There’s a holiday coming up and we get to devote it to flying kites and eating sesame and jaggery sweets. Ah Yes! Makara Sankranti! A festival that has become an overlooked date on the calendar over the years!
1. Let’s talk about the food first
The first sugarcane crop of the year is harvested during this period. To celebrate this, sweets, made of sesame and jaggery, are exchanged. This is what has given rise to the famous phrase of this festival, ‘Til-gul ghya, god-god bola’, which means have sweets made of sesame and jaggery and speak with sweetness.
2. Dressing up for Makar Sankranti
Most people dress up in black on this day. Black worn on this day signifies turning away from darkness and moving towards the light. Black is also the colour of til or black sesame, which is believed to be auspicious on this day.
3. Flying kites, obviously!
There is no spiritual belief or significance behind flying kites on this day. Some people say it began because this festival coincides with the International Kite Flying Festival at Ahmedabad. Some others say it is simply to welcome the season of spring. Other activities to celebrate this festival are cockfights in Andhra, bull fights in Tamil Nadu, elephant ‘mela’ in Kerala, ‘Makara Mela’ in Orissa and the ‘Kumbh Mela’ held once every twelve years on this festival.
4. Let’s turn to the spirituality
Taking a holy dip is considered highly auspicious on this day. Millions of people bathe in the sacred Ganga, in the rivers of Yamuna and in the Ganga Sagar, where the Ganges enters the Bay of Bengal. The day before Makara Sankranti is observed as Bhogi or the day of discarding all things old. On the day of Makar Sankranti people welcome the new.
5. Charity is a very important part of this festival
People in Uttar Pradesh make ‘khichdi’ and distribute it to the poor and needy on this day. People in Andhra Pradesh donate clothes. One surely must wait for a festival to indulge in charity, but what better time to devote to it, than when a festival calls for it?
This festival is celebrated across the country by different names. It is called Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Uttarayan in Gujarat and Rajasthan, Maghi in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, Lohri in Punjab, Magh Bihu in Assam, Shishur Saenkraat in Kashmir, Khichdi in Uttar Pradesh and some parts of Bihar, and Makara Sankramana in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Other countries celebrate this festival as well. It is called Maghe Sankranti in Nepal, Songkran in Thailand, Pi Ma Lao in Laos, Thingyan in Myanmar and Moha Sangkran in Cambodia.
Seems like half the world is celebrating it. What is holding you back? Go put on your best blacks, eat some sweets, fly some kites and do some charity. Most importantly, don’t turn the calendar page on this auspicious festival!