Makar (Capricorn) Sankranti (a goddess) is the festival that honours the Hindu deity, Sankranti, in the month of Capricorn. As legend goes, on this day, Goddess Sankranti overpowered a devil named Sankarasur.
The festival goes by many names in various regions, but all eventually celebrate the onset of northward movement of the Sun from Dakshinayan to Uttarayan. Dakshinayan refers to the night of God which highlights the dark side of universe and Uttarayan is a symbol of day of Gods, which brings forth positivity and manifestations.
This auspicious day begins with a dip in the rivers, worshipping the Sun God, and consumption of til (sesame seeds). The til is also burnt on woodfire and its smoke is used to cleanse the energy of houses. A haldi-kumkum ceremony is held in the poojasthal (worship room) to invoke Adi-Shakti (the balance of male and female energies) into lives and through the year.
Some regions in India, celebrate this day with elaborate kite-flying competitions that see the skies dotted with colourful paperwork. This is also a time for harvests and thus signifies reaping the fruits of your labour.
Around the World
This festival is celebrated not only across India but around Asia.
Lohri in Punjab, Magh Mela in Uttar Pradesh, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Pousha Sankranti in West Bengal, Makara Vilakku in Kerala, Magh Bihu in Assam & North East, Vasi Uttarayan in Gujarat, Thai Pongal in Sri Lanka, and Maghe Sankrant in Nepal.
With the diversity of regions for this festival, there is bound to be countless ways this is celebrated in every place. A quick glimpse into how this is honoured across the world:
- For Lohri in Punjab and Haryana, people gather at night around a bonfire and throw til and puffed rice into the flames, seeking abundance and prosperity.
- This is the beginning of the Magh Mela in Uttar Pradesh, which continues for one month at the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati in Prayagraj (formerly Allahabad).
- In Bihar and Jharkhand, people worship the Sun God early morning and donate urad, rice, gold, woollen clothes, and blankets.
- In Maharashtra, all married women donate cotton, oil, and salt to other married women. People greet each other with ‘Tilgul ghya goad bola’ (Take sweet, talk sweet, be sweet).
- In Bengal, people donate til after taking bath.
- In Gujarat, a huge the kite festival is organised.
- In Goa, Goddess Lakshmi is propitiated with the observance of 12-day haldi-kumkum festival, which concludes on Ratha Saptami, when the temple deity’s procession is taken around the village in a rath (chariot).
- In Karnataka, people decorate their house entrance with mango leaves and rangolis and exchange ellu-bella sweets (sesame seeds and jaggery). They greet each other with ‘Ellu Bella tindhu oLLe mathadu’ (Eat the ellu and bella sweet and speak sweet words).
- In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, this is a four-day festival which includes feasts.
- In Uttarakhand, Uttarayani fairs of cultural songs, dances and games are held.
- In Madhya Pradesh, people dip in holy waters in Ujjain.
- In Sri Lanka, a new clay pot of milk is boiled to begin the festivities, and it is considered a sign of good fortune if the milk boils over.
- In Nepal, people take a ritual dip in holy river confluences.
Well, it won’t be a festival if there isn’t food involved, isn’t it?
Til remains at the centre of most preparations, but there are a variety of other items that spills from the Indian kitchens, namely:
- Til halwa
- Pooran poli/holige
- Til-gul laddoo
- Chana dal halwa
Wishing everyone a prosperous Makar Sankranti.