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Significance And Importance Of Makara Sankranti

Makara Sankranti is one of the most important Hindu festivals. Usually it falls on January 14 or 15 every year. In the Indian sub-continent (in the Northern Hemisphere), this day marks the end of the winter and the onset of spring.

According to ancient Hindu scriptures, the maximum tilt of Southern Hemisphere ends on this day and the Northern Hemisphere starts gradually tilting towards Sun. The word 'makara' refers to Capricorn zodiac sign.

According to Vedic astrology, Sun remains for a period of one month in each zodiac sign and the transition time of Sun from one zodiac sign to the other is known as 'Sankranti' or 'Sankramanam'. The auspicious time when Sun transits from 'Dhanur Raasi' (Sagittarius) to 'Makara Raasi' (Capricorn), is celebrated as 'Makara Sankramanam' or 'Uttarayana Punyakalam' across the country. It is known as 'Uttarayana Punyakalam' as it marks the beginning of northward journey of Sun.

Also Read: Importance of Uttarayana Punyakalam

Social and Religious Significance

Sun is the life-giver and is known as 'pratyaksha daivam' i.e the visible God. After the lifeless period of winter, Sun starts His northward journey from this day which indicates new hopes for the spring of life. As our life is dependent on Sun and green plants (i.e crops), Sun is worshiped on this auspicious day and people offer Him naivedyam specially prepared with the newly harvested crop. The dish prepared is known as 'pongal' in Tamil language, hence Makara Sankranti became popular as Pongal.

Makara Sankranti has much of social significance / importance than of religious importance. Hindus across the country perform different activities on this day like a holy dip in the river / sea water at the auspicious time of Sun transition (uttarayana punyakalam), offer special prayers to Sun and do charity by giving alms to the poor and needy. There is a belief that water sources get energized on receiving solar energy during the transition time. And taking a holy dip in waters helps in energizing the body. Mainly Surya Bhagawan i.e Sun god is worshiped on this day. Besides Makara Sankranti day, Sun is also worshiped on Ratha Saptami day and on Sundays in the Hindu month of Magha masam.

Related Topics:
1. Ratha Saptami
2. Magha Masam

Makara Sankranti is basically a harvest festival. People of different regions of the country celebrate the day as per their tradition and custom. People in the northern region mostly take a holy dip in the sea / rivers, offer special prayers to Sun and donate alms to the poor.

People in the southern states celebrate the festival in a different way. The day is celebrated as Pongal in Tamil Nadu. 'Pongal' is the special dish prepared with the new harvest of rice in a special way by the people of the state on this day which is offered as naivedyam to Sun.

Makara Sankranti is the biggest and most important festival for the Telugu-speaking people of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Day 1 - Bhogi - Celebrated with 'Bhogi Mantalu' (bonfire), 'Gobbillu' and 'Bhogi Pallu' for the kids.

Also Read: Bhogi festival

Day 2 - Makara Sankranti - the most important festival with much of religious significance. The day is celebrated with Sankranti Muggulu, Bommala Koluvu, Kite festival, worshiping Sankranti Lakshmi etc.

Day 3 - Kanuma - Celebrated by the farmers as a thanksgiving to the cattle.

Day 4 - Mukkanuma - A festival enjoyed by cock-fight competitions in the coastal Andhra Pradesh.

Makara Sankranti is celebrated in a special way by the Telugu people of Andhra Pradesh. This is a continuous 4-day festival starting with Bhogi, followed by Makara Sankrant, Kanuvu and Mukkanuvu. It is a festival of family gathering which brings happiness and fills the atmosphere with joy. It has become customary / it is a tradition for the married daughters of the family to visit their parents' house along with their spouse and children. This brings laughter and joy in the families. Special dishes are prepared on the occasion with the new harvest (rice) which is then offered as naivedyam to god. A special dish called 'pulagam' is prepared with the new harvest of rice and offered to Sun as naivedyam.

