For Indians, especially the Hindus, the movement of the Sun and the Moon in the orbit is of great importance. These movements has a major influence on all the twelve Zodiac signs. Therefore, the changes are carefully noted by scholars and astrologers for predictions. Each year, in the beginning, a major development takes place which is related to the Sun. The process that starts from December 21 or 22 gets completed by January 14 or 15. This means the Sun starts shifting from Dhanu Rashi (Sagittarius) and complete its journey after entering into the Makara Rashi (Capricorn). Since it is a good and important change in the world of planet, this day is celebrated as Makar Sankranti.
Not only from the astrological point of view, but also from the scientific calculation and study, the transition of the Sun from one zodiac to another has been proved. Scientists have found that during the 21 days of the transition, the Sun moves from the western hemisphere to the northern hemisphere. This is the reason why Makar Sankranti always falls on January 14 while other Hindu festivals keep changing their dates each year.
Though the movement of the Sun from Dakshinayana to Uttarayana is clearly celestial, it is considered auspicious according to the Hindu calendar. This festival appears in the Pusha masa month. It is a reminder that harvest season is about to occur and the northeast monsoon to end in the South India. The name given to it has relevance to the changeover happening in the space. Since the Sun moves into Capricorn, which in Hindi is called Makar. Hence, the name Makar Sankranti and 'Kranti' in Hindi means change or revolution.
Makar Sankranti in the Hindu culture is very sacred. Though it is a harvest festival, it still has many other importance. Hindus call the transition of the Sun as 'Holy transition and the beginning of the new phase.' As per the traditional Hindu lunar calendar the mid of December is considered as the unfavourable or unlucky phase. Hence, people avoid to embark on any new venture or bring something new in their home. If one has to go through the scientific observation, then they would realize that from this day onward they experience warmer and longer days.
Spiritual Significance of Makar Sankranti
This festival has lots of historical importance in Hindu culture. In addition, to the commencing of the harvest season, it also points towards the necessity of maintaining and balancing family connections. The story that points towards this aspect goes this way: In the primitive age, the relationship between the Sun and his son, Shani, who is the lord of Makar, were not good. On this day, the Sun decides to visit his son to patch up the differences. And the father and son reconcile. Hence, this day is very auspicious for strengthening relationships between father and son.
Furthermore, this day is also looked at as sacred because it saw the end of brutal acts of the demons. Lord Vishnu finishes all the satans who had crossed their limits and buries their heads under the Mandara Parvata. Hence, this day also signifies the end of evil and starting of an occasion of righteous living.
Rituals, traditions and celebration
Makar Sankrant is celebrated all over India with gaiety and in different forms. The only change about this festival is that it has different names in each state of the country. The tradition is to take a bath in any of the holy rivers of India, wear new clothes, and offer prayers in temples.
In Maharashtra, people exchange sweets made of jaggery and sesame. While distributing the sweets, they greet with 'Til Gul ghya anni gode bola,' which means eat this sweet and talk sweet. They also wear black clothes on this day because the black sesame according to their tradition is auspicious. After finishing the puja and offering sweets and dishes to the god, they start fly kites. Women get ready in a typical Maharashtrian style and greet guests and serve them sweets.
In Gujarat, this festival is more enjoyed by holding kite flying competitions. Every city and town gears up completely for this day. According to them, flying colourful kites is a symbol of offering to the Sun god. It is an implied comparison of reaching towards the God in the form of a kite.
This festival also brings charity and donation to the forefront. Many people in Uttar Pradesh are seen donating Khichdi, which is a cooked combining rice and lentil, to Brahmins and the poor. Many trusts are organizing a Langar on this day which is an open invitation for a meal where people sit in a row and eat it considering it as a prasad.
Makar Sankranti is regarded as the period of awareness, peace, happiness and development. People try to mend mistakes, develop relationship, engage in social activities and make plans or the year ahead.
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