Makar Sankranti is among the most auspicious occasions for Hindus and is celebrated in almost all parts of India. It is a harvest festival and is celebrated in many cultural forms with immense devotion, fervor and cheerfulness. The festival is celebrated on 14th January and is possibly the only Indian festival whose date always falls on the same day each year with just a few exceptions.
The festival of Makar Sankranti marks the change of the Sun into Makara Rashi (Capricorn) on its celestial path. The festival is highly regarded by Hindus from North India to down in South India. The day is also known by various names and various traditions are witnessed as one experiences the festival in different states.
Makar Sankranti is considered as one of the most auspicious days for Hindus. The festival is celebrated differently in different parts of India. Thousands of people take a dip in the river Ganga and pray to the Sun God. The southern parts of India also celebrated the festival as Pongal and in Punjab as Maghi. In Gujarat, celebrations are huge as people offer colorful oblations to the Sun in the form of beautiful kites. It stands as a metaphor for reaching to their beloved God.
In rural and coastal areas, cock fights are held as an important event of the festival. As the festival is celebrated in winters, food prepared in this festival is made to keep the body warm and give energy. Laddu of Til (Sesame) made with Jaggery is the festivals speciality. The festival of Makara Sankranti also honours and pays respect to Saraswati – Goddess of Knowledge. Makara Sankranti represents a period of illumination, peace, affluence and happiness.
Many Melas or fairs are also held on Makar Sankranti. The most famous among them is the Kumbh Mela which is held every 12 years at one of four holy locations, namely Haridwar, Prayag (Allahabad), Ujjain and Nashik. The Magh Mela (or mini-Kumbh Mela) held annually at Prayag, the Gangasagar Mela (held at the head of the Ganges River), Tusu Mela in parts of Jharkhand and West Bengal, Makar Mela in Orissa, etc are some of the other fairs celebrated on this day.
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