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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Why do we celebrate Makar Sankranti ? Answer revealed...

  • Makar Sankranti marks the transition of the Sun into the zodiac sign of Makara rashi (Capricorn) on its celestial path. The day is also believed to mark the arrival of spring in India and is a traditional event. Makara Sankranti is a solar event making one of the few Indian festivals which fall on the same date in the Gregorian calendar every year: 14 January, with some exceptions when the festival is celebrated on 13 or 15 January.
  • Sankranti literally means “movement.” As per the Hindu calendar it is on this day that the Sun enters into the Zodiac Capricorn or "Makara". Also referred to as "Uttarayana” (northward movement of the sun begins). The importance of this day has been signified in the ancient epics like Mahabharata also. So, apart from socio-geographical importance, this day also holds a historical and religious significance. As it is the festival of Sun God, and he is regarded as the symbol of divinity and wisdom, the festival also holds an eternal meaning to it.People worship the rising Sun on this day by offering water and flowers with both the hands. Thereafter Gayatri Mantra is chanted while praying for knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment.
  • Makara Sankranti, apart from a harvest festival is also regarded as the beginning of an auspicious phase in Indian culture. It is said as the 'holy phase of transition'. It marks the end of an inauspicious phase which according to the Hindu calendar begins around mid-December. It is believed that any auspicious and sacred ritual can be sanctified in any Hindu family, this day onwards. Scientifically, this day marks the beginning of warmer and longer days compared to the nights. In other words, Sankranti marks the termination of winter season and beginning of a new harvest or spring season.
  • In Vedic times, Uttarayan was known as Devayan and Dakshinayan as Pitriyan. It is believed that Gods themselves come down to earth to accept that is donated away to Bramhins on Makar Sankranti. Holy souls enter into heaven during Sun's Uttarayan movement. It is for this reason Makar Sankranti is known as Alok Parva as well. According to Hindu calendar, in the month of Poush, Gods go to sleep and therefore no auspicious works are advised in this month. But Gods awake in the month of Magh, starting from Makar Sankranti and all auspicious events like marriage etc. can be organized.

        Legends behind this festival
  • One of the most important legends is the death of Bhishma Pitamaha in the Mahabharata. Bhishma chose the Uttarayan period. (Bhisma had got a boon from his father that he will only die when he wishes.) It is believed that people who die during Uttarayana merges with the Brahman, thus ending the cycle of rebirth.
  • Legend also has it that Lord Vishnu buried Asuras on this day beneath the Mandara Mountain. It signifies the end of evil and the dawn of righteousness.
  • Another legend is that King Bhageeratha brought Ganges down into Patala on Makara Sankranti day. This was to get salvation to his ancestors who were cursed by Sage Kapila and turned into ashes. On this day millions of people take bath in the Ganges. Makara Sankranti is also an important bathing date during Kumbh Mela and Magh Mela.
  • Puranas state that on Makar Sankranti day, Surya visits Lord Shani. In mythology Lord Shani, is the son of Surya.It is believed that Lord Surya visits his son Lord Shani on this day. Legend has it that this father and son never got along ordinarily. However, despite differences on the day of Makar Sankranti   Lord Sun makes it a point to visit Shani which symbolises the importance of father son relationship.Therefore, people in the north India visit their sons and buy them gifts on this day.It is considered as an auspicious day to forgive past quarrels and start relationships afresh
        Symbolic meaning
  • There is also a symbolic meaning to Makara Sankranti. ‘Makar’ means crocodile. Sankranti means ‘to cross into or change.’ The ‘Makara’ or crocodile represents the materialistic world and ‘Sankranti’ gives an opportunity to get away from the clutches of the crocodile or the materialistic world.

