INDIA. Mumbai: Despite the COVID-19 surge and chilly weather in certain parts, Makar Sankranti, which marks the transition day of the sun into Capricorn, was celebrated across India and abroad with devout Hindus offering prayers in temples and households on Friday.
How the festival was celebrated across India
On the festival day of Makar Sankranti, people took a holy bath at different pilgrim spots – in the sacred Ganga river at Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), at Trimbakeshwar, Nashik (Maharashtra), Gandhi Ghat in Patna(Bihar), Bhagirathi river in Uttar Kashi (Uttarakhand), Birbhum (West Bengal), and other places. Similarly, the devotees offered prayers at Golden Temple in Amritsar (Punjab).
As a part of the important spiritual practice, people take holy baths in rivers for absolution of sins.
In Maharashtra, colourful Rangolis were drawn in front of temples. People exchanged sweets made of sesame seeds and jaggery (ti-gul laddu) and extended good wishes to each other. Some households also made “Puran Poli” (a flatbread stuffed with jaggery and gram flour, served with ghee). These food items are good for the body since, in winter, the body needs food items that keep one warm, energetic and provide the necessary moisture.
Brief background of Makar Sankranti
Makar Sankranti, the auspicious festival, that was celebrated on January 14 marked the end of the winter season and the beginning of the new harvest season in India.
The festival is dedicated to Lord Sun. The Sun God is worshipped along with Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi throughout India. According to the Hindu calendar, the sun enters the Makar (Capricorn) sign on this day.
The prime reason people celebrate Makar Sankranti is to thank the Sun God. It is the day when the sun heads northwards towards the Tropic of Cancer and on the day of the festival, the night and daytime become equal. Makar Sankranti is also to welcome warmer days as it marks the end of the winter solstice. It is the first day of the new lunar month of “Magha”.
On this day people also fly kites under the sun. In some states, festivities go on for 3-4 days, beginning with Makar Sankranti.
Makar Sankranti widely celebrated in India, carries different names in different regions, although the rituals are similar. The names are Magh Bihu (Assam), Maghi (Punjab), Maghi Saaji (Himachal Pradesh), Sangrand or Uttarain (Jammu), Sakraat (Haryana), Pongal (Tamil Nadu), Uttarayan, Bhogi (Gujarat), Ghughuti, Uttrayni (Uttarakhand), Khichdi (Bihar), Makara Sankranti (Odisha, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa), West Bengal (Poush Parbon), Khichdi (Uttar Pradesh), Sankranthi (Andhra Pradesh, Telangana), Maghe Sankranti (Nepal), Songkran (Thailand), Thingyan (Myanmar), Mohan Songkran (Cambodia), and Shishur Saenkraath (Kashmir).
Makar Sankranti was celebrated also by the Indian diaspora abroad. It was celebrated with joy at the Bednarska School in Warsaw (Poland). The Embassy of India organized a colourful event there to mark this important harvest festival of India with colourful displays of rangoli and demonstrations of kite-flying, a Ministry of External Affairs stated in a FB post.
The event began with a group of Polish school children reciting the Gayatri Mantra to Ambassador Nagma M. Mallick. The rangoli design on the floor of the venue displayed India’s flag, marking 75 years of India’s Independence. Ambassador Mallick explained to the students the importance of this event to all Indians, especially the farming community. She explained the special foods prepared on this day, the kite-flying that characterizes the festival, the group dances and bonfires that also mark it, and the significance of the rangoli tradition. She then gifted kites and sweets to the students.
Bednarska is a prestigious chain of eight schools that were established in Warsaw after the fall of the communist government in 1989 and is dedicated to the ideal of free inquiry, individual rights, and openness to the world. The school has declared its patron to be Maharaja Digvijaysinh, the Jam Sahib of Nawanagar (Gujarat) who gave refuge to over a thousand Polish children in Jamnagar during the Second World War. He was elected to this position in a free vote by faculty and students of the then-newly-established school.
Makar Sankranti was celebrated also in Bangladesh, Nepal and the Embassy of India in Mongolia, with Embassy officials mingling with their Mongolian friends.