Makar Sankranti festival ~ festivals of india - local festivals, national festivals, state festivals

Makar Sankranti festival

Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti is the harvest festival of India. It is also known as the Thanksgiving festival of India. It is a very popular festival that is celebrated across the country under various names. This special day marks the transition of the Sun into Makar Rashi, the zodiac sign of Capricorn. From this day, begins the six-month long Uttarayan, the northern journey of the Sun, which is considered an auspicious period. The unique feature of this festival is that it is always celebrated on the same day of every year – January 14. People thank Suryadev, the Sun God, for ensuring a good harvest and dedicate the first grain to him.

Makar sankranti festival
Makar sankranti 

Religious Importance

People pray to Suryadev on the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti. He is worshipped as the giver of light, the conqueror of darkness (ignorance), and the embodiment of strength.

The Puranas say that on this day, Suryadev visits the house of his son Shani, who is the master of Makar Rashi. It is said that father and son do not get along well, but Suryadev sets aside all differences and makes it a point to meet his son on this day.

It was on this day that Lord Vishnu ended the ever-increasing powers of the Asuras by defeating them and burying their heads under the Mandarachal Mountain. So this occasion also represents the end of negativities and beginning of an era of righteous living.

The importance of this day was highlighted during the Mahabharat war, when the great grandsire, Bheeshma, declared his intent to leave his mortal body on this day.

In recent times, a very special event took place on the auspicious day of Makar Sankranti. Shree Kripaluji Maharaj was invited by the Kashi Vidvat Parishat, the supreme body of 500 Vedic scholars at that time. He spoke before them in sophisticated Sanskrit language for ten days, and revealed the true knowledge of all the Vedic scriptures. When the entire assembly realized that his knowledge was deeper than the combined knowledge of all of them, they unanimously conferred upon him the title of “Jagadguru.” This historic event took place on January 14, 1957. Prior to this, only four personalities had received the original title of Jagadguru: Jagadguru Shree Shankaracharya, Jagadguru Shree Nimbarkacharya, Jagadguru Shree Ramanujacharya, Jagadguru Shree Madhvacharya. Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj became the fifth original Jagadguru in history. This day is celebrated by his devotees as “Jagadguru Diwas (Day of the Jagadguru).”


Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious days for the Hindus and is celebrated in almost all parts of India in myriad cultural styles depending upon the region, with great fervor and devotion. Millions of people take a dip in places like Ganga Sagar (place where the river Ganga meets the Bay of Bengal) and Prayag (Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh), and pray to Suryadev. Houses are cleaned, painted and decorated. In many parts of India, kolams
(colourful ground patterns made out of rice flour) are made in the front courtyards of houses. New clothes for the whole family are bought to mark the festivities. The cattle are decorated with beads, bells and flowers. Their horns are painted and capped with shining metals. Since the festival is celebrated in mid winter, the food prepared for this festival is high in energy. Laddu made of til (sesame seeds) and jaggery is a specialty of the festival. People visit each other and exchange sweets and delicacies.

Celebration in South India

Although Makar Sankranti is celebrated throughout India, it is most elaborate, colorful and vibrant in the southern states of India. This festival is known as Pongal in Tamil Nadu which derives its name from the ritual of boiling a mixture of rice, milk and jaggery, and allowing it to spill over. It is also very popular in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh as “Sankranti.”

In some parts of Karnataka, it is celebrated as “Yellu-Bella”. Yellu is sesame seeds and ‘Bella’ is jaggery. The womenfolk of each household distribute a mixture of sesame seeds, jaggery, coconut and groundnuts to relatives and friends. The display of cows and cattle in many colorful costumes in an open field is quite popular. Cows are decorated for the occasion and taken on a procession.

In Tamil Nadu, the celebration lasts for four full days. The first day is celebrated as “Bhogi Pongal” or just “Bhogi”. It is usually meant for domestic activities and family get-togethers. This festival is celebrated in honor of Lord Indra, the supreme ruler of clouds and the give rains. The important ritual observed on this day is “Bhogi”, when useless household articles are thrown into a fire made of wood and cow-dung cakes. This ritual also symbolizes the destruction of evil and elimination of bad thoughts.

The second day of the festival is known as “Pongal”. It is called “Pedda Panduga” (big festival) in Andhra Pradesh. Prayers are offered to the Sun god early in the morning. Family members gather outside their house and cook “Pongal” in clay pots. New pots are painted and decorated with turmeric, flowers and mango leaves. When the rice inside the pot overflows, the people rejoice saying, “Pongal O Pongal!”, as the overflow of rice symbolizes a prosperous farming for them. People worship Sun god on this day by offering both Pongal and sugarcane. Sugarcane is offered as a symbol of sweetness and happiness in life.

The third day of the festival is known as “Maatu Pongal.” This day is considered as the day of Pongal for cows. For the villagers, the cow, a giver of milk and the bull which ploughs the fields are very valuable and therefore the farmers honor them by dedicating this day for them. It is a day of thanks-giving for these two animals. The cattle are washed and their horns are decorated with flowers and painted with many colors.

A bull taming sport called “Jallikattu” is played on this day. In this sport, a bull is left to run in an open ground. Young men display their bravery by attempting to jump on the bull and control it using its horns. It  is an extremely dangerous sport, as the men ride the bulls with their bare hands and with no protection. The raging bulls have very strong and razor sharp horns. People gather in hundreds and thousands to watch this sport.

Makar sankranti festival sweets
Makar sankranti

The fourth day of Pongal celebrations is called Kaanum Pongal. In some places, this day is also known as Karinaal or Thiruvalluvar Day. This day is very similar to Rakhsa Bandhan and Bhai Dhooj that is celebrated in Northern India. It is predominantly a festival where women offer prayers for the wellbeing of their brothers. On this day, people travel to see other family members and the younger members of the family pay homage to the elders, and the elders thank them by giving token money. Another ritual many women follow is leave food out on banana leaves for birds to eat.

Celebration in other parts India

In Uttar Pradesh, Makar Sankranti is celebrated by taking a dip in a holy river. In Rajasthan and Gujarat, people of all ages celebrate Makar Sankranti by flying kites and holding kite flying contests. In Rajasthan, this festival is known as “Sakrat” while in Gujarat it is known as “Uttarayan”. In the western Indian state of Maharashtra it is called “Tilgul”. This is a special day for married women who are invited for a get-together called “Haldi-Kumkum” and given gifts including utensils.

In the Punjab, this festival is celebrated as “Lohri”. It is also celebrated as “Bhogali Bihu” in Assam and “Shishir Sankraat” in Kashmir. In Bengal, it is celebrated as “Poush Sankranti”. On this occasion, pilgrims gather at Gangasagar, the point where the holy river Ganga meets the sea, to take a dip and wash away all the earthly sins.


Makar Sankranti symbolizes a new and auspicious beginning for all. It is an occasion to forget the past and allow new light to enter one’s life. It is an opportunity for families to get together and offer their respects to the land and animals that feed them on a daily basis. It gives us a chance to pray to God for the overall prosperity and wellbeing throughout year.

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