India is a country of diverse cultures and each region has its own share of festivals. Very often, many of these festivals are celebrated with a similar fanfare, but in different ways. Makar Sankranti, a Hindu festival dedicated to expressing gratitude to the Sun God (Surya) is one of those festivals. Observed in the second week of January of each year, people thank nature for its abundant resources and good products during the winter harvest festival.
Happy Makar Sankranti 2018 – Happy Pongal
The festival, celebrated in different parts of the country in different ways, denotes the entrance of the sun into the zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn) as it travels on its celestial path. This year, the festival will be held on January 14. According to Drikpanchang, activities such as bathing, offering food to Mr. Surya, or performing rites and rituals, should be performed during Punya Kaal. This year, it starts at 2 p.m. and will continue until 5:41 p.m. Mahapunya Kaal, the highly auspicious moment, will begin at 2 p.m. and will continue until 2:24 p.m.
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The spirit of the festival is full of decorative houses, flying kites and sumptuous parties. Several parts are observed during Makar Sankranti and are known by different names in different parts of the country. Here is a look at the different traditions of the festival and the way it is celebrated in different parts of India.
Taking a holy dip in the sacred rivers
It is common for people to take a holy bath in the rivers, especially Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari and Krishna. It is generally believed that such a practice would absolve them of their past sins.
Expressing gratitude to the Sun God
Considered one of the oldest Hindu festivals, Makar Sankranti is dedicated to the Hindu god Surya and it is observed that he transmits gratitude to nature for its resources.
Making sweets treats and delicious desserts
During Makar Sankranti, there is a tradition especially in places like Maharashtra, to make sweets from brown sugar and sesame. It is believed that during this period, the first harvest of sugar cane of the year is harvested. Til gur (sweet sesame) is prepared and exchanged on this day among friends and relatives.
Flying colourful kites
Flying kites is one of the most popular traditions of Makar Sakranti, followed especially in places like Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat. The colorful kites, made of different shapes and sizes, adorn the sky on that day.
Dancing around a bonfire at night
The festivities associated with Makar Sankranti are known by different names in different parts of the country. Lohri commemorates the fertility and joys of life, and the fields and farms harvested are illuminated during the festival. Lights and bonfires form an integral part of the celebration. The bigger the campfire, the better it is to celebrate Lohri.