For years, it has been a tradition in India to celebrate every important or non-important event of the world. The residents of Bharatvarsha are termed as the merriest people who associate every celestial event with a festival. Be it the harvesting of sugarcane in the form of Lohri festival or be it the observance of fast during the transition of seasons as Navratri, every single event has been associated with a scientific reason as well as a way to be happy and jolly.
After going through with the festivals of farmers i.e. Lohri in the previous night, the people of India prepare themselves for Makar Sankranti. This festival marks the transit of Lord Suryadev to the zodiac sign of Capricorn.
Therefore, this holy day is revered by all Indians as the day to worship Lord Surya and ask him for his blessings. Lord Suryadev controls happiness, character, life, nature, possessions, paternal relations and many other important aspects of a person’s life. So by offering reverential respects to him, the people are blessed with a happy life.
Makar Sankranti falls on 14th of January every year. But this date is consistent for some 100 years or so. In the 17th century, Makar Sankranti was around 9th January and in the 27th century, it shall be around 23rd January. It keeps on shifting, which is contrary to the belief that it stays on the same day.
History behind Makar Sankranti
The celebration of this event can be traced back to millions of years. As per the authority of puranas, there is an injunction which asks the people to take bath in holy rivers and perform pujas on this day to propitiate Lord Suryadev.
As per the traditions and customs prevalent in India, people used to visit holy rivers, temples and sun temples and used to offer oblations and worship to the deities.
Lord Suryadev transits in all the 12 zodiac signs throughout the year and this transit is termed as Sankranti. Every transit is important but the transit in Makar Rashi or Capricorn is especially meaningful since it is considered as the most important day to worship him with all paraphernalia associated with him.
The most eventful day which is mentioned in the shastras is the simultaneous occurrence of Uttarayan i.e. the day when sun goes to the northern hemisphere and Makar Sankranti in Dwapara Yuga and this very day Bhishmadeva left his body for the spiritual abode.
Customs and traditions
The festival of Makar Sankranti has been celebrated in India over ages. Since ages, the festival has been associated with various customs and traditions which people follow and pass over the same to the upcoming generations.
People know this festival by various names all over India. The list is as follows:
1. Makara Sankranthi : Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala
2. Shishur Saenkraat: Kashmir Valley
3. Khichdi: Western Bihar
4. Uttarayan: Gujarat
5. Makar Sankranti: Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Rajasthan
6. Poush Sangkranti: West Bengal
7. Tila Sakrait: Mithila 8. Maghi: Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab.
9. Magh Bihu : Assam
Since water changes every ten miles and food every fifteen, the traditions associated with Makar Sankranti are numerous. Every state has a different name and hence, a different way of celebration. In some places, it is celebrated by flying kites in the sky and somewhere, it is celebrated by huge veneration programs and big feasts.
In North India, people generally make khichdi and other items of jaggery and sesame seeds. People visit their relatives and send them “Sakraat”, a collection of dal, rice, grains, sweets, jaggery, sesame seeds and other items. People in Gujarat and Rajasthan celebrate this festival by flying kites and exchanging gifts and celebrate it as a festival.
In Central India like Maharashtra, people make sweets of sesame seeds and jaggery. They make laddoos out of it and give it to everyone and say, “tilgul ghya, ani goad-goad bola”. This means that eat this sesame sweet and speak out as sweet as the laddoo.
In South India, people celebrate it as Pongal. They have a 4 days festival which is organized in a grand way. Each day is dedicated to some auspicious work, generally cleaning the house on the first day, making offerings and bhoga to Lord Suryadev on the second day, worshipping the cattle on the third day and visiting the relatives on the fourth day.
In areas like Uttar Pradesh where there is confluence of a holy river, people go to take a holy dip in the Ganges and after taking bath, they offer prayers and bhoga to Suryadev and other demigods. They usually fast on this day and spend time in listening to Hari Katha and feeding the Brahmins.
Science behind Makar Sankranti Puja
As per the Ayurvedic shastras, the Makar Sankranti falls in the Shishir Ritu, the season of biting cold. Since the influence of harshness has already been established in the atmosphere after the winter solstice, the general populace needs more protection.
Therefore, they are given items of sesame seeds, jaggery, sweets, rice, dal and other heavy items which they can prepare and eat nicely. And as people observe a fast on this day to render it all auspicious, they exchange items for making khichdi, which should be consumed to open the fast next day.
Importance of Makar Sankranti
This festival is itself in it, a great boon for the people who can pray and give offerings to Lord Suryadev on this day. As per Brahma Samhita (5.52)
yac-cakṣur eṣa savitā sakala-grahāṇāṁ rājā samasta-sura-mūrtir aśeṣa-tejāḥ yasyājñayā bhramati sambhṛta-kāla-cakro govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
The sun who is the king of all the planets, full of infinite effulgence, the image of the good soul, is as the eye of this world. I adore the primeval Lord Govinda in
pursuance of whose order the sun performs his journey mounting the wheel of time.
