Rituals and Customs of Makar Sankranti


Makar Sankranti Rituals, a Hindu festival celebrated across India, marks the transition of the Sun into the zodiac sign of Capricorn (Makara). This festival, observed on January 14th each year, heralds the end of winter and the beginning of longer days. The rituals and customs associated with Makar Sankranti vary across regions, reflecting the rich cultural diversity of India.

Makar Sankranti rituals

Makar Sankranti Rituals in Different Parts of India

1. Kite Flying

In Gujarat and Rajasthan, kite flying is a prominent activity during Makar Sankranti. People of all ages gather on rooftops and open spaces to participate in kite-flying competitions, symbolizing the spirit of freedom and joy.

2. Puja and Offerings

In most regions, performing a ritualistic puja is central to Makar Sankranti celebrations. Devotees wake up early to take a holy dip in rivers like the Ganges, Yamuna, Godavari, Krishna, and Cauvery, which is believed to purify the soul and wash away sins. After the bath, people offer prayers to the Sun God, seeking blessings for health, wealth, and prosperity.

3. Distribution of Sweets

The exchange of sweets, particularly those made of sesame seeds (til) and jaggery (gur), is a common practice. These ingredients are believed to have warming properties, essential for the winter season. In Maharashtra, people say, “Tilgul ghya, goad goad bola,” meaning “Accept these sweets and speak sweet words.”

4. Pongal in Tamil Nadu

In Tamil Nadu, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Pongal, a four-day festival. The first day is Bhogi, when old belongings are discarded and new ones are celebrated. The second day is the main Pongal day, marked by cooking a special dish called Pongal, made from newly harvested rice, milk, and jaggery, symbolizing abundance. The third day, Mattu Pongal, is dedicated to honoring cattle, and the fourth day, Kaanum Pongal, is a day for socializing and family reunions.

5. Lohri in Punjab

In Punjab, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Lohri. The night before Makar Sankranti, bonfires are lit, and people gather around them, singing and dancing to traditional songs. The bonfire symbolizes the end of winter and the warmth of the coming spring. People also throw sesame seeds, jaggery, sugarcane, and other harvest products into the fire as offerings.

6. Sankranti in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana

In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the festival is celebrated with a focus on the harvest. The three-day festival includes Bhogi, Sankranti, and Kanuma. On Bhogi, old items are burned in a bonfire, signifying a new beginning. The main day, Sankranti, involves prayers, offerings, and traditional dishes. Kanuma is dedicated to cattle and livestock, acknowledging their importance in agriculture.

7. Khichdi in Uttar Pradesh

In Uttar Pradesh, Makar Sankranti is often referred to as Khichdi. A special dish made of rice and lentils, also called Khichdi, is prepared and distributed. Devotees take a dip in the holy rivers and donate Khichdi and other essentials to the needy.

8. Magh Bihu in Assam

In Assam, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu. The festival marks the end of the harvest season. The night before is known as Uruka, where community feasts are held. The next morning, people build bonfires called Meji and offer prayers to the gods, followed by traditional games and feasts.

Makar Sankranti rituals

Significance of Makar Sankranti Rituals

The rituals of Makar Sankranti are deeply symbolic. The act of taking a holy dip and offering prayers to the Sun God signifies purification and the removal of past sins. The exchange of sweets made of sesame and jaggery represents the need to let go of past bitterness and embrace sweetness in life. Kite flying embodies the spirit of freedom and joy, while the communal activities and feasts reinforce social bonds and community spirit.

Makar Sankranti rituals also highlight the agrarian roots of Indian society, celebrating the end of the winter solstice and the beginning of a new harvest season. The festival serves as a reminder of the intimate connection between humans and nature, urging people to live in harmony with the environment.

In conclusion, Makar Sankranti is a festival rich in cultural diversity, with rituals and customs that vary across different regions of India. Each ritual associated with Makar Sankranti has a unique significance, reflecting the local traditions and beliefs while celebrating the universal themes of renewal, prosperity, and community.

FAQs on Makar Sankranti Rituals

Q1: What is Makar Sankranti? A: Makar Sankranti is a Hindu festival that marks the transition of the Sun into the zodiac sign of Capricorn (Makara). It signifies the end of the winter solstice and the beginning of longer days. The festival is celebrated on January 14th each year.

Q2: Why is Makar Sankranti important? A: Makar Sankranti is important as it symbolizes the end of winter and the arrival of spring. It is also a harvest festival, celebrating the abundance of crops. The festival is associated with various cultural and spiritual rituals that seek blessings for prosperity and health.

Q3: What are the common rituals performed during Makar Sankranti? A: Common rituals include:

  • Kite Flying: Popular in Gujarat and Rajasthan.
  • Holy Dip: Taking a bath in sacred rivers.
  • Puja: Offering prayers to the Sun God.
  • Distribution of Sweets: Exchanging sweets made of sesame seeds and jaggery.
  • Bonfires: Particularly in Punjab, where it is celebrated as Lohri.

Q4: How is Makar Sankranti celebrated in Tamil Nadu? A: In Tamil Nadu, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Pongal, a four-day festival:

  • Bhogi: Discarding old items and celebrating new ones.
  • Pongal Day: Cooking the dish Pongal.
  • Mattu Pongal: Honoring cattle.
  • Kaanum Pongal: Socializing and family reunions.

Q5: What is the significance of kite flying during Makar Sankranti? A: Kite flying during Makar Sankranti symbolizes freedom and joy. It is a popular activity in Gujarat and Rajasthan, where people participate in competitions, showcasing their skill and enthusiasm.

Q6: What special foods are prepared during Makar Sankranti? A: Special foods include:

  • Tilgul: Sweets made of sesame seeds and jaggery, common in Maharashtra.
  • Pongal: A dish made of rice, milk, and jaggery in Tamil Nadu.
  • Khichdi: A dish made of rice and lentils in Uttar Pradesh.

Q7: How do people in Punjab celebrate Makar Sankranti? A: In Punjab, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Lohri. On the night before, people light bonfires, sing traditional songs, and throw harvest products into the fire as offerings. The bonfire represents the end of winter and the coming of spring.

Q8: What are the unique customs of Makar Sankranti in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana? A: The festival is celebrated over three days:

  • Bhogi: Burning old items in a bonfire.
  • Sankranti: Performing prayers and cooking traditional dishes.
  • Kanuma: Honoring cattle and livestock.

Q9: What is the significance of taking a holy dip during Makar Sankranti? A: Taking a holy dip in rivers like the Ganges, Yamuna, and Godavari is believed to purify the soul and wash away sins. It is a spiritual act that signifies renewal and a fresh start.

Q10: How is Makar Sankranti celebrated in Assam? A: In Assam, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Magh Bihu. The night before, known as Uruka, features community feasts. On the main day, people build bonfires called Meji, offer prayers, and engage in traditional games and feasts.

Q11: What does the exchange of sesame seeds and jaggery sweets symbolize? A: The exchange of sesame seeds and jaggery sweets symbolizes the idea of letting go of past bitterness and embracing sweetness in relationships. It also has warming properties beneficial for the winter season.

Q12: What is the relevance of cattle in Makar Sankranti celebrations? A: Cattle are honored during Makar Sankranti, especially in states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. They play a crucial role in agriculture, and their importance is acknowledged through rituals and festivities.

Q13: Are there any regional names for Makar Sankranti? A: Yes, Makar Sankranti is known by different names in various regions:

  • Pongal in Tamil Nadu
  • Lohri in Punjab
  • Magh Bihu in Assam
  • Khichdi in Uttar Pradesh
  • Sankranti in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana

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