Makara Sankranthi is an Indian harvest festival celebrated in almost all parts of India in lots of cultural forms and diversities. Makara Sankranthi is one of the few Indian festivals that falls on the same day every year according to the Gregorian calender.
The name has been derived from the word “Sankramana” in Sanskrit, meaning “commencement of movement”. Sankranti means transit of Sun from one zodiac sign to other. Makara Sankranti refers to the transition of the Sun from Dhanu rashi (Sagittarius) to Makara rashi (Capricorn), the significance being from this day onwards, the days start becoming longer and warmer and thus the winter chill declines. Traditionally, this has been one of many harvest days in India. The festival is also referred as Uttarayana as it marks the starting of northward journey of Sun.
One Festival, Many names:
Though extremely popular as Makar Sankranti, the festival is predominantly a harvest festival and is celebrated throughout India, from north to south and east to west. While Makara Sankranti is most popular in West India, down south, the festival is known as Pongal and in the north, it is celebrated as Lohri. Uttarayan, Maghi, Khichdi are some other names of the same festival.
History and Traditional Significance:Many reasons are ascribed in our religious texts like the Puranas for the celebration of this festival, some of which are as mentioned below;
- Starting the 14th January, Sun, the father visits the house of his son Shani, who is the lord of Makara Rashi. They do not ordinarily get along nicely, but in spite of all the differences, Sun makes it a point to stay with his son at his house, for a month. This symbolises the importance of special relationship between the father and the son.
- Uttarayana also marks the beginning of the “day” for Devatas, while dakshinayana is said to be the “night” for Devatas, so most of the auspicious things are done during this time.
- It was on this day when Lord Vishnu ended the terrorism of Asuras by finishing them and burying their heads under the Mandar Mountains. Thus this occasion also represents the end of negativities and beginning of an era of righteous living.
- It was on this day that the great savior of his ancestors, Bhagirath did tarpana with the Ganges water for his unfortunate ancestors and thereby liberated them from the curse.
- Another well-known fact is reference of this day in Mahabharata. Bhishma, the great grandsire of the Kauravas and Pandavas, had declared his intent to leave for the heavenly abode on this day.
Sankranthi in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana:
The festival, Sankranti (మకర సంక్రాంతి), is celebrated for four days in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana:
- Day 1 – Bhoghi (భోగి): The first day of festival is Bhogi. At dawn people light up a bonfire with several old articles in their house. In many families they celebrate Bhogi pallu, in the evening. These are the Regi pallu (Ziziphus mauritiana) with petals of flower and coins of money, will be put on the heads of kids (generally younger than 3 years) to get rid of Drishti. The disposal of derelict things is where all old habits, vices, attachment to relations and material things are sacrificed in the fire of the knowledge of Rudra, known as the “Rudra Gita Gyana Yagya”. It represents realization, transformation and purification of the soul by imbibing and inculcating divine virtues.
- Day 2 – Makara Sankranti (మకర సంక్రాంతి-పెద్ద పండుగ): The second day is Makara Sankranti. People wear new clothes, pray to God, and make offerings of traditional food to ancestors who have died. They also make beautiful and ornate drawings and patterns on the ground with chalk or flour, called “muggu” or “Rangoli” in Telugu, in front of their homes. These drawings are decorated with flowers, colours and small, hand-pressed piles of cow dung, called “gobbemma” (గొబ్బెమ్మ).
- Day 3 – Kanuma (కనుమ) : On the third day, Kanuma (కనుమ) is celebrated. Kanuma is very intimate to the hearts of farmers because it is the day for praying and showcasing their cattle with honor. Cattle are the symbolic indication of prosperity. Nowadays Kanuma is not celebrated as widely as it used to be, but it is an integral part of the Sankranti culture and is meant for thanksgiving to cattle.
- Day 4 — Mukkanuma: The fourth day is called Mukkanuma (ముక్కనుమ) which is popular among the non-vegetarians of the society. On this day, farmers offer prayers to the elements (like soil, rain, fire for helping the harvest) and the (village) goddesses with their gifts which sometimes include animals. 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. Kanuma, Mukkanuma and the day following Mukkanuma call for celebrations with union of families, friends, relatives followed by fun activities, which mainly include cock fighting, bullock/ox racing, kite flying, and ram (pottelu) fighting. On this occasion, in every town and city, people play with kites and the sky is filled with beautiful kites.
Significance of “Makara Sankranthi”:
Makara Sankranti has deep spiritual significance and is rooted in an unshakable divine history. Makara Sankranti is a solar event, the date of Makara Sankranti remains constant at, 14 January. In Hinduism, the Sun signifies light (knowledge, spirituality, and wisdom), unity, equality and true selflessness, the ideals of Karma Yoga. Sun goes on bestowing on us life, health & vitality without expecting any reward. Thus Makara Sankranti signifies shunning the darkness of delusion and allowing the light within shine brighter. It identifies a period of enlightenment, peace, prosperity and happiness after a period of darkness, ignorance and viciousness with immense sorrow. The message being ‘one should gradually begin to grow in purity, wisdom, and knowledge, as the sun does from this day and perform ones duties without expectations of rewards.
“MORNING RAAGA WISHES ALL ITS READERS A VERY HAPPY AND A PROSPEROUS BHOGI AND MAKARA SANKRANTHI!”