makara Sankranthi 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.

History

According to the Hindu calendar Makar Sankranti is a festival celebrated at Magh 1st of Hindu Solar Calendar for the happiness of getting new crops for farmers.It also symbols the end of the winter solace which makes the day last longer than night.

Date and significance

Makar Sankranti has an astrological significance, as the sun enters the Capricorn (Sanskrit: Makara) zodiac constellation on that day. This date remains almost constant with respect to the Gregorian calendar. However, precession of the Earth’s axis (called ayanamsa) causes Makar Sankranti to move over the ages. A thousand years ago, Makar Sankranti was on 31 December and is now on 14 January. According to calculations, commencing the year 2050, Makar Sankranti will fall on 15 January and occasionally on 16 January.

Makar Sankranti is a major harvest festival celebrated in various parts of India. Makara Sankranti commemorates the beginning of the harvest season and cessation of the northeast monsoon in South India. The movement of the Sun from one zodiac sign into another is called Sankranti and as the Sun moves into the Capricorn zodiac known as Makara in Sanskrit, this occasion is named as Makara Sankranti in the Indian context. It is one of the few Hindu Indian festivals which are celebrated on a fixed date i.e. 14 January

Makar Sankranti, apart from a harvest festival is also regarded as the beginning of an auspicious phase in Indian culture. It is said as the ‘holy phase of transition’. It marks the end of an inauspicious phase which according to the Hindu calendar begins around mid-December. It is believed that any auspicious and sacred ritual can be sanctified in any Hindu family, this day onwards. Scientifically, this day marks the beginning of warmer and longer days compared to the nights. In other words, Sankranti marks the termination of winter season and beginning of a new harvest or spring season.

All over the country, Makar Sankranti is observed with great fanfare. However, it is celebrated with distinct names and rituals in different parts of the country. In the states of northern and western India, the festival is celebrated as the Sankranti day with special zeal and fervour. The importance of this day has been signified in the ancient epics like Mahabharata also. So, apart from socio-geographical importance, this day also holds a historical and religious significance. As it is the festival of Sun God, and he is regarded as the symbol of divinity and wisdom, the festival also holds an eternal meaning to it.

Makar Sankranti and the Winter Solstice

Many Indians conflate this festival with the Winter Solstice, and believe that the sun ends its southward journey (Sanskrit: Dakshinayana) at the Tropic of Capricorn, and starts moving northward (Sanskrit: Uttarayaana) towards the Tropic of Cancer, in the month of Pausha on this day in mid-January.

There is no observance of Winter Solstice in the Hindu religion. Further, the Sun makes its northward journey on the day after winter solstice when day light increases. Therefore, Makar Sankranti signifies the celebration of the day following the day of winter solstice.

Scientifically, currently in the Northern Hemisphere, winter solstice occurs between December 21 and 22. Day light will begin to increase on 22 December and on this day, the Sun will begin its northward journey which marks Uttarayaan. The date of winter solstice changes gradually due to the Axial precession of the Earth, coming earlier by approximately 1 day in every 70 years. Hence, if the Makara Sankranti at some point of time did mark the day after the actual date of winter solstice, a date in mid-January would correspond to around 300CE.

Sankranti

Sankranti is celebrated all over South Asia with some regional variations. It is known by different names and celebrated with different customs in different parts of the country popularly celebrated in Karnataka (Sankranthi), Telangana (Sankranthi), Andhra pradesh (Sankranthi) and Tamil Nadu (Pongal).

In India it is known by different regional names.

Makar Sankranti: Chhattisgarh, Goa, Odisha, Haryana,[Bihar], Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, and West Bengal
Pongal, Uzhavar Thirunal: Tamil Nadu
Uttarayan: Gujarat
Maghi: Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. The day before, people of Punjab celebrate Lohri.
Bhogali Bihu: Assam
Shishur Saenkraat: Kashmir Valley
Khichdi: Uttar Pradesh and western Bihar
Makara Sankramana: Karnataka
In other countries too the day is celebrated but under different names and in different ways.

Nepal: Maghe Sankranti
Tharu people,
Maithali, Newar :- Maghe Sankranti

Other people: Maghe Sankranti or Maghe Sakrati
Thailand: สงกรานต์ Songkran
Laos: Pi Ma Lao
Myanmar: Thingyan
Cambodia: Moha Sangkran
Sri Lanka: Pongal, Uzhavar Thirunal

Traditions, rituals and celebration

This is the one of the very important rituals in India to be performed on Makar Sankranti. Women will offer the Shreemangalchandika prapatti on the day of Sankranti (the 14th or the 15th of January). It holds a significance because on this day, Mata Mahishasurmardini with the purpose of destroying Mahishasur, first set foot on earth, in the Kataraaj ashram of Rishi Kardam and Devahuti. Women will offer the ShreeMangalChandika Prapatti‘Shreemangalchandika naimittik prapatti’ after sunset on the day of Sankranti. This again because it was after sunset that the Mahishasurmardini set foot in the Kataraaj ashram. If She were to come during the day, no man would have been able to bear her radiance and so She came after sunset, when it was dark.

Offering the prapatti on the day of Sankranti makes out of every woman, the protective soldier of her family on the one hand and the bodyguard of each of her family members on the other. Irrespective of whether she is a mother, a sister or a wife, she definitely becomes the protector of the family.

It is also celebrated differently in different regions of India.

Melas

Many melas or fairs are held on Makara 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). Makara Mela in Odisha. Tusu Mela also called as Tusu Porab is celebrated in many parts of Jharkhand and West Bengal.