While each festival celebrated in India has its own uniqueness in terms of practice, beliefs and more, Makar Sankranti tops the list with its unique angles.
Celebrated as Pongal, Lohri, Bihu and so many more names, this upcoming Indian festival makes for so much learning on culture, science and all their shared spaces.
GHP gives you 10 truly interesting aspects of Makar Sankranti that help you know a little more about a fascinating cultural observance in India.
1. India’s only Solar-centric festival
Makar Sankranti is the only Indian festival observed as per the solar calendar. This is why occurs on the same date year after year, on the 14th day of January.
2. Harvest Time
A Festival of Harvest, this is celebrated on the day after the winter solstice of December 22. There is no separate celebration for the day of winter solstice in Hindu religion, which is why the Hindus combine it with Uttarayan (northward journey) towards the Tropic of Capricorn.
3. The Meaning of the Term
Makar Sankranti denotes the transition of sun from the zodiac Sagittarius to Capricorn. Makar is the Sanskrit word for Capricorn while Sankranti is the Sanskrit word for transition.
4. Why Do People Wear Black?
Makar Sankranti marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Being the last day of winter, it tends to be the coolest day of the entire season. Black being a colour that absorbs and retains heat, people wear it to keep warm. However, this is followed mainly in Maharashtra. People in other states wear colourful attires that are very festive. Which colour palette do you choose for Makar Sankranti?
5. Why Fly Kites?
Makar Sankranti in India is associated with kite-flying. This tradition has long been followed not because it has any specific religious significance but because it allows people to bask in early morning sun when sun rays are gentle.
Ancient Indian beliefs held that winter brings sickness and infections. Basking in the early morning sun of Makar Sankranti helps get rid of harmful bacteria that tend live on in the body. Kite-flying became a mode of making this sun basking a little more interesting and fun.
6. Surya, Shani and the Sweets
Makar Sankranti is a festival of bonding. Every member of society is asked to bury the hatchet with enemies. Also, it is a superstition that during the festival, the Sun God forgoes his anger for his son Shani and visits him. Thus, by distributing sweets, everyone is asked to spread joy around.
7. Why Til Laddoos?
Being a winter festival, consuming sesame and jaggery is considered beneficial to health as these are “warm” foods. Thus, it is specifically the til ladoos that are distributed to signify bonding as well as good health.
8. The Khichdi Chronicles
Celebrations include making khichdi (apt for a harvest festival as it includes rice and pulses) which is eaten with family and friends. Did you know that khichdi was first developed in medieval India? The first person to talk about khichdi was the Russian adventurer, Afanasiy Nikitin. The Mughal King Jehangir later popularised this dish!
9. Celebrated all over India
Celebrating harvest, Makar Sankranti is celebrated all across the agricultural country of India.
It is celebrated in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Jharkand, Telengana, Delhi and Haryana, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal as Khichdi, Maghi, Uttarayan, Lohri, Poush Parbon and Makara Sankramana.
10. Sankranti beyond India
Makar Sankranti is Pongal in Sri Lanka, Maghe Sankranti in Nepal, Songkran in Thailand, Pi Ma Lao in Laos and Thingyan in Myanmar.
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