Celebrating the Hindu Makar Sankranti Festival: A New Beginning.
The Makar Sankranti is a Hindu celebration that marks the change of season and beginning of the harvest period. Makar or Makara is the Sanskrit word for the Capricorn constellation while Sankranti means transition. The celebration represents the transition of the sun’s astronomical alignment from the previous Sagittarius to Capricorn. Together with Mesh (Aries) Sankranti, it is considered one of the most important celebrations for Hindus.
The festivity is observed across India, Nepal and other parts of Asia with varying names and traditions. And since it is based on an astronomical event, it has a consistent date on the calendar which usually falls on the 14th, 15th or 16th of January. This year, the celebration will commence on January 15.
Religious and cultural significances
Makar Sankranti is the beginning of what is believed to be an auspicious or lucky period for Hindus. In Hindu mythology, it’s the time when Lord Surya Dev visited his son Lord Shani Dev putting aside their differences and made a new beginning. During this time, several auspicious things occur; climate begins to improve; newly born babies are believed to be blessed with a bright future; good deeds are reciprocated; and even those who die during Makar Sankranti are believed to achieve Moksha or the freedom from eternal reincarnation.
Makar Sankranti marks the beginning of a longer daytime through the sun’s northward journey after the so-called winter solstice. The sun is an important symbol for Hindus. It represents life, wisdom, knowledge and spiritual light. It represents a new beginning, a shift from the darkness of delusion, a time for growth, search for wisdom and knowledge, and the pursuit of a brighter future.
Makar Sankranti is a celebration of prosperity and the harvest season. After the monsoon and winter seasons, agricultural crops are now ready to give their fruits to the people. Farm animals are also of great importance, thus, a day of celebration dedicated for these farm helpers likes cows are observed.
Celebrations and observances
As mentioned above, the traditions or celebrations occurring during Makar Sankranti differs from one Hindu region to another. Other countries that celebrate this special day also have their own versions of festivities. Nonetheless, there are common and key rituals or activities being performed.
Religious prayers and offerings is an essential part of the celebration. Hindus pray to their deity particularly to the Sun God Surya Dev. During this time, women offer the Shreemangalchandika prapatti for it is believed that on Makar Sankranti women becomes the protector of their families.
Since it’s a celebration of an auspicious period, Hindus also perform bathing or showering rituals in waters they consider to be holy or important like the Ganges. Food preparation and feasting is also prevalent with focus on the creation of crop-based sweets. Sesame seeds are also essential cooking ingredients during the celebration.
Makar Sankranti is also characterized by a general lively mood. There’s lively and fun activities all around from animal racing, cock fighting, other games and of course kite flying. Kite flying is a favorite activity that the celebration is oftentimes referred to as kite flying day.
— Gaurav Soni (@igauravsoni) January 7, 2016