Sankranti or Sankranti or Sankranthi marks the transition of the Sun into Makara rashi (Capricorn) on its
celestial path. Traditionally, this has been one of many harvest days in India.
Owing to the vast geography and diversity of culture in India, this festival is
celebrated for innumerable reasons and in innumerable ways depending on the
climate, agricultural environment, cultural background and location.
Sankranti is one of the most auspicious occasions for the Hindus, and is
celebrated in almost all parts of the country in myriad cultural forms, with great devotion, fervour
& gaiety. It is a harvest
Sankranti is perhaps the only Indian festival whose date always falls on the
same day every year i.e. the 14th of January.
Makar Sankranti is the day when the glorious Sun-God begins
its ascendancy and entry into the Northern Hemisphere and thus it signifies an
event wherein the Sun-God seems to remind their children that &prism;Tamaso Ma Jyotir
Gamaya", may you go higher & higher, to more & more Light and never to
To Hindus, the Sun stands for knowledge, spiritual light and wisdom. Makar
Sankranti signifies that we should turn away from the darkness of delusion in
which we live, and begin to enjoy a new life with bright light within us to
shine brighter and brighter. We should gradually begin to grow in purity,
wisdom, and knowledge, even as the Sun does from the Day of Makar Sankranti.
The festival of Makar Sankranti is highly regarded by the Hindus from North to
down South. The day is known by various names and a variety of traditions are
witnessed as one explores the festival in different states.
Date and significance:
traditional Indian Calendar is based on lunar positions, Sankranti is a solar event. So while
dates of all Hindu festivals keep changing as per the Gregorian calendar, the
date of Makar Sankranti remains
constant over a long term, 14 January. Makar
Sankranti is celebrated in the Hindu Calendar month of Magha.
celebrated all over South Asia with some regional variations. It is known by
different names and celebrated with different customs in different parts of the
In India it is
known by different regional names like:
Sankranti or Sankranti - Andhra
Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra,
Manipur, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal
Uttarayan - Gujarat, Rajasthan and
Maghi - Haryana, Himachal Pradesh
Pongal - Tamil Nadu
Bihu or Bhogali Bihu - Assam Valley
Saenkraat - Kashmir
Festival - Sabarimala
Mythology and cultural significance:
According to the Puranas,
on this day Surya (Sun) visits the house of his son Shani (Saturn), who is the
lord of the Makar rashi(Zodiac Capricorn). Though the father and son duo
did not get along well, Surya made it a point to meet his son on this day. He,
in fact, comes to his son’s house, for a month. This day thus symbolizes the
importance of the special relationship between father and son.
Sankranti starts the ‘day’of devatas (Gods),
while dakshinayana (southward
movement of the sun) is said to be the ‘night’ of devatas, so most of the auspicious things are done during this time.
Uttarayana is also called as Devayana,
and the dakshinayana&prism; is called Pitrayana.
It was on this
day when Lord Vishnu ended the ever increasing terror of the Asuras (Demons) by finishing
them off and burying their heads under the Mandara Parvata. So this occasion
also represents the end of &prism;negativities&prism; and beginning of an era of righteous
performed great penance to bring Ganga down to the earth for the redemption of 60,000 sons of Maharaj Sagar, who were
burnt to ashes at the Kapil Muni Ashram, near the present day Ganga Sagar. It was on this day that Bhagirath
finally did tarpan with the
Ganges water for his unfortunate ancestors and thereby liberated them from the
curse. After visiting the Pataala (underworld)
for the redemption of the curse of Bhagirath’s ancestors the Ganga finally
merged in the sea. Thousands of Hindus take a dip in the water and perform tarpan for their ancestors.
well-known reference of this day came when the great grand-sire of Mahabharata
fame, Bhishma, declared his intent to leave his mortal coil on this day. He had
the boon of Ichha-Mrityu (death
at his will) from his father, so he kept lying on the bed of arrows till this
day and then left his mortal coil on Makar Sankranti day. It is believed that
the person, who dies during the period of Uttarayana, becomes free from
transmigration (rebirth). So this day was seen as a definite auspicious day to
start a journey or endeavours to the higher realms beyond.
it as Maghi. The tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh tore the Beydaava written by 40
Sikhs and gave them Mukhti on this day. These 40 Sikhs later came to be known
as 40 Mukhtas.
Traditions, rituals and celebration:
Sankranti is also
famously known as the Kite festival. In the western Indian state of Gujarat,
the celebrations are even bigger. People offer thousands of their colorful
oblations to the Sun in the form of beautiful kites. The act stands as a
metaphor for reaching to their beloved God, the one who represents the best.
