Makara Sankranti or Uttarayan or lohri or pongal or boghi marks the beginning of a new harvest season and the termination of the Winter season. Sankranti is deemed a Deity. As per the legend, Sankranti killed a devil named Sankarasur.
Although the festival's cultural significance and names vary geographically, it is celebrated with the same zeal across the country. Makar Sankranti is known as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Pedda Pandaga in Telangana, Makar Sankranti in Karnataka, and Magh Bihu in Assam.
Makar Sankranti is the date from which the northward movement of the sun begins. The period from Karka Sankranti to Makar Sankranti is known as the Dakshinayan. People thank Sun God Surya for blessing their harvest with resources.
The festival is celebrated around the same date every year, January 14, as it is determined as per the solar calendar. People begin the day of Makar Sankranti by taking a dip in rivers like Ganga, Yamuna, Krishna, Godavari, and Cauvery, as well as express gratitude to the Sun God Surya.
- Before Makar Sankranti, the sun is in the Southern Hemisphere. For this reason, in India, in winter nights are longer and days are smaller. But with the Makar Sankranti, the sun starts its journey towards Northern Hemisphere and so, days will be longer and nights smaller.
In different regions of the country, Makar Sankranti is celebrated by different names
- Lohri: One day before Makar Sankranti, Lohri is celebrated in India with enthusiasm mainly in Haryana and Punjab. At night, people gather around the bonfire and throw til, puffed rice & popcorns into the flames of the bonfire. Prayers are offered to the bonfire seeking abundance & prosperity.
- Festival of Donation or "Khichdi": In Uttar Pradesh, it is mainly the festival of 'Donation'. The Magh fair, which continues for one month on the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati in Allahabad, starts from the day of Makar Sankranti only. On this auspicious day, people do fast in Uttar Pradesh eat and offer khichdi. Also, Khichdi Mela is organized at Gorakhdham in Gorakhpur.
- In Bihar, the Makar Sankranti festival is known as Khichdi. On this day, donating urad, rice, gold, woollen clothes, blankets, etc. have their own importance.
- In Maharashtra, all married women donate cotton, oil, and salt to other suhagin or married women on their first Sankrant.
- In Bengal, there is a tradition of donating til after taking bath on Makar Sankrant. A huge fair is also organised every year in Gangasagar.
- Pongal: On the occasion of Makar Sankranti in Tamil Nadu, this festival is celebrated as Pongal for four days.
- Kite Festival: In Gujarat, the kite festival is organized on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.
Therefore, in India, the Makar Sankranti festival has its own importance. It is celebrated in various States by different names. So now you may have come to know the history of Makar Sankranti and how is it celebrated.