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Makar Sankranti 2024: Defining India's Rich and Diverse Culture


Makar Sankranti


What is Makar Sankranti?


Makar Sankranti is a harvest festival that is observed every year on the 14th of January. It is celebrated according to the Hindu calendar in the month of Magha. Such a festival is a unique Hindu festival because it follows the solar calendar, unlike most others. It marks the sun's journey from the South to the North, which is considered a special and auspicious time. 'Makar' means 'Capricorn,' and 'Sankranti' means 'transition.' The astrological alignment during Makar Sankranti is called 'Maha-snana-yoga.'


Some people celebrate by taking a dip in rivers, particularly at the confluence of holy rivers. Additionally, Makar Sankranti is the time to express gratitude to Mother Earth as winter starts to fade away. People exchange gifts, particularly til (sesame-based sweets), and indulge in feasts featuring dishes made with green gram, rice, and jaggery.



Significance of Makar Sankranti


Makar Sankranti is well-known for its sesame sweets and kite flying, but it holds deeper significance. This festival marks a significant shift in the zodiac, affecting how we experience our planet. Throughout the year, there are different Sankrantis. Among them, Makar Sankranti is an important one. It signifies the planet's movement, crucial for our existence. The solstice on December 22nd is when the planet's tilt reaches its peak in relation to the sun. After this, the northern movement strengthens. It then brings gradual relief from winter starting from Makar Sankranti.



Different Stories of Makar Sankranti


Makar Sankranti is a very special day in the Hindu calendar. It carries evident religious significance. According to ancient stories, it's when the Sun visits the home of Shani, the Lord of Makar Rashi. Besides, it highlights the unique bond between fathers and sons. Legend also says that on Makar Sankranti, Lord Vishnu defeated demons and buried them under the Manadara Parvata. It signifies the victory of good over evil. The Mahabharata also tells a tale about Bhishma Pitamaha, who, after being wounded by Arjuna's arrows, waited for Uttarayan to attain salvation and break free from the cycle of rebirth.



Makar Sankranti 2024 Celebrations


The way people celebrate Makar Sankranti can differ from one state to another. This festival is marked with enthusiasm. And in some regions, the celebrations extend over 2-4 days. Various rituals are observed, such as lighting bonfires, making rice and sugarcane dishes, and engaging in music and dance activities. These customs may vary. Moreover, they are shared among many cultures celebrating Makar Sankranti.


1. Kite Flying


In Gujarat, the festival is called Uttarayan. There, the main attraction is kite-flying. People gather on their rooftops for kite-flying contests. They create a beautiful and colorful sight that turns the sky into a canvas filled with breathtaking kites.


2. Bonfire Lighting


In Punjab, during Lohri celebrations, folks light bonfires to stay warm. Friends and family gather, exchange gifts, and enjoy treats like gajaks, peanuts, revdi, and popcorn. All the while, they sing folk songs like Sundari Mundari Ho, making the celebration heartwarming and festive.


3. Food


During Makar Sankranti, people follow the tradition of eating freshly harvested grains. They offer them to the Gods before enjoying them. Ayurveda recommends a light and easily digestible dish called Khichdi during this time. Khichdi helps the body adapt from the cold winter to the warmer spring. It prevents imbalances as the temperature changes. This dish not only satisfies hunger but also provides essential nutrition.


Beyond its health benefits, the act of cooking and eating Khichdi on this festival represents unity. The food is prepared in a single pot. It is a combination of freshly harvested rice, lentils, seasonal vegetables, and spices. This symbolizes the cycle of life and marks the start of a new harvest year.


Ayurveda also suggests including Sesame Seeds and Jaggery in the celebration. Sankranti and Til (Sesame) are closely associated, given that the festival is known as ‘Til Sankranti.’ Sesame seeds are believed to absorb negativity. Moreover, they enhance 'Sattva' – purity, goodness, and harmony, contributing to a sense of spiritual well-being.


4. New Clothes


In Karnataka, the festival is known as Suggi. It is a festival that celebrates the harvest, especially for farmers. On this day, girls wear new clothes and visit their loved ones. They share sweets, dried coconut, fried groundnuts, and jaggery mixed with white sesame seeds. This day marks the beginning of the sugarcane harvest season, which is a big deal in the region. In certain areas of Karnataka, newlyweds are supposed to give married women bananas on this day for five years. Each year, the number of bananas given out increases by multiples of five.


5. Vibrant Decorations


In South India, Pongal festivities last for four days. People clean their homes, create beautiful decorations, and burn unnecessary items in a bonfire as part of Bhogi Mantalu. Then comes Pongal Panai, where family members cook rice, milk, and jaggery in a clay pot until it overflows. This act signifies the abundance and prosperity they wish for in the coming year.



Can We Celebrate Makar Sankranti at Home?


The short answer is yes. You can do so by:


  • Waking up early, putting on new traditional clothes, and enjoying the fresh start of the day.

  • Explaining to your kids why we celebrate Makar Sankranti. Emphasize its cultural significance and joyous spirit.

  • Teaching them the 'Gayatri Mantra,' a beautiful prayer that brings positivity to the day.

  • Saying a few words to the sun and offering water and flowers in the morning. Feeling the connection with nature.

  • Cooking some special treats like rice khichadi, sesame sweets, coconut snacks, and sugarcane pudding. These will create a festive atmosphere at home.

  • Helping your kids make colorful kites in different shapes and sizes. Foster their creativity.

  • Letting them have fun flying the kites, enjoying the lively and uplifting experience.



Key Takeaway


Makar Sankranti is more than just a festival. It represents India's diverse culture, historical significance, and agricultural prosperity. While we enjoy the celebrations, let's also adopt eco-friendly habits to keep the spirit of Makar Sankranti bright for generations to come. 


So, as we celebrate Makar Sankranti, let's extend our prayers for the well-being of all. Warm wishes for a joyous Makar Sankranti!



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