Makar Sankranti 2024 – Everything You Need to Keep in Mind

A festival heralding new beginnings and an auspicious start to the year, the Hindu festival of Makar Sankranti is considered to be one of the main festivals that mark the Sun’s transit to Makara (Capricorn). Usually observed on January 15, Makar Sankranti is the first major Hindu festival in the Gregorian calendar.

The term ‘Sankranti’ implies movement, and it marks the beginning of the Uttarayana or the northward movement of the Sun.

Many people also consider the auspicious festival as the harbinger of a good harvest. Charity performed on this day is considered to be of great significance. The festival is dedicated to Lord Surya, and it is believed that on this day, the Sun God visits his son Shani. This festival is celebrated with great pomp and fervor in many parts of India, as people celebrate the onset of harvest.

Makar Sankranti 2024 – The Beginning of Auspicious Tidings

The date on which Makar Sankranti falls is determined as per the solar cycle, even though most of the Hindu festivals follow the lunar calendar. The word ‘Sankrant’ denotes the Sun’s transit into a new rasi/zodiac and also marks the beginning of the solar month.

On Makar Sankranti the Sun transits into the Makara rasi or Capricorn, marking the beginning of the Makara month.

This year, Makara Sankranti will be celebrated on January 15, Monday.

The Punya Kaal timings for Makar Sankranti are as below:

  • Makara Sankranti on Monday, January 15, 2024
  • Makara Sankranti Punya Kala – 07:14 AM – 12:36 PM
  • Duration – 5 hours 22 minutes
  • Makara Sankranti Maha Punya Kala – 7:14 AM – 9:02 AM
  • Duration – 1 hours 48 minutes
  • Makara Sankranti Moment – January 15, 2:45 AM

Rituals and Puja Vidhi for Makar Sankranti

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As people prepare for Makar Sankranti, they clean their houses and puja rooms and keep them ready for the puja. The puja is performed to gain the blessings of Lord Surya; hence an idol or an image of Lord Surya is placed on the altar and decorated and offered flowers, money, incense sticks, betel nuts and leaves, holy water, turmeric powder, and a plate with four white and black laddoos made from sesame. Women cover their heads with a sari or shawl during the puja. While performing the auspicious puja, the devotees chant the Surya mantra

“Om Hram Hreem Hroum Sah Suryay Namah”

Across the expanse of India, Makar Sankranti is celebrated in different names. The rituals also vary according to the region. Makar Sankranti is known by various names such as

Lohri in Punjab and certain North Indian regions,

Sukarat in central regions

Sankranti or Pongal in Southern regions.

It is celebrated in Haryana, Punjab, and Himachal Pradesh regions as Maghi, the name signifying the corresponding lunar month of Magha.

For the Assamese Hindus, the Makar Sankranti festival is known as Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu,

In West Bengal, it is Poush Sankranti

In the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, it is known as Sankrant

In Bihar, it is Kichari.

Going South, this festival is known as Pongal in Tamil Nadu and is celebrated with huge fanfare.

It is known as Pedda Panduga in Andhra Pradesh and Sankranti in Karnataka, indicating the diversity of the country.

Every state has a unique ritual, based on its cultures and traditions, but for all, it is related to the astrological and agricultural cycles and has certain observances in common such as paying respect to the Sun, the Earth, the crops, and the cattle. Also, in some regions, observing vrat or fasting, conducting pujas at home, and giving alms to the poor and needy are considered auspicious. In Uttar Pradesh, people follow the ritual of having a holy bath in the Ganges. The ‘Magh Mela’ commences on this day at Prayag in Allahabad, and devotees flock to the region to obtain blessings.

In the northern state of Punjab, people light bonfires on the eve of Sankranti and perform puja around the sacred fire. They throw rice and sweets into the fire as offerings. Grand feasts are partaken by the people, and they perform the ‘bhangra’ dance around the fire.

Kite flying is a prime sport during Makar Sankranti in Gujarat. People gather on the terraces and open spaces to fly kites of various shapes and sizes.

Other rituals include elders of the family gifting the younger members. In Maharashtra, Makar Sankranti is celebrated with great fervor. Various sweets are prepared from jaggery and sesame and exchanged among one another with the greetings of “Tilgud ghya ani god god bola”, meaning “partake the sweetness of jaggery and sesame and speak sweetly as the sweet.”

Maharashtra also witnesses married women performing the age-old tradition of ‘Haldi Kumkum’, which is attended by other women folk from the area who apply the Kumkum and turmeric powder on each other’s forehead and exchange gifts and sweets. There is also a ritual of buying new utensils for the house, by the women, thus bringing in luck and prosperity.

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In Tamil Nadu and Southern parts of India, Makar Sankranti marks the harvest season. Paddy is harvested on this day, and sweet offerings made of rice, jaggery, pulses, milk, and ghee are prepared and offered to the family deity.

The festival goes by the name of ‘Pongal’ and is celebrated for four days in Tamil Nadu.

The famous Ganga Saagar Mela commences on this day in Bengal. The Mela is organized in the delta regions of the Ganga, where the river merges with the Bay of Bengal. Devotees take holy dips in Ganga and offer morning prayers to Lord Surya at dawn.

Makar Sankranti is observed as New Year by the tribes of Orissa and is welcomed with local food, which is shared among friends and families. As you can see, the festival is celebrated with pomp and fervor throughout the country.

Makar Sankranti – A Legendary Festival

According to Hindu mythology and legend, Sankranti – after whom the festival has been named – was a deity who annihilated a demon named Sankarasur. It is considered the date on which the Sun began to move northwards, as, before Makar Sankranti, the Sun shone on the southern hemisphere. This is believed to be the period of Uttarayan by Hindus and is considered to be a period of auspiciousness.

