Celebrating New Beginnings with Makar Sankranti… Kai Po Che!!!

January 13, 2016, In: Festivals
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‘A string of rope connecting, I soar on the wind’s wings,
   I feel no heaviness, no boundaries, no obstacles,
Up and Up, higher and higher,
I fly away with new hopes, new dreams and a new desire.’

Kite Flying is not a sport. But it is a celebration – a celebration marking new beginnings and a new phase of the year. The day marks the sun transitioning – known as ‘Sankranti’ in Sanskrit, from Tropic of Cancer – ‘Dakshinayana’ to Tropic of Capricorn – ‘Uttarayana’. It is also known as Makar Sankranti in Hindu Vedic Astrology, as a literal translation of ‘Sun’s movement to Capricorn’ which occurs during Mid-January. This day is dedicated to Lord Surya (Sun God) in Vedic Puranas as he is regarded as symbol of divinity and wisdom.

It is a major harvest festival celebrated across India and Nepal. Traditionally being an agricultural land, the festival is considered sacred and auspicious as it marks the beginning of the harvest season and end of the north-eastern monsoon in South India. The day is known as Makar Sankranti in Western, Central and some parts of South India, Uttarayana in Gujarat, Lodhi or Maghi in Northern India and Pongal in Tamil Nadu. This year, the day falls on 15th January 2016.

Many parts of western India partake in celebrations with Kite Flying. Gujarat also holds an annual ‘International Kite Flying’ event with people participating from all over the world. Women make seasoned sweets with ‘Til’ and ‘Jaggery’ which are offered to everyone with an exuberant cheer of ‘Tilgud Ghya Ani Goud Goud Bola’, wishing everyone a prosperous year ahead.  Farmers in Northern India pray to the god for a good year by offering the first harvest in a ceremonial fire. Southern India has elaborate rituals that last four days. It begins by offering puja to Lord Indra to please him for a bountiful harvest on the first day, then to Lord Surya for better yield on the second, praying and feeding cattle and herds on the third and celebrating by having a feast with family members on the final day.

There are several interesting facts about Makar Sankranti worth noting.

1)    It falls almost on the same day each year – 14th or 15th January.
2)    The night and the day on Makar Sankranti are equally long. The days grow longer after Uttarayana.
3)    According to folklore, Lord Surya forgets his anger and visits his son Lord Shani on this day. ‘Til’ is one of the several things offered to Lord Shani to please him. Hence the whole symbolic gesture of sharing Tilgud amongst family, friends and foes alike.
4)    In earlier days, Kite-flying was done in the morning to soak up the benefits of the sun after a long winter solstice to avoid or wade off any infection or illness. The same is practiced today, although in a more celebratory form.
5)    The day is associated with new beginnings including pilgrimages as it marks the beginning of the ‘Kumbh Mela’ in Uttar Pradesh and ‘Sabrimala’ in South India.

A day of both reverence and celebrations, it brings people a new hope and a new vigour to look forward to better year head.

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