Makar Sankranthi, or Sankranti is a popular Indian festival. It is celebrated in many parts of the country and in some other parts of the world with great zeal and enthusiasm. It is a harvest festival, which is celebrated in the Hindu communities. The festival marks the day when the sun begins its northward journey and enters the sign of Makar (the Capricorn) from the Tropic of Cancer. It is like the movement of sun from Dakshinayana (south) to Uttarayana (north) hemisphere. It is the one of the few chosen Indian Hindu festivals which has a fixed date. This day falls on the 14th of January every year according to the Hindu Solar Calendar. The festival is considered to be a day from where onwards all the auspicious ritualistic ceremonies can be solemnized in any Hindu family. This is thus considered as the holy phase of transition.
Makar Sankranti holds special significance as on this day the solar calendar measures the day and night to be of equal durations on this day. From this day onwards, the days become longer and warmer. It is the day when people of northern hemisphere, the northward path of the sun marks the period when the sun is getting closer to them. The importance of the day was signified by the Aryans who started celebrating this day as an auspicious day for festivities. The reason behind this may be the fact that it marked the onset of harvest season. Even in the epic of Mahabharata, an episode mentions how people in that era also considered the day as auspicious. Bhishma Pitamah even after being wounded in the Mahabharata war lingered on till Uttarayan set in, so that he can attain heavenly abode in auspiciuous times. It is said that death on this day to brings Moksha or salvation to the deceased.
Makar Sankranti is celebrated in almost all parts of India in myriad cultural forms, with great devotion. Millions of people take a dip in places like Ganga Sagar (the point where the river Ganges meets the Bay of Bengal) and Prayag and pray to the Sun God (Surya). In the western Indian state of Gujarat, the celebrations are even bigger. People offer thousands of their colorful oblations to the Sun in the form of beautiful kites. The act stands as a metaphor for reaching to their beloved God, the one who represents the best. Makara Sankranti is also to honour, worship and to pay respect to Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge). At the start of this significant event, there is also worship for the departed ancestors.
Makara Sankranti identifies a period of enlightenment, peace, prosperity and happiness followed by a period of darkness, ignorance and viciousness with immense sorrow. The six months of northern movement of the sun is followed by six months of southern movement. Since the festival is celebrated in mid winter, food prepared for this festival is such that it keeps the body warm and gives high energy. Ladduof til made with Jaggery is a specialty of the festival. In the western Indian state of Maharashtra, it is called 'Tilgul'. In Karnataka, it is called 'Yellu-Bella'. In some states, cattle are decorated with various colours and are made to jump over a bon-fire. It is celebrated differently in different regions of India.................................