‘Makar Sankranti’ which is celebrated in many cultural forms, with great enthusiasm and fun is one of the most auspicious days of hindus. It marks the beginning of the journey of ‘Surya Dev’ or Sun-God towards Northern Hemisphere.
According to ‘Puranas’ it is only on these days when Surya Dev visits his son Shani, swami of ‘Makar Rashi’ for one month. Ordinarily, this Father and son do not get along so nicely. Hence it also symbolizes special relationship between Father and Son.
It is believed to be the only day in a year when any auspicious work can be started throughout the day.
It also symbolizes beginning of righteous era and ending of negatives, as on this day Lord Vishnu had killed the Asuras ending their ever increasing terrorism.
According to Mahabharata, Bhishma who had a boon from his father for ‘Ichha-Mrityu’ (Death on one’s own wish), kept lying on the bed made of arrows till this day and started his heavenly journey. It is believed that if any person dies on this day, he is freed from transmigration.
It is the only festival which is celebrated differently in different parts of the country.
Sankranti is celebrated as ‘Khichiri’ in Uttar Pradesh. It is regarded as the most auspicious day to take a dip in the Holy River ‘Ganga’ during this day. The one month long celebration of the Magha-Mela which is held at Pragya (Allahabad) also inaugurates from this day.
Pongal is celebrated in Tamil Nadu on this day. This festival has more significance than any other festival in Tamil Nadu. It is more popular particularly amongst the farmers. After all the rituals of Pongal, a family worships its main diety and offeres special food prepared from rice and pulses which is cooked together in ghee and milk. Sankranti is a ‘Puja’ (worship) for the Sun God in South India.
It is celebrated as a four day festival in Andhra Pradesh. It is popularly known as ‘Pedda Panduga’ which means big festival among Telgus. The first day is celebrated as ‘Bhogi’, second day is ‘Sankranti’, third day is ‘Kanuma’ and the last day is ‘Mukkanuma’.
On the day of Makar Sankranti, multi-colored ‘Tilguls’ or til-laddus are exchanged among the people of Maharashtra. Tilguls are made up of ‘Til’ i.e. Sesame seeds and Sugar and til-laddus are made of ‘Til’ and Jaggery. People while exchanging tilguls greet other saying the phrase ‘Til-gul ghya, god god bola’ meaning ‘accept these tilguls and speak sweet words’. Tilguls are exchanged with the underlying thought to forget the past ill-feeling and conflicts taking a pledge to speak sweetly and remain friends for the future.
Married women are invited for ‘Haldi-Kumkum’ i.e. a small get together and are given any utensil as a gift which is specially bought for this purpose.
In Gujarat there is a custom wherein the adult member of a family gives gift to the younger members. Students of astrology and philosophy are granted scholarship for higher education on this particular day by Gujarati Pundits. Thus this festival signifies greater social relationship ties within family, caste and community.
Celebration of Kite flying in grand scale by the people of Gujarat, has given this kite flying fest an International recognition.
‘Anushthana’ performed by the devotees for the ‘Ayyappa’ which goes on for 40 days, ends on this day. It is celebrated as big festival in ‘Sabarimala Temple’ which is dedicated to lord Ayyappa.