The Makar Sankranti is a famous festival of the Hindus and the Nepalese. It is celebrated in mid-winter and marks the transition of the sun from the Sagittarius to Capricorn during the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. Every twelve years the popular Kumbh Mela is held during Makar Sankranti where people from all over the country flock, to dedicate pujas in the banks of the River Ganges.
During the time of �Uttarayan�, it is said that father Sun visits the house of his son and this time marks the strong bonding between the father and son. It is also said that during this time Lord Vishnu slayed terrorism of the Ashuras and Bhagirath offered �Tarpan� (praying for the forefathers) to Ganga to liberate his ancestors from the curse. The basic representation is simple, that even if we are severed from the roots but with the passing of time we soon get back to the good elements, which are present in us.
The main rituals of Makar Sankranti are that people taking dip in the Ganges or any other river to wash off their sins and attain �punya� (freeing oneself from sins). They also offer �tarpan� for their ancestors. But before performing all these rituals it is necessary to pray early in the morning, before sunrise. The farmers also dedicate special pujas as a mark of thanks giving for good harvest.
When does the Festival Start?
Unlike the other festivals, which are based on the lunar calendar, the Hindus celebrate the Makar Sankranti based on the solar calendar. The festival shows the sun�s sojourn to the northern hemisphere. Usually the first six months of the year shares long days but short nights, whereas the next six months share short days and long nights. The first period is known as the Uttarayan, which means north, that is, the sun moves north from the center of the sky. The second period is famously known as the Dakshinaayaria, which means south, that is, the sun moves southwards during this time. The celebration of the Makar Sankranti starts on the first day of Uttarayan.
The food prepared during Makar Sankranti enables to keep the body warm and produce energy. Since the puja is undertaken during the winter times therefore the food is really helpful. The state of Andhra Pradesh in Southern India celebrates the festival with much pomp and vigor for three consecutive days.
In West Bengal, Makar Sankranti is popularly known as the �Gangasagar Mela�. People flock at the banks of the river Ganges and take dip to attain �punya�. In Gujarat the festival is celebrated by flying kites in the sky. In Maharashtra, people exchange Tilachir Ladoo, which actually tastes very sweet. The women wear a kind of black sari, which is known as the Chandrakala.
The Punjabis commemorate the occasion by lighting a bonfire and throwing rice, sweets and sugarcane. The next day they celebrate Maghi in which they perform the Bhangra dance. The Assamese celebrate Bhogali Bihu during this time. In Northern part of India, the Kumbh Mela (the largest fair in the world) is held at the confluence of Yamuna, Ganges and Saraswati Rivers. In Kerala, the people celebrate Pongal in which a cow or bathe, then a tilak is put on it and beads and ornaments are put round the horns and the neck. Thus, the Makar Sankranti is celebrated with much dedication and faith all over India.