The significance of Makar Sankranti has been mentioned in Vedic texts. According to Mahabharata, Bheeshma Pitamaha, who was blessed with the boon of choosing his time of death, waited for the beginning of Uttarayana to liberate his soul from his body lying on a bed of arrows.

Another legend associated with Makar Sankranti is that Lord Surya chose this day to visit his son Shani – the lord of Makara rasi. Hence, it is a belief that this day signifies the strengthening of bonds or resolving the conflicts between a father and son. There is another legend associated with this festival indicating the triumph of Lord Vishnu over the Asuras. It is believed that Lord Vishnu ended the distress caused by Asuras on PrithviLok by chopping their heads off and burying them under the Mandara Parvat. Hence, Makar Sankranti also signifies the victory of good over evil and the start of auspicious tidings.

Why is Makar Sankranti Celebrated in India?

Indians observe Sankranti every time the Sun enters a new rasi. However, Makar Sankranti is more significant as it arrives after the southern winter solstice and marks the beginning of the Sun’s movement towards the north.
Makar Sankranti is celebrated as a reminder of the fact that life is sustained by these relative movements of the Earth and the Sun.

The change of seasons, the equinoxes, the northern solstice (summer solstice), the southern solstice (winter solstice), etc., are all the results of such movement. During the winter solstice, the tilt of the earth is at maximum, and the Sun reaches its southernmost point. From this day, the Sun’s northward movement gets strong, and Makar Sankranti marks the beginning of the period with steady growth in the duration of daytime and fills people’s lives with light.

Importance of Makar Sankranti

There are many reasons why the festival is considered important, and these are as follows –

Astrological significance of Makar Sankranti

In India, and the solar calendar, the first day of every solar month is a Sankranti signifying the transit (Sankranti or Sankramanam) of the Sun into that particular rasi. Thus, there are 12 Sankranti in a year. Of these twelve Sankranti, Makar Sankranti and Karka Sankranti are prominent for their astrological and climatic significance. Makar Sankranti arrives after the winter solstice (shortest day) in Dhanu rasi, while Karka Sankranti arrives after the summer solstice (shortest night) in Midhuna rasi. When the Sun passes the equinox in Thula and moves south, the days get shorter than the nights. It progresses in this way until the winter solstice in Dhanu, which marks the shortest daylight of the year.

After the winter solstice, as the Sun starts the Uttarayana or northward movement, the duration of daytime increases consistently. Once the festival makes its presence felt, the days get longer and warmer consistently. In many parts of India, it marks the arrival of spring and is celebrated as a harvest festival.

The spiritual significance of Makar Sankranti

Indian sages and yogis consider Makar Sankranti to be of great significance. A Yogi’s life is based on the divine bond between the human system and the cosmic system. Their spiritual developments evolve following the movements in the Universe and corresponding developments on Earth. Makar Sankranti is a transition that marks the gradual development of a new phase of life, thus symbolizing new beginnings.

Social and cultural significance of Makar Sankranti

Since India is an agrarian country, the festival is extremely important as it is an important period in the agricultural cycle. For most parts of India, it is either the harvest time or the period after sowing. The festival observances and ways of worship vary across the length and breadth of the country. In some areas, it is a single-day festival observed only on the day of Sankranti, while in some states, it is a celebration that spans several days. The celebrations include paying obeisance to the Sun God for the good harvest and paying respect to Mother Earth, the crops, and the cattle. It is also an occasion for socializing in many parts of India through traditional sweets at home prepared particularly from sesame and jaggery and sharing it among friends and family members. This boosts love and care among the people.

Another important tradition is kite flying which is observed in certain parts of India. In this modern era, it is becoming more popular and has spread to new regions as well. Every year, on January 15, the cities of Ahmedabad and Delhi conduct Kite Flying Festivals, which are attended by people across the country and from abroad. These events have gained international recognition as natives and foreigners eagerly participate in the kite flying event displaying various shapes, colors, and sizes of kites. On Makar Sankranti, the sky is lit up with colorful kites.

Should You Consider a Pilgrimage during Makar Sankranti?

Many Hindu pilgrim centers witness religious observances on Makar Sankranti, with devotees performing spiritual practices by taking a holy bath in the holy rivers of Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Krishna, and Cauvery. The festival also coincides with several Melasor religious fairs, which are attended by a huge number of devotees. These include the famous Kumbh Mela, which is held every 12 years at one of the four holy places viz. Haridwar, Prayag (Allahabad), Ujjain, and Nashik. Thousands of devotees throng the Magh Mela, also known as the mini Kumbh Mela, which is held annually at Prayag and sees a large number of devotees.

You can also visit West Bengal, where the Ganga Sagar Mela is held at Sagar Island, a part of the land where the river Ganga merges with the Bay of Bengal. Thousands of devotees celebrate Makar Sankranti here. Makar Sankranti also holds great significance in Kerala and is considered an auspicious time for undertaking the Sabarimala Pilgrimage. The influx of Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala, Kerala, will be at its maximum on this day when millions of devotees from across the country gather at the temple premises to worship Lord Ayyappa and witness the auspicious Makara Vilakku (Makara Lamp) and Makara Jyothi (Makara Light).

Some of the other Melas conducted during this day include the TusuMela or TusuPorab in Jharkhand and West Bengal, PoushMela at Shantiniketan, West Bengal and Makar Mela in Orissa. If you are keen on taking a pilgrimage during the festival, it is an excellent opportunity to witness the culture and religious fervor of India.

Read Significance of 41-day Sabarimala Mandala Kalam

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