Makar Sankranti is regarded as one of the most auspicious days on the Hindu calendar and is celebrated across India with much pomp and gaiety. The day represents the rise of the Sun god in the Northern Hemisphere and is revered across the country in many names. Called the Lohri in Punjab and Pongal in Southern India, Makar Sankranti involves various traditional customs such as taking a dip in the holy waters of Ganga and Prayag and the flying of colourful kites. Nowhere is this seen in action like in the state of Gujarat where people come out in full force to celebrate the beauty of the upcoming season.
Makar refers to Capricorn whereas Sankranti means transition. The Makar Sankranti is regarded as the most auspicious of the monthly transitions of the sun as it marks the beginning of the Uttarayana as per the Hindu calendar and also means that days now become longer, while winter is in sharp decline.
The day of Makar Sankranti has plenty of religious significance too. It is the day that the Sun is sadi to visit the house of Shani, his son and while the two have many differences, it is on this day that they come together and symoblise the special relationship that exists between them. It is also said to be the day that Asuras were destroyed by Lord Vishnu and therefore is the day that good triumphed over evil. In addition to this, a huge Ganga Sagarmela is also organized on this day as it is regarded to be the day that King Bhagirath bought Ganga down to earth in order to get redemption for the 60000 sons of King Sagar. On this day, many millions take a dip in the holy waters of Ganga to atone for the sins of their ancestors. The day also finds a reference in the Hindu epic Mahabharat as the day that Bhishma, one of the heroes of the epic, chooses to leave his mortal self on earth.
In terms of celebrations, every part of the country has their own unique way of celebrating the festival. For instance in Bengal, a huge mela is held at the banks of the river Ganga while in states such as Gujarat and Maharashtra, people exchange sweets and greet each other with goodwill and best wishes with kite flying competitions being one of the highlights of the day. Tamil Nadu and most parts of southern India celebrate the day as Pongal while it is celebrated as Lohri in Punjab.
Makar Sankranti is a festival of togetherness and celebration. Like most Hindu festivals, it is about coming closer to loved ones and families. Traditionally, various sweets are distributed on the day and one visits the elders at their home to take their blessings. Sankranti also signifies the beginning of a period of hard work and simplicity as the end of the winter solstice is here.
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