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Monday, January 16, 2012

Makarsankranti

On the auspicious occasion of Makarsankranthi, which I observe as Pongal, my friend who goes by the name of Cinnamon provided this guest post to show how this festival is celebrated in other parts of India...


Makarsankranti is a festival celebrated all across India, in varied formats differing from region to region. It is the worship of Sun God who starts his journey towards the North- making the days longer and the nights shorter.

When I think of Makarsankranti, it reminds me of kites and til ke ladoo. The smell of the ladoos made by my mom engulfs me in my childhood memories. How the sky was so colorful with kites flying all over as early as December. As soon as I returned from school I used to run to the terrace with my brothers and stay with them till dawn, this use to happen every day till Sankranti. My mom used to start the preparation for the til ke ladoo a week before. She used to call us all, give a sack and ask us to make the til colour lighter as they are black in colour. We all used to rub them on the sack and kept comparing, whose til is lighter in colour, who did more and every time me and my brother ended up fighting. That was so much fun. On the day of Makarsankranti, we used to give the ladoos to the poor and stay on the terrace the whole day flying and catching kites basically I used to help my brothers with everything they needed. At the end of the day I used to count how many kites I caught and come running to tell my mom. Taking the path to the memory lane opens up a whole new world which I might have almost unconsciously forgotten. Making me feel happy and sad both at the same time.

Makarsankranti is celebrated with different names and beliefs all over India. While it is Pongal O Pongal in south, it is Lohri in Punjab and the famous kite festival in Gujarat. The day preceding Makara Sankranti is called Bhogi in Tamil Nadu where people discard old and derelict things and concentrate on new things causing change or transformation. On the day after Makara Sankranti, the South celebrates the Mattu Pongal for the holy cow. In Bengal, Makar Sankranti is noted for the Ganga Sagar Mela and Pithey parban. Bhogali Bihu is celebrated on the day in Assam. Makar Mela is observed in Orissa. In Kerala, the famous Sabarimala Pilgrimage comes to an end with sighting of the Makaravilakku. In Gujarat and Rajasthan, it is known as Uttarayan.

According to the Puranas, on this day Surya (Sun) visits the house of his son Shani(Saturn), who is the lord of the Makar rashi(Zodiac Capricorn). Though the father and son duo did not get along well, Surya made it a point to meet his son on this day. He, in fact, comes to his son’s house, for a month. This day thus symbolizes the importance of the special relationship between father and son. Millions of people take a dip in places like Ganga Sagar (the point where the river Ganges meets the Bay of Bengal) and Prayag and pray to the Sun God (Surya).

Another legend is that King Bhageeratha brought Ganges down into Patala on Makara Sankranti day. This was to get salvation to his ancestors who were cursed by Sage Kapila and turned into ashes. Essentially it symbolizes how it is time to throw the darkness of the past and begin a brighter life. A life with more warmth with the winter behind. -- Cinnamon

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