The festival of kites, khichdi and til-chikkis is finally here! All the kite stores in the city are decked up with beautiful, multicoloured kites and the kids next door are rigorously competing with each other when flying kites. The entire nation is busy soaking the bright sunlight while feasting on endless supplies of sesame and jaggery goodies. Amidst all these festivities, did you ever thought why do we celebrate Makar Sankranti other than as it satiates our chikki desires?
Don’t know? No issues. Read on to know some extra-cool facts about Makar Sankranti that will tell remind you about the hidden message behind this festival.
Fact No. 1: Makar Sankranti is one of the oldest Solstice festival that celebrates the transition of the Sun.
The word breaks into Makar (or Capricorn) and Sankranti (the movement of sun). According to Hindu astrology, Makar Sankranti is celebrated on the day when sun enters the Makara (house of Capricorn). Capricorn is a zodiac sign in astrology. Astrologically, it denotes the movement of sun from one zodiac to another.
Fact No. 2: People all over India know Makar Sankranti by different names. The festival is an integral part of different cultures.
There are plenty of different names for Makar Sankranti. It’s known as Maghe Sankranti (Nepal) Maghi (Himachal Pradesh), Khichdi (Bihar and Uttar Pradesh), Uttarayan (Gujarat), Poush Parbon, (West Bengal) Lohri (Punjab, Haryana), Pongal (in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka), Thingyan (in Mayanmar), Pi Ma Lao (Laos) and Songkran (in Thailand).
People usually celebrate this festival because it marks the beginning of Magh (the happy month) and the end of Poush (the ill-omened month). Many cultures attach social, cultural and regional significance to the festival.
Fact No. 3: The festival is celebrated with sesame and jaggery sweets.
On this occasion, people distribute sesame and jaggery sweets among all. The exchange of sweets is accompanied by saying ‘Til-gul ghya ani gud gud bola’. This means “one should eat sesame and jaggery sweets to speak sweet words’. Having said this, the elderly advice the youngsters to bury old hatchet and live in peace.
There’s an age-old superstition associated with the festival that says the Sun God (Surya) forgave his son Saturn (Shani) that’s why people believe in celebrating the festival with sweets. Moreover, the doctors suggest regular consumption of jaggery and sesame during winters and springs because they’re warm foods and ensure sound health.
Fact No. 4: People Fly Kites because it’s a healthy pass time.
The ancient custom of flying kites on the terrace and open areas evolved because the elderly believed that a healthy dose of sunshine doesn’t hurt. Since the sunlight is available for 12-hours straight, staying outside on this day can kill germs present on your skin surface. Eventually, people started using it as an excuse to fly kites, munch on goodies and relax in the sun outside.
Fact No. 5: People who Die on Makar Sankranti straightaway go to Heaven.
According to the Mahabharat, Bhisma Pitamah, who was lying on the bed of arrows, passed away on the dawn of Makar Sankranti and his soul attained eternal peace and salvation. The Hindus believed that on this day, all Hindu gods wake up from their 6-month long slumber and therefore, any soul that passes away on Makar Sankranti or Uttarayan attains eternal salvation.
Fact No. 6: A festival that falls on the day of Equinox marks the beginning of the Spring season in India.
Co-incidentally, it falls on the spring equinox, a day when the duration of the day and night is the same. According to Indian mythologies, Makar Sankranti marks the beginning of spring and the onset of the summer season. From this day onwards, the days are longer and the nights are shorter.
Fact No. 7: Makar Sankranti celebrates the Union of River Ganges with Ocean
Legends says on this day, Ganga, the river goddess pursued Bhagirath Muni to let he free. Finally, she met the endless waters of the ocean. Sounds like a romantic fairytale right? That’s true. Perhaps this why the devotees gather on the banks of the holy Ganges to take a dip in the cool waters of Gangasagar, at the conjunction of the river and ocean waters.
Therefore, the festival marks the beginning or the ending of important religious pilgrimages. For example, the Kumbh Mela in Uttar Pradesh begins on Makar Sankranti. Contrary to this, the Shabrimala pilgrimage in Kerala ends on 14th January. People in Bengal celebrate Gangasagar pilgrimage on this day.
Fact No. 8: People worship Cows on Makar Sankranti (or Pongal) because Lord Shiva punished Nandi and sent him to toil on earth.
The ancient custom of cow worship comes from the fact that Lord Shiva once asked Nandi to visit Earth and spread His message. The message was that “people should have an oil bath everyday and have food once a month in January”. But the poor bovine forgot and asked the people to have food everyday and an oil bath once a month.
When he came back to the Kailash, an enraged Shiva sent him back to earth. He was told to help people to plough fields because they would need more food grains to satiate their hunger. Also, the cows were asked to provide the human race with milk. In return for Nandi’s favour, people started worshipping him. That’s how the ancient custom of cow and bull worship started in India. People see the cattle as a God-sent aid for fulfilling their needs and satiate their hunger.
Fact No. 9: Makar Sankranti is the only Hindu festival that falls on the same Date every year.
Hindu festivals are very confusing because they never seem to fall on the same date every year, but that’s not the case with Makar Sankranti. It’s the only festival that falls on 14th January every year. It’s because the Makar Sankranti follows the Solar Calendar that coincides with the Georgian Calendar.
But that’s not the case every time. In time, the date of Makar Sankranti changed with the shifting of climatic phenomenon. About 1000 years ago, the festival was celebrated on 31st December. From 2050 onwards, the festival will be celebrated on 15th January.
Makar Sankranti is regarded as the Festival of Harvest because it marks the beginning of harvesting season in India. People plough their fields and look forward to a prosperous produce on Holi.
So, these were some interesting facts about Makar Sankranti festival. Hope you liked them!