Also Read: Pulagam

Festival Celebrations and Activities

The festival celebrations are lively in the villages of Andhra Pradesh. People beautifully decorate their houses and draw muggulu at the main entrance and in front of pooja mandapam. The doors and pooja mandap are beautifully decorated with garlands made of fresh seasonal flowers and mango leaves. This not only enhances the beauty of the house but also spreads fresh pleasant air in the house. Food is the basic need of humans. So the dish prepared with the new harvest is first offered to god. Ox and plough are the integral part of agricultural farming. Cows are considered 'gomata' i.e mother that offers everything with tolerance. Hence these are specially worshiped on Sankranti day.

Also Read: Importance of cows

Preparations for the festival start from early December as this is a festival of heavy shopping. It is customary for each and every member of the family to wear new clothes on this auspicious day. Most of the shops offer heavy discounts on various products including clothes.

The Telugu-speaking states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana become lively with the festival celebrations. Most of the schools remain closed for a week during the festival. The people of these states and various organizations in the state remain busy with festive celebrations.

People of all age groups are engaged in festival celebrations. Women, as always, as busy with home decor, making special recipes and the rest of the activities. Young girls enjoy their involvement in arranging and exhibiting 'bommala koluvu'. And men of all age groups enjoy flying kites.

Sankranti Muggulu

Telugu women enjoy the festival the most with their home decor and floral designs on the floor. Sankranti is famous for 'traditional muggulu' i.e rangolis and 'muggula poteelu' i.e rangoli competitions. Almost all the women are involved in drawing muggulu with high competitive spirits at the entrance gate of their house. Many organizations arrange Sankrant muggula poteelu i.e competitions for women where they are given the chance to showcase their talent and win attractive prizes.

Sankranti Lakshmi

On Makara Sankranti day, Goddess Lakshmi is specially worshiped as Sankranti Lakshmi. In some regions of Andhra Pradesh, married women perform special pooja to Sankranti Lakshmi by offering freshly ground turmeric powder (haldi) and kumkum (vermilion) prepared by the new crop of turmeric. The women folk then distribute pasupu, kumkuma (haldi kumkum) along with regipallu (local berries), sugarcane cut into small pieces, date-palms (khajur), tambulam (2 betel leaves, nut powder with 1 or 2 fruits preferably bananas) to the married women in their community.

Until recently, the tradition of distributing 'panchadara budlu (small sugar mould pots) / chilukalu (sugar mould birds)' or 'matti budlu (small earthen pots with moulds)' by young children to the children of their age was prevalent in some regions of Andhra Pradesh. A small piece of sugar cane, a coin, a local berry (regupandu) and a date-palm are placed in these pots. Unfortunately, the tradition has completely faded away from the society.

Bommala Koluvu

Bommala koluvu i.e the array of dolls and decorative items arranged / organized by young girls in a family, is an important event of the festival. Friends and relatives are invited to see the showcase. In the ancient times when young girls were confined to the four walls of the house, this event was aimed at showcasing their talent / skill of organized way of doing things and also teaching them the way of socializing. This is a healthy practice prevalent in the olden days which is gradually fading away due to various reasons like modernization, busy life etc, cross cultural influence etc.

Patangala Panduga i.e Kite Festival

In the Telangana region, people celebrate 'kite festival' during this time. Men enjoy flying colorful kites (patangas) of different shapes in the sky with high competitive spirits. The windy weather during this time is favorable for flying kites. As the weather is moderate during this time, people enjoy kite flying on this special day.

Makara Sankranti is one of the most important festivals of the year. It is a public holiday in the country and all the govt offices / public sector undertakings remain closed on this day. It is a festival that brings happiness and joy in people with new hopes.

Makara Sankranti date 2022 - 15th January

Uttarayana Punyakalam - 8.41 p.m (IST) on 14th January i.e Ravi (Sun) enters Makara Raasi at 8.41 p.m (as per IST) on January 14 (subject to slight variations depending on local time).

Reference: Kakinada Nemani vari gantala panchangam.

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