One day post Lohri, the highly auspicious Hindu festival; Makar Sankranti is celebrated in almost all parts of India. It is a harvest festival which is celebrated with the worship of Lord Surya Dev in different cultural forms. Makar Sankranti has a profound spiritual significance and refers to a transitional phase where the sun transits from the house of Sagittarius to the house of Capricorn.
Stories behind Celebrating Sankrant
As per hindu mythoogy Lord Shani and Surya do not go along well . However on this auspicious day, in spite of difference between each other it is believed that Lord Surya visits his son, Lord Shani who is ruling deity of Capricorn (Makar) putting their bitterness behind and marking a new beginning.
As per Maharbharata, Son of Goddess Ganga, Bhishma Pitamah bestowed with a boon to die at will, selects this day of Makar Sankranti for his death . It is also believed that people who die this day attain Maoksha. It was on this day when Lord Vishnu ended the ever increasing terrorism of the Asuras by finishing them off and burying their heads under the Mandar Parvat. So this occasion also represents the end of negativities and beginning of an era of righteous living.
Culture & Festivities:
This festival is celebrated differently in different parts of the country.
In Uttar Pradesh, Sankrant is called ‘Khichiri’. Taking a dip in the holy rivers on this day is regarded as most auspicious. A big one-month long ‘Magha-Mela’ fair begins at Prayag (Allahabad) on this occasion.
In Bengal every year a very big Magh Mela is held at Ganga Sagar where the river Ganga is believed to have dived into the nether region and recovered the ashes of the sixty thousand ancestors of King Bhagirath.
In Tamil Nadu Sankrant is known by the name of ‘Pongal’, which takes its name from the surging of rice boiled in a pot of milk, and this festival has more significance than even Diwali. It is very popular particularly amongst farmers. Rice and pulses cooked together in ghee and milk is offered to the family deity after the ritual worship. In essence in the South this Sankrant is a ‘Puja’ (worship) for the Sun God.
In Punjab where December and January are the coldest months of the year, huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Sankrant and which is celebrated as "LOHARI". Sweets, sugarcane and rice are thrown in the bonfires, around which friends and relatives gather together. The following day, which is Sankrant, is celebrated as MAGHI. The Punjabi's dance their famous Bhangra dance till they get exhausted.
In Assam, the festival is celebrated as Bhogali Bihu. Bihu dance forms are the highlight of the event and apart from festivities there is a lot of music and dance that takes place during this time.
In Andhra Pradesh, it is celebrated as a three-day harvest festival Pongal. It is a big event for the people of Andhra Pradesh. The Telugus like to call it 'Pedda Panduga' meaning big festival.
In Maharashtra on the Sankranti day people exchange multi-colored tilguds made from til (sesame seeds) and sugar and til-laddus made from til and jaggery. Til-polis is offered for lunch. While exchanging tilguls as tokens of goodwill people greet each other saying – ‘til-gul ghya, god god bola’ meaning ‘accept these tilguls and speak sweet words’.
This is a special day for the women in Maharashtra when married women are invited for a get-together called ‘Haldi-Kumkum’ and given gifts of any utensil, which the woman of the house purchases on that day.