Sunday, 15 January
Makar Sankranti 2023
Makara Sankranti also referred to as Uttarayana, Maghi, or simply Sankranti is a Hindu observance and festival. Usually falling on the date of January 15 annually, this occasion marks the transition of the Sun from the zodiac of Sagittarius (dhanu) to Capricorn (Makara). Since the Sun is regarded to have moved from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere on this day in the Hindu calendar, the festival is dedicated to the solar deity, Surya, and is observed to mark a new beginning. Many native multi-day festivals are organized on this occasion all over India.
Happy Makar Sankranti
The festivities associated with Makar Sankranti are known by various names Magh Bihu in Assam, Maghi in Punjab, Maghi Saaji in Himachal Pradesh, Maghi Sangrand or Uttarain (Uttarayana) in Jammu, Sakrat in Haryana, Sakraat in Rajasthan, Sukarat in central India, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Uttarayana in Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh, Ghughuti in Uttarakhand, Dahi Chura in Bihar, Makar Sankranti in Odisha, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa, West Bengal (also called Poush Sankranti or Mokor Sonkranti), Uttar Pradesh (also called Khichdi Sankranti), Uttarakhand (also called Uttarayani) or as simply, Sankranti in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Maghe Sankranti (Nepal), Songkran (Thailand), Thingyan (Myanmar), Mohan Songkran (Cambodia), Til Sakraait in Mithila, Maghe Sankranti Nepal, and Shishur Senkrath (Kashmir). On Makar Sankranti, the Sun god is worshipped along with Vishnu and the Goddess Lakshmi throughout India.
Makar Sankranti is observed with social festivities such as colorful decorations, rural children going house to house, singing and asking for treats in some areas, melas (fairs), dances, kite flying, bonfires, and feasts. The Magha Mela, according to Indologist Diana L. Eck, is mentioned in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. Many observers go to sacred rivers or lakes and bathe in a ceremony of thanks to the sun. Every twelve years, the Hindus observe Makar Sankranti with Kumbha Mela – one of the world’s largest mass pilgrimages, with an estimated 60 to 100 million people attending the event. At this event, they say a prayer to the sun and bathe at the Prayagaraj confluence of the River Ganga and River Yamuna, a tradition attributed to Adi Shankaracharya. Makar Sankranti is a time of celebration and thanksgiving and is marked by a variety of Rituals and traditions.
Every year Makar Sankranti is celebrated in the month of January. This festival is dedicated to the Hindu religious sun god Surya. This significance of Surya is traceable to the Vedic texts, particularly the Gayatri Mantra, a sacred hymn of Hinduism found in its scripture named the Rigveda. According to the constitution of God, Our Holy Vedas, and Shrimad Bhagwat Geeta, if we take initiation from a Complete Guru/Saint and worship Supreme God and attain emancipation. By performing a true scripture-based way of worship, one’s life becomes blessed, and the Earth will become heaven.
Makara Sankranti is regarded as important for spiritual practices and accordingly, people take a holy dip in rivers, especially Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri. The bathing is believed to result in merit or absolution of past sins. They also pray to the sun and thank it for their successes and prosperity. A shared cultural practice found amongst Hindus of various parts of India is making sticky, bound sweets particularly from sesame (til), and a sugar base such as jaggery (gud, gur, gul). This type of sweet is a symbol of being together in peace and joyfulness, despite the uniqueness and differences between individuals. For most parts of India, this period is a part of the early stages of the Rabi crop and agricultural cycle, where crops have been sown and the hard work in the fields is mostly over. The time thus signifies a period of socializing and families enjoying each other’s company, taking care of the cattle, and celebrating around bonfires, in Gujarat the festival is celebrated by flying kites.
Makara Sankranti is an important pan-Indian solar festival, known by different names though observed on the same date, sometimes for multiple dates around the Makar Sankranti. It is known as Pedda Panduga in Andhra Pradesh, Makara Sankranti in Karnataka, Telangana, and Maharashtra, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Magh Bihu in Assam, Magha Mela in parts of central and north India, Makar Sankranti in the west, Makara Sankranti or Shankaranti in Kerala, and by other names.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
The festival Sankranti is celebrated for four days in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Telugu women Hindus decorate the entrance of their homes with geometric patterns drawn using colored rice flour, called Muggu.
