The time of Sun entering into the zodiac sign of Capricorn (Makar Rashi) on its celestial path, is known as Makara Sankranti. As a tradition, this is one of the harvesting days in the land of India. In year 2011, this day is falling on 15th of January.
India has a vast geography, and there is also so much diversity in culture depending on the location, cultural background and agricultural environment; so Makar Sankranti is also celebrated for different reasons and uncountable different ways depending on the above factors.
Sankranti is a Sanskrit word which literally means the moving of Sun from one place to another, mostly a rashi or zodiac sign. As there are 12 signs or rashis, so there are also 12 sankrantis; and when sun moves to Makar rashi (Capricorn) from Dhanu rashi (Sagittarius), it is called Makar Sankranti.
The celebration of this day is not limited to the country of India; on the other hand, this day is celebrated in almost all South Asian countries, though with different names.n
There are various legends which are connected to this day. Some of them are as follows:
- The ancient scripture of India, the Puranas, state that on the day of Makar Sankranti, the Sun visits his son known as Shani Dev (Saturn). Shani Dev happens to be the lord of Zodiac sign of Capricorn. The two don’t share a very cordial relationship, but still father decides to visit his son on this particular day, and stay there for a full month. Therefore, this day also celebrates special relationship between a son and a father.
- Lord Narayana finished the terrorizing demons on this day, and buried their heads under the mountain known as Mandara; therefore, this day also signifies end of negative forces and beginning of righteousness.
- The most celebrated Bhisma deva from Mahabharata, also decided to leave his body on this particular day. It should be noted here, that he had a boon from his father, to chose a day on his own, to leave this mortal world.
- King Bhagirath, after doing severe austerities to invite Devi Ganga on the planet earth to liberate his ancestors, was finally able to offer oblations and liberate his ancestors on this day.
For hindus, the day of Makar Sankranti is very auspicious and is celebrated throughout the country in different forms, with great devotion.
Innumerable devotees go to Ganga Sagar (the point where Ganga meets the ocean (Bay of Bengal)) to take a dip in her holy water on this day. Many also go for similar reasons to Prayag, in Allahbad, to take a dip in the conjunction of three holy rivers Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswti.
In Southern part of the country, it is celebrated as Pongal. In the state of Gujarat, the festival is celebrated by offering oblations to Sun God in the form of beautiful and colouful kites.
The day of Makara Sankranti signifies a period of peace, enlightenment, prosperity and happiness. This day reminds the prayer of faithful to God “Tamaso ma Jyotirgamaya” meaning “take me from darkness to a state of enlightenment”.