In the rural and
coastal areas, cock fights are held and is a prominent event of the festival.
Makara Sankranti is also to honour, worship and to pay respect to Saraswati
(Goddess of Knowledge). At the start of this significant event, there is also
worship for the departed ancestors.
identifies a period of enlightenment, peace, prosperity and happiness followed
by a period of darkness, ignorance and viciousness with immense sorrow. The six
months of northern movement of the sun is followed by six months of southern
festival is celebrated in mid winter, food prepared for this festival is such
that it keeps the body warm and gives high energy. Laddu of til made with Jaggery is a specialty
of the festival. In the western Indian state of Maharashtra it is called
&prism;Tilgul&prism;. In Karnataka it is called &prism;Yellu-Bella&prism;. In some states cattle are
decorated with various colours and are made to jump over a bon-fire.
It is celebrated
differently in different regions of India.
Sankranti, is celebrated for four days in Andhra Pradesh as below:
Day 1 - Bhogi
Day 2 - Makara
Sankranti (Pedda Panduga)
Day 3 - Kanuma
Day 4 - Mukkanuma
The day preceding
Makara Sankranti is called Bhogi and this is when people discard old and
derelict things and concentrate on new things causing change or transformation.
At dawn people light a bonfire with logs of wood, other solid-fuels and wooden
furniture at home that are no longer useful. The disposal of derelict things is
where all old habits, the vices, attachment to relations and materials things
are sacrificed in the sacrificial fire of the knowledge of Rudra, known as the
"Rudra Gita Gyan Yagya. It represents realization, transformation and
purification of the soul by imbibing and inculcating divine virtues.
In many families,
infants and children (usually less than three years old) are showered with
fruit called "Regi Pandlu", that is the Indian jujube fruit. It is believed that doing
this would protect the children from evil eye. Sweets in generous quantities
are prepared and distributed. It is a time for families to congregate. Brothers
pay special tribute to their married sisters by giving gifts as affirmation of
their filial love. Landlords give gifts of food, clothes and money to their
The second day is
Makara Sankranti , also called "Pedda Panduga", which literally means
"the big festival", when everyone wears new clothes, prays to God,
and make offerings of traditional food to ancestors who have passed away.
On the day after
Makara Sankranti, the animal kingdom is remembered and in particular, the cows.
Young girls feed the animals, birds and fishes as a symbol of sharing. These
days are dedicated for re-union of the families. Pongal in this sense
demonstrates their strong cultural values as well as a time for change and
transformation. And finally, gurus seek out their devotees to bestow blessings
Kanuma Panduga is
not as widely celebrated, but is an integral part of the Sankranti culture.
Mukkanuma is popular among the non-vegetarians of the society. People in
Coastal Andhra do not eat any meat or fish during the first three days of the
festival, and do so only on the day of Mukkanuma, where as people in Telangana
region observe only the first two days as part of the festival and eat any meat
or fish on Makara Sankranti (Pedda Panduga), the second day of the festival.
For this festival all families prepare Ariselu, Appalu (a sweet made of Jaggery
and Pumpkin) and make an offering to God.
feature of the festival in South India is the Haridas who goes around with a colorfully dressed cow, begging
for rice wishing luck.
Assam: In Assam, the festival is celebrated as Bhogali
Bundelkhand: In Bundelkhand and Madhya Pradesh this festival of
Sankrant is known by the name ‘Sakarat’ and is celebrated with great pomp &
merriment accompanied by a lot of sweets.
Coastal regions: In
the coastal regions, it is a harvest festival dedicated to Lord Indra.
Goa: Celebrations in Goa closely resemble to that in
Maharashtra. The men hardly take part in the celebrations but it is the women
folk who celebrate &prism;haldi-kumkum&prism;
Gujarat: This is
one of the major festivals in the state of Gujarat. It is a two day festival
14 January is
15 January is
Gujaratis keenly await this festival to fly kites. In India the generic name for a kite
is &prism;Patang&prism;. These kites are made of special light-wight kite paper and bamboo
and are mostly rhombus shaped with central spine and a single bow.
before the actual day of Makar sankranti, about the end of December, kids and
young people start enjoying Uttarayan. Undhiyu (mixed winter vegetable) and chikkis (made from til (sesame), peanuts and
jaggery) are the special festival recipes savoured on this day.
