Makar Sankaranti or Maghi is celebrated on January 14 this year and is a festival devoted to Surya, the Sun God. It marks the first day of the sun’s transit into Makara/ Magha marking and end of the month with the winter solstice and the beginning of longer days henceforth.
This Hindu festival is a harvest festival and is celebrated in all parts of India be it in different ways and under different names. The day marks the arrival of Spring and it is a traditional festival. As it is a solar event, it is one of the few festivals in the Hindu calendar which fall on the same day in the Gregorian calendar ie. January 14.
Sweets are prepared using sesame seeds and jaggery and distributed to near and dear ones. In the south of India Pongal is prepared using rice and lentils. It is a time to pray for a prosperous growing season and a good harvest. All aspects of agricultural production are given great attention and farmers remember their ancestors. Evenings are merry gatherings around bonfires lit as the last bit of winter cold fades away.
Kite flying on this day has become increasingly popular. Delhi holds an annual Kite Flying Day festival on Jan 14. One may ask why kie flyng this day? The kite is symbol of elevated vision and high aspirations.
In Gujarat and Maharashtra, this festival is a festival of the young and the old who merrily rejoice in kite flying. Colourful kites of varying hues light up the sky.
In Punjab this day is celebrated as Lohri and huge bonfires are lit. Sweets, sugar cane and rice are thrown into the bonfire as people sing and dance around it to the beat of the drums.
In Uttar Pradesh, the focus is on an early morning bath and masses gather at the Sangam for a holy dip. They then pray to God Surya for his blessings.
In the southern states especially Tamil Nadu, the festival stretches over 3 days and Pongal is prepared in special mud pots. Cattle are bathed and adorned with flowers and bells and are honoured. It is celebration time when crops are harvested and prayers sent up for better crops next time round.