When Makar Sankranti is celebrated?
Makar Sankranti Festival Celebration, Makar Sankranti is an important Hindu Festival celebrated on the 14th of January every year, a day after the festival of Lohri. The date is fixed, unlike most of the other Indian Festivals. The reason being that most Indian festivals are based on the lunar calendar. That means the day of the festival is decided on the movement of the moon. However, Sankranti is based on the solar or sun movements.
This day symbolizes the start of the sun’s journey to the northern hemisphere. This festival is the counterpart of Pongal, the popular festival of South India. On Makar Sankranti, it is traditional to take a dip in the holy Ganges and pray for our ancestors. The dip denotes washing away sins too. It is believed that the divine Goddess Ganga descended to earth during this time.
This myth begins ages ago. King Sagar was performing the holy Ashvamedha Yagna. This yagna or holy prayer in front of a sacred fire is performed with a horse. A house was set free to roam the world. If he came back unopposed, it meant victory for the king. The extent of territory the house covered, would become the property of the king who had released him, Then, the returning horse was to be solemnly sacrificed to the Gods.
A mishap occurred when King Sagar was carrying out this yagna. During the ceremony, horse got lost. Go and find the houre. King Sagar instructed his 60000 sons. So his sons set out to search for the horse. Sadly, thy could not find it. After a tiring search they reached the ashram of sage Kapila. And do you know what they saw there? None other than the lost horse. The 60000 sons of king sagar were livid.
He has stolen this horse. They decided amongst themselves. At that time, sage Kapila was in deep meditation. Marching up to the sage they bellowed, Sage Kapila how dare you steal the horse of king sagar. The sage remined immobile. He was still in meditation, you see. The princes continued to speak very harsh, accusing words. Eventually disturbed and very angry, sage kapila opened his eyes. Turning his burning gaze towards the accusing princes, he reduced them to ashes. 60000 sons of king sagar were reduced to ashes by the sage’s blazing eyes.
These ashes were then sent to the nether worlds. King Sagar was horrified when he learned about this tragedy. He immediately sent his grandson Anshuman to plead to the sage to undo the curse. Anshuman travelled to the nether worlds and begged the sage. Great sage, I beg you to undo the curse ou have put on the 60000 sons of king sagar. Said he earnestly. Impressed with his persistence, Kapila answered, son, there is only one solution. What great sage… Anshuman asked eagerly.
They can only be brought back to life if they are washed with the holy waters from the river Ganga. When anshuman told this to king sagar, the king wailed, but the river ganga is in the heavens above. My sons lie here on earth. How can I possibly bring her here? The task of bringing Ganga to earth failed miserably. King sagar’s kin could not bring her to earth.
After two generations, prince bhagirath lamented the fate of his ancestors. He explored ways and means to do something about it. On learning that their sins could only be washed away be theholy waters of Ganga, he prayed hard to the heavenly river. O mother ganga, please help me in my hour of need. Finally, Goddess Ganga agreed to descend on earth. But if I descend on the young earth my impact will split it into two. Ganga warned the prince. This time, prince Bhagirath prayed to Lord Shiv who agreed to help him. I will take the massive impact on my matter head. This way the rushing waters will lose their force. It will make it easier for a descent on earth, declared Lord Shiv.
And that is what exactly happened. With shiv’s help, Ganga descended on earth. Bhagirath led the river Ganga towards the ashes of his ancestors. Ganga split into many rivers. Why dis she do this? She was trying to find the exact spot where the ashes were lying. Ganga was able to wash away their sins and release them from the curse. After washing the ashes, she went into the sea. Do you know that even today a popular fair is held at the sagar island? This is the island where Ganga meets the bay of bangal. It is believed those who bathe at the union of the river and the sea on Makar Sankranti are blessed by the Gods.
It is also said that on the day of Makar Sankranti, the sun beings to rise higher and higher towards the Northern hemisphere. People believe that God is reminding everyone to go up towards more brightness and light, away from darkness. On makar Sankranti, devotees bathe in the Ganga river before sunrise. They pray to the rising sun. They chant the Gayatri Mantra and offer flowers.
They pray for a good and righteous life. They also offer water to their ancestors, asking for blessings. Charity to the needy in the form of rice and dal is distributed. People even plan a menu for eating simple Kichari. This is to shine importance on simple living and high thinking theory. Jaggery laddoos dotted with seseme seeds are eaten. People rejoice the coming of the harvest season. Special pryers are offered as a thanksgiving for good harvest. People welcome the end of freezing winter months and the arrival of the warm, bright sun.
Celebration in different parts of India
In Punjab, Makar Sankranti is called Lohri, it is celebrated to rejoice harvest. In Bengal the huge Ganga Sagar mela commences. In Gujarat this is the time for kite flying. In Maharashtra, people exchange til laddoos. In the south, it is called Pongal. However, whichever state this festival is in it focuses on the joys of bright happy thoughts. It prompts people to move away from dark negativity and thank God for all he has given.