Kolkata: Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious day for the Hindus, and is celebrated in almost all parts of the country in myriad cultural forms, with great devotion, fervor & gaiety. The festival of Makar Sankrant traditionally coincides with the beginning of the Sun’s northward journey (the Uttarayan) when it enters the sign of Makar (the Capricorn). It falls on the 14th of January every year according to the Solar Calendar.
Lakhs of people take a dip in places like Ganga Sagar & Prayag and pray to Lord Sun.
It is celebrated with pomp in southern parts of the country as Pongal, and in Punjab is celebrated as Lohri & Maghi. Rajasthan & Gujarati not only look reverentially up to the sun, but also offer thousands of their colorful oblations in the form of beautiful kites all over the skyline. The Festival introduces kite enthusiasts world-wide to the intriguing beauty and cultural diversity of India.
Significance Of Makara Sankranti In Bengal
In Bengal every year a very big Mela is held at Ganga Sagar where the river Ganga is believed to have dived into the nether region and vivified the ashes of the sixty thousand ancestors of King Bhagirath. The Ganga Sagar fair at the Sagar Dweep is the main attraction on this occasion. Pilgrims from all round country gather to commemorate the three day fair. The Ganga Sagar fair is the largest fair in West Bengal. This fair is held where the river Ganga (Ganges) and the Bay of Bengal join. Hence, it was named Ganga Sagar fair. This festival is celebrated during January every year and it is a major attraction for millions of pilgrims. During the Ganga Sagar fair, a special puja is performed thanking the Sun God for the good harvest. Aaratis are performed in the evening when worshipers offer leaf baskets filled with flowers and ‘deep’ holding camphor. The camphor is lit and these flickering baskets are let adrift on the waters of the sacred Ganga river.
Makar Sankranti which is also known as Poush Sankranti in Bengal is an auspicious day in Hindu culture, women clean the houses and prepare delicious traditional rice-sweets called ‘pithey’. Sweets like ‘kheer’, ‘puli’, ‘gokul pithey’, ‘paatishapta’, ‘satipitha’, etc, are prepared from the palm ‘gur’. Til and rice being the two important ingredients of this festival, people have a special rice-centric meal on this day. On Makar Sanskranti, people come for a ceremonial cleansing in the river Hooghly, near Kolkata.Though different regions of India have different names for the same festival, the core theme is same everywhere. They also have different ways to celebrate but again they share the same happiness and love. It is probably the only time when a country with a large geographic area like India gets the similar kind of climate all over which makes it possible for the farmers to harvest on the same time. Hence it has to be the biggest festival for all, In this festival the one and only important thing is food and of course it is the rice which is harvested at this time. The most common preparation is ‘Payesh’ or ‘Kheer’ or ‘Payasam’. This scrumptious dessert is made of rice, thick milk and ‘khejur gur’ or Date Palm Jaggery/Molasses. This winter special jaggery is probably the best thing which makes winter desserts richer. There are many other preparations too with the rice but they vary from region to region depending to their culture.
Why is it called Makar Sankranti?
On Makar Sankranti, the sun enters the sun-sign of Capricorn or Makara (the Indian rashi). Therefore the ‘Makar’ in the name. The word ‘Sankranti’ signifies the movement of the sun from one zodiac sign to another. Thus, the name of the festival literally means the movement of the sun into Capricorn.
As Makar Sankranti is one of the oldest solstice festivals and falls on the equinox, day and night on this day are believed to be equally long. Post the festival, it is officially the beginning of spring or the onset of Indian summer and the days become longer, and nights shorter.