Why is Makar Sankranti always on the
14th of January?
Makar Sankranti falls on the day of the year when
the sun-considered the king of all grahas (planets)-is in the rashi (zodiac
sign) known as Makar (Capricorn). This is considered the most beneficial and
auspicious zodiac of the sun. The calculations for determining Makar
Sankranti are done according to the solar calendar. Therefore, Makar
Sankranti always falls on the 14th January according to the English calendar.
It is usually the month of Magh of the Hindu calendar, the 'Tithi' or the
position of the moon keeps shifting because of the difference in
In the north, this festival is called Lohri: The
It is celebrated by both children and
adults. In the morning on Lohri day, children go from door to door singing
and demanding the Lohri 'loot' in the form of money and eatables like til
(sesame) seeds, peanuts, jaggery, or sweets like Gajak, rewri, etc. They sing
in praise of Dulha Bhatti, a Punjabi avatar of Robin Hood who robbed the rich
to help the poor, and once helped a miserable village girl out of her misery
by getting her married off like his own sister.
The Bonfire Ritual - In the evening, with the setting of the sun, huge
bonfires are lit in the harvested fields and in the front yards of houses and
people gather around the rising flames, circle around (parikrama) the bonfire
and throw puffed rice, popcorn and other munchies into the fire, shouting
"Aadar aye dilather jaye" (May honor come and poverty vanish!), and
sing popular folk songs. This is a sort of prayer to Agni, the fire god, to
bless the land with abundance and prosperity. After the parikrama, people
meet friends and relatives, exchange greetings and gifts, and distribute
prasad (offerings made to god). The prasad comprises five main items: til,
gajak, jaggery, peanuts, and popcorn. Winter savories are served around the
bonfire with the traditional dinner of makki-ki-roti (multi-millet
hand-rolled bread) and sarson-ka-saag (cooked mustard herbs).
Song & Dance - Bhangra dance by men begins after the offering to the
bonfire. Dancing continues till late night with new groups joining in amid
the beat of drums. Traditionally, women do not join Bhangra. They hold a
separate bonfire in their courtyard orbiting it with the graceful gidda dance
In the south, Sankranti becomes Pongal, a harvest
Cows and bulls are decorated and taken
in procession around villages. The first rice of the new harvest is ritually
offered to the sun god and cooked in different ways to symbolise plenty. The
food cooked for such feasts is also offered to the cows on that day. The special
sweets made on this occasion are Sakkami Pongal or rice cooked in jaggery and
Ven Pongal or rice cooked with green gram, nuts and ghee. The season of
Sankranti ends with Ratha Saptami, the seventh day of the bright half of
Magh, when the sun and his golden chariot are honoured.
West Bengal - last day of the Bengali
month of Poush
Thousands of pilgrims from different parts of the country gather at
Gangasagar, the point where the holy river Ganges meets the sea, to take a
dip and wash away all the earthly sins.
Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu is Assam's one of the most
Cutting across the bars of class and caste, it celebrated by all and sundry.
Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu (derived from the word 'Bhoga' meaning eating or
enjoyment) is celebrated when the harvesting is over. It is a harvest
On the eve of Bihu day, called "Uruka", women prepare rice cakes
and other refreshments and young men build a temporary shelter in the open,
collect firewood, often by stealing, which is permissible on this occasion,
for a bonfire.
The most significant part of this day is the
building of 'Meji' - a structure built of logs of wood placed in pairs, tier
above tier till they rise to considerable heights and present the appearance
of a lofty temple. The whole night is spent in feasting, merry - making
dancing and singing.
The half-burnt sticks and ashes of the meji
are strewn on the fields and at the root of the fruit trees as they are
believed to increase fertility.
In Gujarat and the other western
The change in the direction of winds
at this time of the year. It is marked by thousands of colourful kites which
dot the clear blue sky. Young men vie with each other to win community
kite-flying competitions and then come home to a special winter feast in the
evening. In these states, January is a month for eating newly-sprouted
vegetables, sweets made of milk and fruits of the season.
ln Maharashtra, Karnataka as well as
parts of Andhra, Makar Sankranti
A day of goodwill and friendship. Sesame chikki ladoos and sugardrops are
distributed by everyone as a symbol of the need to be generous and kind to
everyone Women wear new clothes, new glass bangles and hold get-togethers to
share sweets and gifts. A new bride is given ornaments made of sugardrops and
her new relatives are invited to meet and welcome her at Haldi Kumkum
celebration. In rural Maharashtra, Sankranti brings in feasts when tender
Jowar is eaten with salt and lemon juice, as well as fresh vegetables,
guavas, custard apples, grapes, oranges and other fruits of the season.