Makar Sankranti is an auspicious day and is celebrated in almost all parts of India. Although the name by which it is known, the day and the way it is celebrated varies from place to place and state to state, the underlying significance is almost the same. This is the beginning of good weather for the next six months. This year Makar Sankranti is falling on 15 January. This article gives all the necessary relevant details on Makar Sankranti and helps everyone to understand easily.
what is solstice
It is a widely known fact that our earth takes one year to complete one revolution around the Sun in its specified orbit. However, as we are living on the Earth, to us the Earth appears to be stationary and the Sun rotates. Hence since time immemorial it is taken as the journey of the Sun and completes one orbit in a year for the practical convenience of weather forecasting and astrological studies and predictions.
The theoretical journey or orbit of the Sun in a full year is divided into twelve parts called Rashi or Rasi. Each Rasi is 30 degrees thus the total orbit of 360 degrees is divided by twelve. These zodiac signs have been named Mesha, Rishabh, Mithun, Katak, Singh, Kanya, Thula in Sanskrit. Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Meena, (English zodiac names start with Aries and end in Pisces) The movement of Sun from one zodiac to another is called transit. The day on which the actual time (by calculation) of Sun leaving one zodiac sign and entering another zodiac sign falls, that is Sankranti. Santrangam is the journey and Sankranti is rebirth or simply leaving one and entering the other.
When does Makar Sankranti come
Makar Sankranti, like any other matter, is calculated by almanac makers and learned astrologers. It is also calculated scientifically and derived by modern mathematical and astronomical calculations. They are given in panchangas and traditional and modern Hindu calendars, among many other information. People who follow a good Panchang and Hindu calendar know and keep in mind in advance the days and times of observance of various rituals and festivals.
Why Makar Sankranti is important for India
India is a large tropical subcontinent falling north of the equator, extending from near the equator in the south to about 35°N, its climate and day-to-day weather, cropping patterns and life in general are typical of the subcontinent. But it depends on the speed of the Sun. The period of the sun’s journey northwards from the equator is thus a very important period for the Indian subcontinent. According to Vedic astrology, the Uttarayan journey of the Sun begins from the day of Makar Sankranti. This six-month period is called Uttarayan- Uttarayan or the northward journey of the Sun.
So this is a very important period for the country. The beginning of such an auspicious and important period is thus believed to bring all good fortune and happiness and prosperity. In many states Makar Sankranti coincides with or immediately after harvest and thus is also a harvest festival.
Religious Significance and Rituals
Sun God is worshiped in most of the places. The day is also celebrated to pay respect to the memory of Pitras or the souls of deceased ancestors. The ritual is called tarpan, which is an offering of sesame seeds and water. Another religious belief is the worship of Shani or Shani hence also dark grains related to Shani like sesame seeds and jaggery are used. That’s why sesame and jaggery are used in some form or the other on the day of Makar Sankranti. Jaggery is used to make Pongal. Payasam in Tamil Nadu, Kheer or other sweets in other parts, Til-Gul in Maharashtra and related parts etc.
There are many legends and references in various religious texts and epics. The mention of Makar Sankranti in the Mahabharata makes it very important. Grand old Bhishma waits for his death on the day of Makara Sankranti (he is blessed to choose it) because dying in Uttarayana brings liberation to the soul.
Apart from going to temples and offering prayers and pujas, apart from performing Pitru Tarpan; There are various festivities in the form of adventure sports, kite flying, social gatherings, greetings and courtesies and exchange of gifts. Some states give holiday on Makar Sankranti.
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