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Makar Sankranti 2024: How Does It Shape the Rich Indian Culture?

Makar Sankranti is a lively festival celebrated in India to mark the sun's move into the Capricorn zodiac sign. It's known by different names like Pongal, Lohri, and Uttarayan across the country and is culturally significant.


The festival has deep roots in ancient traditions, dating back centuries. It originally celebrated the winter solstice, signaling the end of winter and the start of longer days. This transition is seen as a time for new beginnings and the triumph of light over darkness.


People celebrate Makar Sankranti with joy, bringing communities together. Families join in traditional rituals, offering prayers for prosperity and happiness. The air is filled with festive sounds, creating a warm and unified atmosphere.


Makar Sankranti


The Start of Makar Sankranti


Every year, on January 14th, India gets ready for a big celebration. The whole country becomes lively with yellow colors and colorful kites flying in the sky. This marks the special occasion of Makar Sankranti, known as the Harvest Festival. It's a time when we celebrate the end of one thing and the beginning of something new.



Understanding Makar Sankranti 2024


In Hinduism, people see the Sun God, Surya, as a mighty deity symbolizing energy, light, and life. On Makar Sankranti, there's a widespread belief that divine forces come down to Earth. It will bring blessings and spread prosperity and good fortune to all of humanity.


A significant part of Makar Sankranti involves people taking a sacred dip in holy rivers. Devotees gather at riverbanks, especially at the Ganges, Yamuna, and Godavari. They gather to wash away their sins and seek blessings from the divine. This tradition is a way of cleansing the mind and body, getting rid of negativity, and opening the door for new beginnings and personal growth.


Moreover, in Hinduism, it is believed that those who pass away during the special time of Uttarayan get salvation from the cycle of life and death. An example is Bhishma Pitamah. He intentionally delayed his death despite being seriously hurt in the Kurukshetra battle. He chose to delay it by a couple of days to coincide with the Uttarayan period.  


The celebration of Makar Sankranti is also linked to the birth of the deity 'Narashansa'. He is the first teacher of righteousness in Kaliyuga and a predecessor to Kalki, who is the final avatar of Lord Vishnu.


Moreover, Makar Sankranti is a day of celebrating good conquering evil, as it commemorates the time when Lord Vishnu defeated the demon Sankarasura.



Why is Makar Sankranti Celebrated?


The Vedas tell us about Sankranti, which is when the Sun moves between different zodiac signs. This happens 12 times a year. Among these, 'Poush Sankranti' is considered really special and lucky. It's unique because it aligns with the solar cycle, unlike many other Hindu festivals. Makar Sankranti is more than just a religious event. It's a time to celebrate the beginning of the harvest season and share the joy of new crops.


This festival marks a change in the season, as the Sun shifts from the South to the North, officially bringing an end to winter. Makar Sankranti is a mix of religious significance and a way to observe the changing weather. It also notes the Sun moving into the Capricorn zodiac sign.



Traditional Connotation of the Festival As Per Ayurveda


1. The Morning Ritual


According to ancient scriptures, starting your day positively on Makar Sankranti involves waking up just before sunrise, taking a bath, and adding a bit of Sesame Seeds or Til to your bathing water. After your bath, it's a good idea to say prayers to the Sun using the Gayatri Mantra. Then, offer water to the Sun in a ritual called Argya. This is a way to bring positive vibes and auspiciousness to your day.


2. Makar Sankranti Pooja


Makar Sankranti holds importance not just in agriculture but also in special prayers dedicated to the Sun God. It symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness. People express thankfulness and seek blessings for a good harvest. They also show their gratitude for the Sun's move to the Northern Hemisphere by offering prayers and doing rituals.



Festive Rituals on Makar Sankranti


1. Food


On Makar Sankranti, people traditionally eat freshly harvested grains. They offer them to the Gods before enjoying them. Ayurveda suggests having Khichdi, a light and easy-to-digest dish. During this time, the season is moving from winter cold to the warmth of spring. And having Khichdi helps the body adjust to the changing season.With temperatures shifting, the body can face imbalances. However, Khichdi provides essential nutrition while satisfying hunger.


Beyond its health perks, cooking and eating Khichdi on this festival symbolize unity. The dish is made in one pot by combining freshly harvested rice, lentils, seasonal vegetables, and spices. This represents the cycle of life and the beginning of a new harvest year.


Ayurveda also recommends having Sesame Seeds and Jaggery on this special day. Sankranti and Til (Sesame) go hand in hand, as the festival is often called ‘Til Sankranti.’ Sesame seeds are thought to absorb negativity and enhance 'Sattva' – purity, goodness, and harmony, promoting a sense of spiritual well-being.


2. Flying Kites


Poush Sankranti, especially in Gujarat, is known for kite flying. The sound of ‘Kai Po Che’ mixed with delicious sweets on the terrace is a common image when thinking about Makar Sankranti. Kite flying started as a way to stay healthy by getting the early morning sun and soaking up Vitamin D.


3. Lighting Bonfires


In Punjab, people light a bonfire to stay warm and celebrate Lohri. The joy continues as friends and family get together, exchange gifts, and enjoy treats like gajaks, peanuts, revdi, and popcorn. They also sing folk songs like Sundari Mundari Ho to add to the festive spirit.


4. Decorations and Rangoli


During Makar Sankranti, homes and public spaces light up with colorful decorations and beautiful rangoli patterns. The vibrant colors and traditional designs create a visually stunning scene. They add to the festive feel.


In South India, Pongal is celebrated for four days. People clean their homes and decorate them with pretty pookalam designs. As a custom called Bhogi Mantalu, they also burn unwanted items on a bonfire. Afterward, they take part in Pongal Panai festivities.



Conclusion


Makar Sankranti is like a colorful quilt made up of India's diverse cultures, history, and farming traditions. It brings everyone together, no matter their differences. Such a festival creates a sense of togetherness among various customs. Makar Sankranti is celebrating the triumph of light over darkness. In relevance,  let's also adopt eco-friendly habits for a brighter and greener future for our children and grandchildren.



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