Makar Sankranti is the harvest festival of India and it symbolizes the beginning of spring season in India. This festival is celebrated throughout India. However, the way of celebration is different in different parts.
History of Makar Sankranti
There are various religious stories and logic behind the origin of this festival. It is believed that when Bheesma Peetahmah was lying on death bed, he waited for sun to go from Dakshinayan to Uttaranayan. He had the blessing that he can die as per his wish and he choosed the day of Makar Sankranti. As per another story, on this day Ganga followed Bhagirath muni and then met the ocean. This is the reason behind the significance of taking bath in holy rivers on this day. Again, it is mentioned in Gita that the day time of god are 6 months of Uttarayan and night time of 6 months are Dakshinayan. The person who dies in Uttarayan gets free from the cycle of life and birth and thus attains moksha.
Traditions and rituals of Makar Sankranti
In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Makara Sankranti falls in between four day celebrations. The four days are bhogi, makar sankranti, kanuma and Mukkanuma. On the day of Makar sankranti people celebrate by wearing new clothes, distributing sweets and making drawings with chalks in their homes. In Assam, the festival of Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Magh Bihu
or Bhogali Bihu or Maghar Domahi. Bhogali bahu gets its name from the word “Bhog” that means eating. Cattle fights are organized on this day. Men in the villages make a cottage with harvest and Meji. Later in the evening dances are performed around this Meji. Next morning meji is burned and rice cakes are thrown in it. Sun god is also prayed at this time by people. The night before bihu is known as uruka and it comes on 13 January.
In Bihar and Jharkhand, the festival is also known as Khichdi. On this day, people take bath in sacred rivers. Moreover, there is tradition of eating dahi chura, lai and til on this day. In Delhi and Haryana there is tradition that on this day the brother of every married woman visits her home with some gift. Gift can be sweets or other edible items or clothing products. In Gujarat, the festival of Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Uttarayan. There is tradition of flying kites on this day in Gujarat and various flying competitions are held as well. 14th January is Uttarayan and 15th January is Vasi-Uttarayan. Two popular recipes served on this day in this state are undhiyu and chikkis. In Karnataka there is ritual that the young girls visit relatives and neighbors with Sankranti in a plate. In case of Maharashtra, there is practice of distributing “halwa” and Tilgul laadoo. The main motive behind this practice is to forgive each other for past mistakes and live peacefully in future. In Uttar Pradesh, people gather at places like Allahabad, Varanasi and Haridwar to take dip in sacred rivers.