Makar Sankranti is one of the most popular Indian festivals. According to Hindu calendar Makar Sankranti is celebrated as the Sun’s journey to Northward region and enters the Makar sign (Capricorn) from the Tropic of Cancer. This period is regarded as highly auspicious in Hindu communities. The Sun’s movement from the Southern to Northern Hemisphere is considered to be very auspicious for crop harvesting. This has made Makar Sankranti, the harvest festival of India.
Generally Sankranti means the transition of Sun from one zodiac to another. There are 12 such Sankrantis in a year. but in Makar Sankranti, the Sun transits from Sagittarius (Dhanu Rashi) to Capricorn (Makar Rashi) which is of much significance in Hindu religion. Throughout the country, Makar Sankranti is celebrated with much joy and enthusiasm. It is one of the few festivals in India that falls on a fixed date. Makar Sankranti has a date and that is on 14th of January every year.
The history behind Makar Sankranti holds it s significance of being the day of religious significance. With Sun entering the Northern Hemisphere the day and nights become equal on this day and days become longer and nights become shorter. It is also said a day of victory of good over evil as on this day Lord Vishnu conquered the terror of demons and buried them under the Manadara Parvata. Makar Sankranti is also termed as very auspicious even in the epics of Mahabharata. Bhisma Pitamaha after being wounded in the battle field chose to wait for the Uttarayan to set in so that he would get salvation and free himself from the cycle of rebirth. The festival is also given due importance in the Sikh communities as the tenth Sikh Guru Govind Singh brought Moksha, Salvation or Mukhti for fourteen Sikhs. Makar Sankranti is marked as the starting point for all the festivals fall throughout the year.
Legends behind Makar Sankranti
- The Puranas say that on this day Sun visits the house of his son Shani, who is the swami of Makar Rashi. These father & son do not ordinarily get along nicely, but inspite of any difference between each other Lord Sun makes it a point to meet each other on this day.
- From Uttarayana starts the ‘day’ of Devatas, while dakshinayana is said to be the ‘night’ of devatas, so most of the auspicious things are done during this time.
- 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.
- The great savior of his ancestors, Maharaj Bhagirath, did great Tapasya to bring Gangaji River down on the earth for the redemption of 60,000 sons of Maharaj Sagar, who were burnt to ashes at the Kapil Muni Ashram, near the present day Ganga Sagar. It was on this day that Bhagirath finally did tarpan with the Ganges water for his unfortunate ancestors and thereby liberated them from the curse.
- Sankranti is celebrated all over South Asia with some regional variations. It is known by different names and celebrated with different customs in different parts of the country.
Significance of Makar Sankranti in Vedic Jyotish
Makar Sankranti is also known as Til Sankranti. As per the astrological sayings, it is believed that, when Sun(Surya) enters in enemy’s house that is Saturn(Shani) sign, then to reduce the inauspicious effect of Sun, items related to Saturn are donated. Out of these Til is the key factor of Saturn.
Til is donated today in order to achieve the auspiciousness from the sun. On Makar Sankranti, changing of sign by Sun symbolises the change of darkness to light. This is the reason why, every state offer worship and prayer to Sun God in different ways.
In India it is known by different regional names
- Makar Sankranti or Sankranti – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Orissa, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.
- Uttarayan- Gujarat and Rajasthan.
- Maghi – Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab.
- Pongal – Tamil Nadu.
- Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu – Assam Valley.
- Shishur Saenkraat – Kashmir Valley.
- Makara Vilakku Festival – Kerala.
- Khichdi- Uttar Pradesh.
In other countries too the day is celebrated but under different names and in different ways
- Tharu people – Maghi
- Other people – Maghe Sankranti or Maghe Sakrati
2.In Thailand – Songkran
3.In Laos – Pi Ma Lao
4.In Myanmar – Thingyan
5.In Cambodia – Moha Sangkran