National Hindu Students Forum (UK)

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Makar Sankranti 2011

By Sanjay Parekh
NHSF Learning Team

14th January 2011 (Paush Sud 14 - Hindu calendar)

Makar Sankranti, also known as Uttarayan is celebrated on January 14th each year as the sun enters the rashi ‘Capricorn’. Sankranti describes the entry of the sun from one zodiac to another and Uttarayan describes the sun shifting northwards, increasing daylight hours. The actual Sankranti occurs in an extremely short period though.

Historical Significance

This festival celebrated every year, has both astronomical and geographical significance related to Planet Earth and is also described as the 'Festival of Nature'. The Earth moving between seasons (every six months) are celebrated among the Hindu community as Sankramaas:

  • Makara Sankramana (January)
  • Karkataka (Mithuna) Sakramana (June)

Looking from Earth, the Sun's northward journey begins around 22nd December.

Hindu calendars (Panchanga) have two Ayanas (period of six months), which are:

  • Uttarayana: The northward journey of the Sun (around 22nd December)
  • Dakshinayana: The southward journey (June)

Makara Sankramana falls during Uttarayana and on this day, the Sun rises latest as it enters the zodiac of Makara. From this day on, the sun rises earlier each day until Karkataka (Mithuna) Sankramana (early June).

Festival Meaning

Makar Sankranti is known by many names, each with its own significance:

  • Sankramana: (Transition)
    • The Earth's revolution around the Sun
    • The gradual change in nature (seasons)
    • Evolutionary changes in society, which are welocomed
  • Makara:
    • The zodiac sign into which the sun moves
  • Uttarayana: (Brighter)
    • Leading to a better six months of the year with brighter, longer and warmer days
  • Punya Kaala: (Auspicious period)
    • The increase in daylight and warmth, end of winter and growth of nature all add to the feeling of some auspicious time approaching
  • Pongal: (‘to overflow)
    • Rice is cooked in milk and the rice is allowed overflow, symbolising that one's home should brim with wealth
    • The ingredients of the early crops of the arriving harvest are used
    • Pongal is a delicious favourite prepared in every home. It is offered to the Lord as a mark of gratitude for His blessings

Celebrations & Rituals

There are many different, but significant rituals observed on Makar Sankranti. People welcome this change in season in many different ways:

  • Some bathe in sacred water, giving oblations to deceased forefathers (Tarpana)
  • People clean up their homes and exchange greetings with loved ones
  • A special food called Pancha-Kajjaya (a mixture of five ingredients: Jaggery, Coconut, Peanuts (groundnuts), Til and broken Peas) is prepared:
    • People distribute a handful of Pancha-Kajjya to other houses as an expression of sharing, friendship and love within the community
    • Sugar-candy artistically made of colours, shapes and sizes are also distributed along with Pancha-Kajjaya
      • This is to signify that apparent differences are to be ignored and what really matters is the integrity within: ‘Unity in Diversity’
  • There is also a tradition of pilgrims to bathe in Prayag (the confluence of three sacred rivers: Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati, known as Triveni Sangam)
  • In South India, the eve of Makar Sankranti is known as Bhogi.
    • Waste bric-a-brac in the house is heaped in the front and burnt
    • Pongal' is also prepared on Makar Sankranti
  • In Gujarat, gram from the new harvest is used to cook ‘Khichdi’
    • Cows and trees are also offered pujan since man's existence depends on them
  • In Gangasagar, thousands of pilgrims flock to Kapil Muni's Ashram on this day for Darshan
  • Yet, the biggest celebrations are children, adults and the elderly flying kites all day

Makar Sankranti Factfile

Date: 14th January 2011 (Paush Sud 14 - Hindu Calendar)
Popular in: Gujarat and South India (predominantly)
Origins: Festival marking the end of winter and start of spring