I come from a land of a variety of rich traditions and cultures and rich spiritual heritage. Significance of festivals interest me.
Significance of Makara Sankranti
Makara Sankranti, is a festival that is celebrated across many states in India in different ways. It is a festival to celebrate the beginning of a new year. People don new clothes, decorate front yards of homes with colorful rangolis, prepare sumptuous delicacies, meet family and friends, greet each other with sweets and gifts. The favorite dictum repeated is sow a good thought and reap a bounty of good returns. Known as the harvest festival, it is also one of the festivals that occurs on the same date every year.it is the date when the sun begins its ascent and entry into the northern hemisphere.
The variety and exuberance of colors displayed during the festivals attract many visitors to the country to partake of the joyful celebrations and soak in the ethos of the land. Makara Sankranti is one such festival which is celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy as the first festival of the New Year.
To the Hindus, sun stands for knowledge and wisdom. Makara Sankranti stands for new light. It marks the end of an inauspicious phase and the start of a new phase of joy and cheer in the spring season. It signifies the end of winter as the days get longer. As per the legends, the deity Sankranti killed the demon Sankarasur on this day and the festivities mark the victory of the deity.
What the Festival Means to Me
When my friend called me and asked what I planned to buy for Makara Sankranti, I remembered the significance of this first festival of the new year, celebrated with such splendor and fervor in our country. The main belief being that this is the most auspicious time to buy new things. It is the New Year festival of the Hindus. My mother and grandmother used to always buy new things on this festival, either new clothes, jewelry or new items for the kitchen and the household. Another cause for the celebrations at home was that the next day is my birth date. I was born a day after Makara Sankranti. So, there was no chance of my dear ones not remembering my birthday. My birthday was synonymous with the festival. Though I was not particularly fond of celebrating my birthday, I could not avoid it. My children always get cake and gifts and stay awake to wish me on the dot. My mother and brothers always join the celebrations.
Why is it Called the Festival of Kites
Kite flying is a popular tradition during this festival and it is believed to be a sign for the farmers that the sun is back ant that the harvest season has arrived. It is also believed that the kite flying is indulged in during Sankranti, to express people’s gratitude to the Gods for good seasons and good crops. Bright colored kites in a variety of designs adorn the skies. It is a glorious sight at sunset to see thousands of kites of various hues and colors decorate the evening sky. Children look forward to participate and also view the spectacular show of the flying of kites, during this festival. It is a form of escape from the burdens of everyday life into a world of imagination. A fun activity for the family to bond over.
Kite flying is more popular in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan. International kite festival is celebrated in Gujarat, in the city of Ahmedabad. People from all over the world join and enjoy this festival. Various kite flying competitions are also held. It is a beautiful sight to see. The real excitement during this kite flying competition is when people compete by cutting each other’s kites. It is done only for fun and without any ill will. By exposing oneself to the first rays of the early morning summer sun, it is believed that one can have good health because of absorption of vitamin D from the sunlight. Many believe that the Wright brothers created planes based on the principle inspired by Kite flying.
Homes are decorated beautifully with colorful flowers. There is warmth, charm, and splendor in the atmosphere. The festival is celebrated with much fervor all over the country. Dressed in traditional attire people visit temples. Sun God along with Vishnu and Lakshmi are worshipped during this festival. Sun which provides heat and light all beings on earth irrespective of who or what they are. Sun is revered for providing the energy to sustain life on this planet. Taking a dip in the holy rivers like the Ganga, Yamuna, Krishna, Godavari and Kaveri is believed to absolve one of all one’s sins. Worship of sun is special not just for India, but many cultures across the world worship the sun. Ancient Egyptians, Mesopotamians, and Germans also worshipped the sun.
Accordingly, people begin the day by taking a dip in the rivers. Special delicacies made of jaggery and sesame, and sweet and spicy Pongal in south India are the highlights of this festival. The sweets made of jaggery and sesame bound together are symbolic of togetherness, peace and harmony in the people in spite of differences in their traditions and culture. It is called by different names in different parts of the country.
It is called by different names in different parts of the country as follows:
Punjab – The Festival is called Maghi,
Assam- Magh Bihu,
Himachal Pradesh- Maghi Saaji,
Jammu- Maghi Sangrand or Uttarain (Uttarayana),
Kashmir- Shishur Saenkraath
Central India- Sukarat
Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh - Uttarayan, and
Odisha, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa, West Bengal- Makara Sankranti
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana- Sankranti
Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh- Makara Sankranti
Other Countries also Celebrate this Festival
Makara Sankranti is celebrated in our neighboring countries too. It is called as Maghe Sankranti in Nepal, Songkran in Thailand and in Myanmar Thingyan and in Cambodia Mohan Songkran. In Tamil Nadu, it is a four-day festival starting from January 14, where people also worship cattle by decorating them and taking them in processions. A day prior to Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Lohri in Punjab and other North Indian states. During Lohri, a large bonfire is lit and people sing and dance around this bonfire.
This festival though called by various names in different parts of the country, and follow different rituals and customs, has a common theme for the celebrations. It is mainly a harvest festival. It is a form of thanking nature and paying respect for all that she has bestowed upon us. it is a day when people of diverse culture and religions unite to celebrate with joy and positivity and look forward to a year of prosperity and abundance ahead. It is also a day of giving thanks to the Sun who gives us light and energy and who is considered divine in the eastern philosophy for his benevolence because of which life on this planet has flourished. Let us celebrate Makara Sankranti this new year with the hope that we are freed of the virus for good and return back to our normal lives like before.
© 2022 VIDYA D SAGAR