Makar Sankranti is a Hindu festival that is celebrated with enthusiasm across North India every year on 14th January. The day marks the end of winters and the beginning of a new harvest season. The day is celebrated across the country with different names. In Punjab, it is called Lohri, in UP it is known as Khichdi and Pongal in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Can you recall the kite flying festival in Gujarat called Uttarayan? Yes, that is one of the versions of this beautiful festival as well. Read on to find out the religious and historical significance of Makar Sankranti 2021.
- Lohri: One day prior to Makar Sankranti, people of Punjab region celebrate Lohri where everyone gathers around the bonfire and offer til, puffed rice, peanuts to the pure flames of fire and praying for prosperity and abundance from Lord Agni (fire).
- Uttarayan: In the state of Gujarat, people celebrate this day by flying kites with their families and friends enjoying the warmer days. The kite is symbolic as it is believed that higher you fly the kite, more prosperous you will be in life.
- Pongal: Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Pongal in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh for four days.
- Khichdi: In states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, Makar Sankranti is celebrated on the same date and is known as Khichdi or donation. People are encouraged to eat and offer khichdi or ingredients to others like urad dal, moong dal, rice, blankets etc. The four-day Magh Mela is organized every year near the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati in Allahabad to celebrate this occasion.
- Sankranti: In Maharashtra, married women exchange and donate cotton sarees, oil and salt with other married women.
Religious Significance of Makar Sankranti
The festival of Makar Sankranti is dedicated to Lord Surya (Sun). On Makar Sankranti, the Sun enter the new zodiac called Makar or Capricorn and marks the end of winter season and beginning of longer days as the Sun starts its northward journey or Uttarayan. When the Sun would start its southward journey, starting from Karka Sankranti to Makar Sankranti, it is known as Dakshinayan.
Sankranti is a deemed deity as per the Hindu calendar. On Makar Sankranti, the Devi killed a devil known as Sankrasur. On the next day, she killed another devil or asura called Kinkasur, which is why the day next Makar Sankranti is also known as Kinkrat.
How Makar Sankranti Is Celebrated
On the day of Makar Sankranti, people wake up early to take a dip in the holy waters of Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Godavari and Krishna. They chant purifying mantras while taking a bath on this auspicious day to shed away their sins.
Following the bath, it is considered a good omen that people donate and exchange laddoos made of gur (jaggery), til (sesame), peanuts and mawa with their loved ones. They are also encouraged to do charity and feed the unfortunate khichdi.
Others spend their day wearing new clothes and flying colourful kites throughout the day.
Importance of Makar Sankranti 2021
- One of the interesting facts about this festival is that while rest of the Hindu festivals follow the lunar calendar, this is the only festival that follows solar calendar which is why it falls exactly on the same day every year.
- As the sun starts its northward journey or Uttarayan, it enters a new zodiac called Capricorn. As per astrology, Saturn is the Lord of the Cancer of Capricorn and the son of Lord Sun. During this transition, Lord Surya comes and stays with his son, which is why this period marks the end of old bitterness and quarrels in life. It signifies that the past must be forgotten and we should not let our egos frame our perspective of the world.
- Makar Sankranti is celebrated by married women across India as they take a dip in holy waters and pray for the longevity of their husbands.
- This auspicious day also marks the beginning of the 14-day long festival called The Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj, Allahabad which is the confluence of the three most important holy rivers of India – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. Taking a dip in the waters at Prayagraj during these 14 days can help you get rid of sins of this and your previous lives and cleanse your karmic slate for future.
- The Hindu Scriptures also believe that if someone passes away on the onset of Uttarayan, he reaches heaven at the end of the Uttarayan and will receive moksha (there won’t be further re-births into this world). This was the reason why Bhishma Pitamah endured pain and waited for Sun to follow Uttarayan as he embraced death in Mahabharata.
On the occasion of Makar Sankranti 2021, we wish that may Lord Sun fill your life with radiance and prosperity.