The culturally rich and diverse lands of India have given birth to a number of festivals tied to various religions or regions. People transcend well beyond their own religious and regional boundaries, celebrating various festivals that have originated from various parts of the country together.
Makar Sankranti is one such Hindu festival, falling in the month of January every year. The festival is celebrated under an array of names such as Sankranti, Poush Sangkranti in West Bengal, Maghi in Himachal Pradesh, Bihu in Assam, Lohri in north India and Pongal in Tamil Nadu. Not only does the festival have different names, it is also celebrated differently in different parts of the country.
Makar Sankranti symbolises the entry/transition of the sun into the zodiac sign Makara better known as Capricorn, as it travels on its celestial path. It marks the end of the month of the ‘winter solstice’, also known as the darkest night of the year. It sets path for shorter nights and longer days ahead. It also marks the onset of the summer and the beginning of Uttaarayan, an auspicious period for Hindus, which lasts for a period of six months. Dating back to the mythological era of The Mahabharat, Uttaarayan has links to the famous epic, when Bhishma lies down on a bed of arrows, awaiting the sun to be in Uttaarayan, so he can take his last breath.
As is noticed, Makar Sankranti comes on the same date every year. But don’t be fooled, this only lasts for about a hundred years or so. In the 17th century, the festival fell on January the 19th every year, and in the 27th century it shall be around 23rd of January, it takes circles as the centuries pass. As of this century we celebrate Makar Sankranti on the 15th of January every year. On this day, people pray and express gratitude to the Hindu god Surya, extending thanks for all that we have in this world, endowed to us by nature. Celebrations include flying kites, exchanging gifts and spreading buckets full of love. Tilgul Ladoos, sweets made out of sesame seeds and loads of jiggery is a popular tradition followed in this festival. And though this can be said for all the beautiful festivals celebrated in this country, Makar Sakranti is certainly one that cannot be missed.