Makar Sankranti is one of the oldest and most vibrant festivals of India. Believed to be 5000 years old, it is observed in January in different ways, in different parts of the country by different names. It marks the entry of the sun into the zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn). Unlike other Hindu festivals that are celebrated based on the lunar calendar, Makar Sankranti is observed according to the solar calendar and hence, falls on 14th January (the same date) every year. It is the first festival of the year.
Legends and the History of Makar Sankranti
Makar Sankranti celebrates the end of winter, the onset of summer and augurs a 6-month auspicious period known as Uttaarayan. The period of Uttaraayan can, in fact, be traced to the ancient epic Mahabharata, when Bhishma Pitamah lay down on a bed of arrows and waited for the sun to be in Uttaraayan to breathe his last breath. Therefore, it was during Makar Sankranti that he chose to give up his body.
Another legend associated with the festival is that of the descent of Ganga. It is said that King Bhagiratha prayed to Brahma for a thousand years for the purification of the souls of his ancestors. However, only river Ganga could purify the souls by washing their ashes and for that, Ganga would have to come down from heaven to earth. Brahma offered to send Ganga down but warned that her thundering and forceful entry would destroy the earth. He asked King Bhagiratha to seek Lord Shiva’s help for this difficult task. Bhagiratha prayed to Lord Shiva and finally the latter agreed to break the force of Ganga’s entry in His matted locks. According to the legend, on the holy day of Makar Sankranti, the powerful and gushing Ganga descended from the Himalayas on to the head of Lord Shiva, who seized all her energy in His matted hair, so that she could peacefully flow on earth and purify every soul.
Importance of Makar Sankranti
The day is dedicated to the Hindu God Surya (sun) and is observed to express gratitude to nature for her bountiful and abundant resources. Known as a harvest festival, Makar Sankranti is also celebrated as Sankranti in parts of northern India (Lohri is celebrated a day before Sankranti), Bhogali Bihu in Assam, Suggi in Karnataka and Pongal in Tamil Nadu. The time before the festival is marked by intensive labour because of harvesting of certain crops like sugarcane and sowing new crops.
How is Makar Sankranti Celebrated? Traditions and Practices
There are various spiritual practices, festivities and traditions associated with Makar Sankranti. Gayatri Mantra is chanted on this auspicious day and special poojas are performed. It is also believed that by taking a dip in the holy rivers of the Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari or Krishna on this day, one will be absolved of all past sins.
In certain parts of the country, people make a special sweet of jaggery and sesame. This traditional sweet symbolises joyfulness, togetherness, peace and harmony despite diversity and apparent differences. In the northern states of the country, a huge bonfire is lit and people gather around it while singing songs and dancing. Kite flying is another custom associated with Makar Sankranti. Fairs or melas are also organised on this day. The Kumbh Mela, one of the world’s largest pilgrimages organised every 12 years on Makar Sankranti, is being held this year from the 15th of January to 4th of March. It is estimated that 130 to 140 million people will attend the mela over a period of 7 weeks.
Makar Sankranti, 2019 Celebrations at Shivoham Shiva Temple
Join us at the Shivoham Shiva Temple for Makar Sankranti, 2019 celebrations on the 14th of January. Devotees can perform Rudra Abhishek and Ganga Aarti, and partake in the holy Ganga Snan – a special Sankranti ritual specially organised at the temple for the festival. Be blessed!
We wish all our devotees and readers a Happy Makar Sankranti!