offering "Ellu Bella" in Karnataka
auspicious day, young females (kids & teenagers) wear new clothes to visit
near and dear ones with a Sankranti offering in a plate, and exchange the same
with other families. This ritual is called "Ellu Birodhu". Here the
plate would normally contain "Ellu" (white sesame seeds) mixed with
fried groundnuts, neatly cut dry coconut & fine cut bella(Jaggery). The
mixture is called "Ellu Bella". The plate will also contain sugar
candy moulds of various shapes (Sakkare Acchu), with a piece of
sugarcane.&prism;Yellu-Bella&prism; is normally distributed by women. There is a saying in
Kannada "Yellu bella thindu olle maathadi" which means &prism;Eat the
mixture of sesame seeds and jaggery and speak only good&prism;. This signifies the
harvest of the season, since sugarcane is predominant in these parts.
In some parts of
Karnataka, a newly married woman is required to give away bananas for a period
of five years to married women(muthaidhe) from the first year of her marriage,
but increase the number of bananas in multiples of five. There is also a
tradition of some households giving away red berries "Yalchi Kai"
along with the above.
is celebrated in Kerala at Sabarimala where the Makara Jyothi is visible
followed by the Makara Vilakku celebrations. The 40 days anushthana by the
devotees of Ayyappa ends on this day in Sabarimala with a big festival.
In Maharashtra on the Makar Sankranti day people exchange multi-colored tilguls made from til
(sesame seeds) and sugar and til-laddus made from til and jaggery. Gul-polis (jaggery stuffed flat
bread) are offered for lunch. While exchanging tilguls as tokens of goodwill
people greet each other saying – ‘til-gul ghya, god god bola’ meaning ‘accept
these tilguls and speak sweet words’. The under-lying thought in the exchange
of tilguls is to forget the past ill-feelings and hostilities and resolve to
speak sweetly and remain friends.
This is a special
day for the women in Maharashtra when married women are invited for a
get-together called ‘Haldi-Kunku’(turmeric & kumkum) and given gifts such
as utensil, clothes, etc., which the woman of the house purchases on that day.
Typically, women wear black sarees or black colour dress on this occasion. The
significance of wearing a black colour dress is Sankranti comes at the peak of
the winter season and a black colour wear absorbs more heat and helps keep body
This is one of
the major festivals in the state of Rajasthan. It is known as "Makar
Sakrat" in the Rajasthani language. This day is celebrated with sweets
like Ghevar, Til-paati, Gajak, kheer etc.. Although traditionally flying
kites is not observed as a part of this festivals, now a days flying kites can
be seen in some cities of Rajasthan. People invite friends and relatives to
their home for special festival meals (called as "Sakrat Bhoj").
Mythology this is the first of the big bathing days. Over two million people
gather at their respective sacared places for this holy bathing such as Allahabad,
Haridwar and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Kite flying in the rooftops of Varanasi
In the Kumaon
region of Uttarakhand Makar Sankranti is celebrated with great gusto. According
to the Hindu religious texts, on the day of Uttarayani also called Ghughuti in
Kumaon, the sun enters the Zodiacal sign of &prism;Makar&prism; (Capricon) from the
Zodiacal sign of the Kark (Cancer), i.e. from this day onwards the sun becomes
&prism;Uttarayan&prism; or it starts moving to the north. It is said that from this day,
which signals a change of season, the migratory birds start returning to the
Sankranti people give Khichadi (a mixture of pulses and rice) in charity, take
ceremonial dips in holy rivers, participate in the Uttarayani fairs and
celebrate the festival of Ghughutia or Kale Kauva. During the festival of Kale
Kauva (literal translation &prism;black crow&prism;) people make sweetmeats out of
sweetened flour (flour and gur) deep fried in ghee, shape them like drums,
pomegranates, knives, swords etc. They are strung togather and worn as
necklace-in the middle of which an oragne in fixed. Early in the morning
children wear these necklaces and sing "Kale Kauva.." to attract
crows and other birds and offer them portions of these necklaces, as a token of
welcome for all the migratory birds, who are now coming back after their winter
sojourn in the plains.
In Punjab where December and January are
the coldest months of the year, huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Makar
Sankranti and is celebrated as Lohri. Sweets, sugarcane and rice are
thrown in the bonfires, around which friends and relatives gather together.
day, which is Sankrant, is celebrated as Maghi. Bathing in any river in
the early hours on Maghi is important. Hindus light lamps with sesame oil as
this is supposed to give prosperity and drive away all sins. The Punjabis dance
their famous dance known as "Bhangra". Then they sit down and
eat the sumptuous food that is specially prepared for the occasion. It is
traditional to eat "kheer", rice cooked in milk and sugar.