        Various names for same festival
  • Sankranti is celebrated all over South Asia with some regional variations. All over the country, Makara Sankranti is observed with great fanfare. 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. Following is the list of festivals as per region.
  • Pongal,Uzhavar Thirunal in Tamil Nadu
  • Uttarayan in Gujarat
  • Maghi in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. The day before, people of Punjab celebrate Lohri.
  • Bhogali Bihu in Assam
  • Shishur Saenkraat in Kashmir Valley
  • Khichdi in Uttar Pradesh and western Bihar
  • Makara Sankramana in Karnataka
  •  Sankranthi- Pedda Panduga in Andhra Pradesh (harvest festival celebrated for four days)
  • Makar Sankranti in Maharashtra (This is a special day for the women in Maharashtra and Goa when married women are invited for a get-together called ‘Haldi-Kumkum’)
  • Makar Sankranti marks the end of the pilgrimage to the famous Sabarimala Temple in Kerala.
  • In West Bengal, it is Pithey parban – a harvest festival – and there is also the famous Ganga Sagar mela.
  • In Central India, it is Sakarat.
  • In Orissa, it is Makar Mela
  • In other countries also it is celebrated but under different names and in different ways.
  • Nepal: Maghe Sankranti  or Maghe Sakrati
  • Thailand: สงกรานต์ Songkran
  • Laos: Pi Ma Lao
  • Myanmar: Thingyan
  • Cambodia: Moha Sangkran
  • Sri Lanka: Pongal, Uzhavar Thirunal.

        Rituals associated with sankranti
  • Makar Sankranti is famous for its sesame sweets and kite flying. But there is much more to this festival that is a celebration of the Winter Solstice.

      Kite flying
  • In Gujarat, Makar Sankranti is kite-flying day.There is a very interesting reason behind the kite-flying. Kite-flying in olden days was generally done in the early hours of the morning, when the sun's rays were bright but not too harsh. Also, during kite-flying, the human body was exposed to the sun for long hours. The early morning sun is considered beneficial for the skin and body. 
  • Since winter is also the time of a lot of infections and sickness, by basking in the sun, Hindus believed that the bad bacteria on their bodies would be cleared to a certain extent. Creating a fun way of sun basking where no one would even realize they were reaping benefits was through kite flying.
  • In some parts of western India like Gujarat kite flying competitions are organized during this occasion. People offer thousands of their colorful oblations to the Sun in the form of beautiful kites. The message intended is, “Rise higher like the kite’                              
      Sesame sweets intake
  • Tilgul is a excellent sesame candy made of sesame seeds and jaggery. Til means sesame seeds whereas gul means jaggery in Marathi/ Hindi.
  • Sesame Seed is the seed of an annual herb, Sesamum indicum, which grows well in hot climates and is the most commonly produced seed. Sesame (Til) is not just an eatable item, in Ayurveda it is considered to have beneficial medicinal properties.
  • It is a rainy season crop, and is mainly of three kinds: 1. black sesame 2. White sesame 3. Red sesame. Black sesame contains the best qualities with respect to nutrition. White sesame possesses medium qualities and red sesame has no qualities at all.The most important specialty of sesame is that is contains four rasas (flavors), hot, bitter, sweet and pungent. Sesame is hot in nature and is therefore used for preparing sweets in winter season. According to Ayurveda since this sankranti festival falls during winter season having sesame seeds provides the body the much needed heat and keep it warm.
  • Different types of sweets like gajak, laddu, revadi, etc. are made of sesame during the winter and protect us from cold. The chances of catching cold reduce if we eat these sweets. Sesame laddu's are beneficial for those children who normally have the problem of bed-wetting in winters. Children having this problem should be given one sesame laddu each in the morning and evening. Tilgul recipe is a combination that helps keep the body warm due to these heat generating ingredients making it a healthy sweet to enjoy.As such sesame seeds are considered to be very auspicious during this festival and the maximum use of sesame seeds is made during this festival.
  • In Maharashtra people exchange multi-colored tilguls made from til (sesame seeds) and sugar and til-laddus made from til and jaggery (to mark the harvest of the first sugarcane crop of the year). While exchanging tilguls as tokens of goodwill people greet each other saying – ‘til-gul ghya, god god bola’ meaning ‘accept these tilguls and speak sweet words’. The under-lying thought in the exchange of tilguls is to forget the past ill-feelings and hostilities and resolve to speak sweetly and remain friends. The symbolic meaning is to emulate the quality of Tilgul - to stick together even in the face of adversity.
  • Sesame seeds have a greater ability to absorb and emit "Sattva" frequencies because of which having food containing sesame is considered to be spiritual. Similarly distributing and exchanging Tilgul results in an exchange of the "Sattva" component.
  • Jaggery is a rich source of iron due to the process involved, using iron utensils. It is considered by some to be a particularly wholesome sugar and, unlike refined sugar, it retains more mineral salts. Moreover, the process does not involve chemical agents.  Ayurvedic texts consider jaggery to be beneficial in treating throat and lung infections.

