Makar Sankranti is a Hindu festival celebrated in almost all parts of India and Nepal in a myriad of cultural forms.
Makar Sankranti marks the transition of the Sun into the zodiac sign of Makar rashi (Capricorn) on its celestial path. The day is also believed to mark the arrival of spring in India and is a traditional event. Makara Sankranti is a solar event making one of the few Indian festivals which fall on the same date in the Gregorian calendar every year: 14 January, with some exceptions when the festival is celebrated on 13 or 15 January.
According to the Hindu calendar, Makar Sankranti is a festival celebrated at Magh 1st of Hindu Solar Calendar for the happiness of getting new crops for farmers. It also symbolizes the end of the winter solace which makes the day last longer than night.
Makar Sankranti has an astrological significance, as the sun enters the Capricorn (Sanskrit: Makara) zodiac constellation on that day. This date remains almost constant with respect to the Gregorian calendar. However, precession of the Earth's axis (called ayanamsa) causes Makar Sankranti to move over the ages. A thousand years ago, Makar Sankranti was on 31 December and is now on 14 January. According to calculations, commencing the year 2050, Makar Sankranti will fall on 15 January and occasionally on 16 January.
Makar Sankranti is a major harvest festival celebrated in India. It commemorates the beginning of the harvest season and cessation of the northeast monsoon in South India. The movement of the Sun from one zodiac sign into another is called Sankranti and as the Sun moves into the Capricorn zodiac known as Makara in Sanskrit, this occasion is named as Makara Sankranti in the Indian context. It is one of the few Hindu Indian festivals that are celebrated on a fixed date, All over the country, Makar Sankranti is observed with great fanfare. However, it is celebrated with distinct names and rituals in different parts of the country. In the states of northern and western India, the festival is celebrated as the Sankranti day with special zeal and fervour. The importance of this day has been signified in the ancient epics like Mahabharata. So, apart from socio-geographical importance, Makar Sankranti holds historical and religious significance. As it is the festival of Sun God, and He is regarded as the symbol of divinity and wisdom, the festival holds an eternal meaning.
Uttarayan, as Makara Sankranti is called in Gujarati, is a major festival in the state of Gujarat which lasts for two days.
- 14 January is Uttarayan
- 15 January is Vasi-Uttarayan (Stale Uttarayan)
Gujarati people keenly await this festival to fly kites, called 'patang'. Kites for Uttarayan are made of special light-weight paper and bamboo and are mostly rhombus shaped with central spine and a single bow. The string often contains abrasives to cut down other people's kites.
In Gujarat, from December through to Makara Sankranti, people start enjoying Uttarayan. Undhiyu (spicy, baked mix of winter vegetables) and chikkis (made from til (sesame seeds), peanuts and jaggery) are the special festival recipes savoured on this day.
In the major cities of Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Ahmedabad, and Bhavnagar the skies appear filled with thousands upon thousands of kites as people enjoy two full days of Uttarayan on their terraces.
When people cut any kites they used to yell with words like "kaypo chhe", "e lapet", "phirki vet phirki" and "lapet lapet" in Gujarati.
In Maharashtra on Makara Sankranti (मकर संक्रान्ति) 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 (गुळाची पोळी / पुरण पोळी) (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 with the words "तिळगुळ घ्या, आणि गोड-गोड बोला / til-gul ghyaa, aani goad-goad bolaa" meaning ‘Accept this til-gul (sweet) and utter sweet words’. The underlying thought in the exchange of til-gul is to forget the past ill-feelings and hostilities and resolve to speak sweetly and remain friends. The importance of sesame seeds is it keeps body warm and provide good oil, which is needed as winter dried up the moisture from body.
In Maharashtra, similar to Andhra Pradesh Makar Sankaranti, is normally a three-day festival.
This festival is celebrated with different names in different states of India.
- Makar Sankranti: Chhattisgarh, Goa, Odisha, Haryana, Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh,Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur,Rajasthan, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, and West Bengal
- Pongal, Uzhavar Thirunal: Tamil Nadu
- Uttarayan: Gujarat
- Maghi: Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. The day before, people of Punjab celebrate Lohri.
- Bhogali Bihu: Assam
- Shishur Saenkraat: Kashmir Valley
- Khichdi: Uttar Pradesh and western Bihar
Makara Sankramana: Karnataka