India - Makar Sankranti

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious days for Hindus. It is celebrated in almost all parts of the country in numerous cultural forms with great devotion and passion. Millions of people take a dip in places like Ganga Sagar & Prayag where the holy confederation of the rivers takes place.

Sankranti is the worship of the Sun God and thus the devotees pray to Lord Sun. This day is celebrated all over India. In south India it is called Pongal and in some other states it is known as Sankranti. According to the English calendar, the festival falls on January 14th or 15th.

According to Hindu astrology, Sankranti means the day when the Sun enters a new zodiac sign. There is a Sankranti for every month of the year. Makar means Capricorn. Makar Sankranti is the day the Sun enters Capricorn. The reason why Makar Sankranti is celebrated is that it marks the day the Sun starts moving north and the auspicious half of the year characterized by increasing daylight begins.

On this day people get up early in the morning before sunrise. They take a bath and offer water and flowers to the rising sun. The devotees offer water and flowers with folded hands all the while chanting the gayatri mantra. A special session of meditation is held after the prayers.

In the morning of this day, a special sweet dish called kheer is prepared. Rice is boiled with jaggery or sugar and fresh milk. This preparation is offered to the Sun God as thanksgiving. Sweets and greetings are exchanged among friends and relatives. There is a strong believe that the poor must be given alms on this day to bring prosperity to your house. Hence in many families free gifts are given away to the poor as a charitable act.

Higher studies in astrology and philosophy are traditionally begun this day. Kite flying has been associated with this festival in a big way. It has become an internationally well-known event. Kites are flown for most of the day. There are competitions and if one manages to grab a kite which happens to pass the way then it is celebrated with much excitement. It is not the price of the kite which brings about the excitement but the pleasure of receiving something by sheer luck that brings about the excitement.

The diamond shaped kites come in various patterns. The thread, known as manja is sharpened with finely crushed glass pieces to make it stronger and thus give an edge to the kite flyer in the kite battle which rages in the Indian skies! The season is also perfect for spending the entire day in the sun. It is windy, making it ideal for kite flying. At night special lantern kites with candles embedded are flown which give the skies an eerie as well as unique look. Flying these kites need special skills too.

This way the holiday is spent in relaxing as well as enjoying and people settle down for long summer days.


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