        Khichadi Intake
  • Makar Sankranti is also known as Khichadi (Indian dish made from rice and Moong bean dhal) because on this day the injunction to eat Khichadi , is generally observed by people. Seasonal crops become available. Ghee and spices are used for making tasty nourishing khichadi. Winter loosens its grip on shiver producing cold, admitting springtime that brings with it the chance for all round health improvement. Those who are familiar with Rutucharya, may know that Vata problems were exacerbated during winter. Hence khichadi recipe during these days use ghee, tender garlic, whole grains, coriander, spinach, fenugreek etc.which will pacify vata problems (Spinal and joint pains).

        Various Other rituals
  • Traditionally on the day of Makar Sankranti day people have a ritual bath in Uttar Pradesh. The sacred meeting place at Allahabad- the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna- is an important place for holy baths.
  • It is said that til emanates from Lord Vishnu's body and that the above described usage wash away all kinds of sins. Sankranti period is held to be very auspicious and any good deeds during this time will produce merits. Gifts of clothing, blankets etc. on this day are productive of merits in both this life and in the next life.
  • Taking bath and giving donations has special importance in Makar Sankranti. Traditionally, donations are given away after taking bath in a river and eating Khichdi. Religious scriptures also emphasize upon bath, donation and religious jobs on this day. It has been said that donations given on Makar Sankranti comes back hundred times more in next birth. In the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, people bath collectively in sacred rivers like Ganga and give away things like til, gud, rice, etc. Giving woolen clothes and blankets to Bramhins has also special importance on this day.
  • As bulls signify the harvest season, they are treated with respect and decorated with garlands and prayed to. Major cattle fairs are held at different places where many camels, bullocks and horses are sold and purchased by animal lovers. On this auspicious day, even cows and bulls are given a wash and the horns are painted with bright colors and decorated with garland as a part of the festivities.

  • The sun is the inexhaustible storehouse and the source of light and energy. Without sunlight creatures and vegetation would cease to exist. People will lose their life sustaining vitality. Lack of nourishing substances would lead to the end of creation. This is why the sun's existence, movements and positions in the cosmos are so important and that is why the sun earns our respect, admiration and reverence.
  • Makar Sankranti also heralds the arrival of spring.To hindus, the sun stands for knowledge, spiritual light and wisdom. Makara Sakranti signifies that we should turn away from the darkness of delusion in which we live, and begin to joyously let the light within us shine brighter and brighter. We should gradually begin to grow in purity, wisdom, and knowledge, even as the sun does from this day.

        Happy Makar Sankranti !


deepa said...

what a beautiful article!! great job.

Dr.Vaishali Gautam Kamat said...

Thanks deepa !

kbcfan said...

Very nice and informative article....didnt know so many rituals pratcised in makara sankranthi. Should we expose to sun in all sankrmanas(the sun passing from one zodiac sign to another) or only makara sakramana. Usually sankramanas are inauspicious for any new activity except for spiritual activities and charity. More punya is got from charity and spiritual activities. So every sankramana should we expose to the sun or avoid it like in solar eclipse?

Dr.Vaishali Gautam Kamat said...

Makara sankrati is more important compared to other sankramanas as sun moves from dakshinayana to uttarayana

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