This is the Suggi (ಸುಗ್ಗಿ) or harvest festival for farmers of Karnataka. On this auspicious day, girls wear new clothes to visit near and dear ones with a Sankranti offering on a plate and exchange the same with other families. This ritual is called “Ellu Birodhu.” Here the plate would normally contain “Ellu” (white sesame seeds) mixed with fried groundnuts, neatly cut dry coconut, and fine-cut bella (jaggery). The mixture is called “Ellu-Bella” (ಎಳ್ಳು ಬೆಲ್ಲ). The plate contains shaped sugar candy moulds (Sakkare Acchu, ಸಕ್ಕರೆ ಅಚ್ಚು) with a piece of sugarcane. There is a saying in Kannada “ellu bella thindu olle maathadi” that translates to ‘eat the mixture of sesame seeds and jaggery and speak only good.’ This festival signifies the harvest of the season since sugarcane is predominant in these parts. Ellu Bella, Ellu Unde, bananas, sugarcane, red berries, haldi, and kumkum, and small gift items useful in everyday life are often exchanged among women in Karnataka. During the occasion, newly married women give away bananas for five years to married women from the first year of their marriage. Kite flying, drawing rangolis, and giving away red berries known as Yalchi kai are some of the intrinsic parts of the festival. Another vital ritual in rural Karnataka is the display of decorated cows and bulls and their procession is done they are also made to crossfire and this custom is known as “Kichchu Haayisuvudu”.
In Maharashtra, on Makar Sankrant day people exchange multicolored halwa (sugar granules coated in sugar syrup) and til-gul laadoo (sweetmeats made from sesame seeds and jaggery). Gulachi poli/puran poli(flat bread stuffed with soft/shredded jaggery mixed with toasted, ground til [white sesame seeds]) and some gram flour, which has been toasted to golden in pure ghee, are offered for lunch. While exchanging til-gul as tokens of goodwill people greet each other.
Married women invite friends/family members and celebrate Haldi-Kunku. Guests are given til-gul and some small gifts, as a part of the ritual. Women and men’s make it a point to wear black clothes. As Sakranti falls in the winter months of the region, wearing black adds to the body’s warmth. This is an essential reason behind wearing black, which is otherwise barred on festival days. As per another legend, Lord Surya forgave his son Shani and his son visited him on Sankranti. And that’s why people distribute everyone sweets and urge them to let go of any negative or angry feelings. While distributing sweets famous line “til gul ghya aani god bola” (which means eat this sesame and jaggery and speak sweet words) is used in Maharashtra.And also Newly married women offer five sunghat or small clay pots with black beaded threads tied around them, to the deity. These pots are filled with newly harvested food grains and are offered with betel leaves and areca nut. Its observance takes place on a rather subdued note, unlike major festivals of the region like Ganesh chaturthi.
Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka
The Tamil festival of Pongal coincides with Makar Sankranti and celebrates Surya.
It is a four-day festival in South India and Sri Lanka
Day 1: Bhogi Pandigai (போகி பண்டிகை)
Day 2: Thai Pongal (தை பொங்கல்)
Day 3: Maattu Pongal (மாட்டுப் பொங்கல்)
Day 4: Kaanum Pongal (காணும் பொங்கல்)
The festival is celebrated four days from the last day of the Tamil month Margazhi to the third day of the Tamil month Thai (Pausha).
The first day of festival is Bhogi (போகி). It is celebrated on the last day of Margazhi by throwing away and destroying old clothes and materials, by setting them on fire, marking the end of the old and the emergence of the new. In villages there will be a simple ceremony of “Kappu Kattu” (kappu means secure). The ‘neem’ leaves are kept along the walls and roof of the houses. This is to eliminate evil forces.
A Tamil Hindu girl in traditional dress for Pongal.
The second day of the festival is Thai Pongal or simply Pongal. It is celebrated by boiling rice with fresh milk and jaggery in new pots, which are later topped with brown sugar, cashew nuts, and raisins early in the morning and allowing it to boil over the vessel. This tradition gives Pongal its name. The moment the rice boils over and bubbles out of the vessel, the tradition is to shout “பொங்கலோ பொங்கல் (Ponggalo Ponggal)!” and blow the sangu (a conch), a custom practiced to announce it was going to be a year blessed with good tidings. Then, new boiled rice is offered to the Sun god during sunrise, as a prayer that symbolises thanks to the sun for providing prosperity. It is later served to the people in the house for the ceremony. People prepare savouries and sweets such as vadai, murukku, and payasam and visit each other and exchange greetings.
Jallikattu, or “taming the bull”, is an ancient Pongal tradition.
The third day of festival is Maattu Pongal (மாட்டுப் பொங்கல்). It is for offering thanks to cattle, as they help farmers in agriculture. On this day the cattle are decorated with paint, flowers, and bells. They are allowed to roam free and fed sweet rice and sugar cane. Some people decorate the horns with gold or other metallic covers. In some places, Jallikattu, or taming the wild bull contest, is the main event of this day and this is mostly seen in the villages.
The fourth day of the festival is Kaanum Pongal (காணும் பொங்கல்: the word kaanum means “to view”). During this day people visit their relatives, and friends to enjoy the festive season. It is a day to thank relatives and friends for their support in the harvest. It started as a farmer’s festival, called Uzhavar Thirunaal in Tamil. Kolam (கோலம்) decorations are made in front of the house during the Thai Pongal festival.