The sun has been adorned as the eye of the supreme person. In the Purusha Sukta (Rig Veda 10.7.14), it’s said
chandrama manaso jataha
chakshoh suryo ajayata
mukhad indrash chagnishcha
From his mind was born the moon, sun from his two eyes, Indra and Agni from his mouth and Vayu from his breath.
Since the sun god holds such an esteemed position, it is very nice on the part of the person to offer oblations and respect to him. As per the Vedic injunctions, we are advised to offer arghya to the sun daily before starting our routine.
This transition has got a lot of effect on the life of the common man and therefore, this is the best time to worship and propitiate the sun god by the help of authentic mantras and powerful brahmins.
It comprises of Shri Kalash Sthapan, Shodashopchar Puja, Suryadev puja, Suryadev Shanti Yagya, Go puja, Ganga Puja, 1008 Surya Gayatri Japa, Brihad Aditya Hriday Strota path, Sarva Shanti Puja, Purnahuti, Homa and Visarjan.
It is advised in the shastras to feed the brahmins and cows as well on the same day so as to get the maximum benefit out of the puja.
The puja samagris includes
1. Purified Mango wood
2. Surya Shanti samagri
9. Havan Samidha
10. Shodash Matrika
15. Durva dal
16. Surya yantra and so on..
This year, the Shubh Muhurat for Makar Sankranti on 14th January 2018 is divided into two portions
1. Punya Muhurtam: The all auspicious time is from 2 P.M. to 6:16 P.M.
2. Mahapunya Muhurtam: The highest auspicious time is from 2 P.M. to 2:24 P.M.
Lohri is one of most popular and revered festivals of Punjab celebrated in India with great fervour. In its origins, Lohri is an ancient mid winter Hindu festival, in regions near the Himalayan mountain where winter is colder than the rest of the subcontinent. The festival marks the end of sowing season and the beginning of the farming season, which is why it is also known as the ‘harvest festival,’ the festivities being a way to solemnize harvesting of the Rabi crops through folk songs, dances and delectable food. The festival also celebrates the ancient tradition of lighting of a holy fire that signifies the fire god or Agni. Devotees circle around the bonfire and sing in praise of Surya.
The festival is primarily celebrated in the north of India, especially Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Initially, Lohri was celebrated on the shortest day and longest night of the year but over time the celebration was shifted to the end of the chilly winters, commemorating the passing of the winter solstice.
However according to folklore Lohrihas to do with the tale of Dulla Bhatti (whose real name was Abdullah Bhatti and lived in Punjab during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar) and was regarded as a hero in Punjab, for rescuing girls of Punjab from being forcibly sold in slave markets of Middle East. Two girls Sundri and Mundri, were two of his most famous beneficiaries and gradually became a part of Punjab’ folklore. Thus duringLohri celebrations, when children go around homes singing the traditional folk songs of Lohri, the name of “Dulla Bhatti” is included.
The festival celebrations coincide with the festival of Bhogali Bihu of Assam and Pongal in Tamil Nadu.
When Is Lohri Celebrated?
According to the Indian calendar, Lohri falls in the month of Pausha. But the Gregorian calendar mentions the date as 13th of January. The festival is observed a day before Makar Sankranti, also known as Maghi that welcomes the onset of summer. According to the solar part of the luni solar Bikrami calendar, the festival is typically celebrated on the same date every year. During the leap years, Lohri is celebrated on either 12 or 14 of January.
How Is the Festival Celebrated?
The festival of Lohri is celebrated as a community festival with family, friends, and relatives. Lohri involves a Puja Parikrama around the bonfire and distribution of Prasad. This symbolizes a prayer to Agni, the spark of life, for abundance in crops and prosperity. The first Lohri of a new born child and a newly wed bride is considered very auspicious. People gather around bonfires that are lit in front of homes or in harvested fields and toss corn, sesame seeds, rice and jaggery into the bonfires as offering to Agni. People also sing and dance to traditional folk songs in praise of Surya, symbolized by the bonfire.
When Children recite songs in praise of Dulha Bhatti as stated above, they cajole elders for money. People worship the bonfire lit in front of homes and fields, praying for abundant crops by saying ‘Adar aayedilatherjaaye’. Many people wish for prosperity as they Offer food to fire. Bhangra and gidda are performed on the occasion.
What Is the Traditional Feast of Lohri?
The traditional feast on the festival includes peanuts, ladoos, phulle, gajak, and jaggery. The food items are fed into the bonfire for auspicious reasons. According to legends, praying to Agni brings peace, prosperity and positivity to people’s lives and marks the end of evil. The traditional dinner served after the prayers, includes Punjabi delectables like Sarson ka Saag and Maaaki Da Roti.