It is a four day
festival in Tamil Nadu: The festival is celebrated four days from the last day
of the Tamil month Maargazhi to the third day of the Tamil month Thai.
Day 1 - Bhogi
Day 2 - Thai
Day 3 - Maattu
Day 4 - Kaanum
The first day of
festival is Bhogi. It is celebrated by throwing away and destroying old clothes
and materials, by setting them on fire, marking the end of the old and the
emergence of the new.
The second day of
festival is Thai Pongal or simply Pongal. It is the main day of the festival,
falling on the first day of the Tamil month Thai. It is celebrated by boiling
rice with fresh milk and jaggery in new pots, which are later topped with brown
sugar, cashew nuts and raisins early in the morning and allowing it to boil
over the vessel. This tradition gives Pongal its name. The moment the rice
boils over and bubbles out of the vessel, the tradition is to shout of
"Ponggalo Ponggal!" and blowing the sangu (a conch), a custom
practiced during the festival to announce it was going to be a year blessed
with good tidings. Then New boiled rice is offered to the Nature during
sunrise, a gesture which symbolises thanks to the sun and nature for providing
prosperity. It is later served to the people present in the house for the
ceremony. People also prepare savories and sweets such as vadai, murukku, payasam and visit
each other and exchange greetings.
The third day of
festival is Maattu Pongal. It is for offering thanks to cattle, as they help
farmer in different ways for agriculture. On this day the cattle are decorated
with paint, flowers and bells. They are allowed to roam free and fed sweet rice
and sugar cane. Some people decorate the horns with gold or other metallic
covers. In some places, Jallikattu, or taming the wild bull contest, is the
main event of this day and this is mostly seen in the villages.
The fourth day of
the festival is Kaanum Pongal (the word kaanum means "to view").
During this day people visit their relatives, friends to enjoy the festive
season. This day is a day to thank relatives and friends for their support in
the harvest. It started as a farmers festival, called as Uzhavar Thirunaal in
Tamil. Kolam decorations are
made in front of the house during Thai Pongal festival.
Many tribals in
our country start their New Year from the day of Sankranti by lighting
bonfires, dancing and eating their particular dishes sitting together. The
Bhuya tribals of Orissa have their Maghyatra in which small home-made articles are put for sale.
In Puri, Lord
Jagannath enjoys Uttarayana&prism; bandhapana. Oriya People prepare makar chaula (uncooked
rice,banana,jaggery,sesame and chhena) puddings for naivedya to gods and
In West Bengal,
Sankranti, also known as Poush Sankranti after the Bengali month in which it
falls, is celebrated as a harvest festival Poush Parbon. The freshly harvested
paddy along with the date palm syrup in the form of Khejurer Gur and Patali is
used in the preparation of a variety of traditional Bengali sweets made with
rice flour, coconut, milk and &prism;khejurer gur&prism; (palm jaggery) and known as
Pithey. The Goddess Lakshmi is usually worshipped on the day of Sankranti. In
the Himalayan regions of Darjeeling, the festival is known as Magey Sakrati. It
is distinctly associated with the worship of Lord Shiva. Traditionally, people
were required to take a bath before sunrise and then commence their pooja. The
food that is consumed consists primarily of sweet potatoes and various yams.
Many Melas or fairs are held on Makar
Sankranti the most famous being the Kumbh Mela, held every 12 years at one of
four holy locations, namely Haridwar,
Prayag (Allahabad), Ujjain and Nashik. The Magh Mela (or mini-Kumbh Mela held annually at Prayag) and the Gangasagar Mela (held at the head of
the Ganges River, where it flows into the Bay of Bengal). Tusu Mela also called
as Tusu Porab is celebrated in many parts of Jharkhand and West Bengal.
Elaborate preparation of traditional sankranti sweets and
savouries like Ariselu, Bobabtulu (variety
of sweet rice cakes), Jantikulu (savoury
made with chick pea flour), Palakayulu (rice flour savoury), Semai payasam (sweet vermicilli Dessert), Paramannam (sweet
rice pudding), Pulihora (tamarind rice ), Masala vada (deep fried lentil
dumplings), Til polis, Khichci, Rasse ki Kheer, Sweet Pongal, Avial, Coconut
Rice, Lemon rice and many more.