India is celebrating Makar Sankranti today, that is 14th January, and the celebrations will extend to 15th January. Makar Sankranti is basically a celebration of Sun's move into the 10th house of the zodiac Capricorn or Makara. This celestial transition results in longer and warmer days. While, the longer spell of sunlight is very crucial for the crops, it is also a retreat for everybody who has been dreading every bit of the bone-chilling winter months. The harvest festival is celebrated across the country with much fervour and gaiety. Other harvest festivals such as Lohri, Bhogali Bihu and Pongal also fall around the same as Makar Sankranti. Makar Sankranti is one of the most significant festivals of the country. Sankranti celebrations around the country are a variegated affair. Since it is celebrated in multiple states, every state has added its own local spin to the festival over the years.
Here's how Makar Sankranti is celebrated in some states around the country.
Makar Sankranti is also known as Sankrat in Rajasthan. People indulge in an array of festive delicacies such as til-paati, gajak, kheer, ghevar, and til ladoo. They also fly kites of vibrant colours on this day. Rajasthani women follow a special ritual, they give gifts related to household, make-up, cosmetics to 13 married women. For newly-weds, the festival holds a special significance too, parents invite daughter along with son in-law for a special festive feast.
Haryana and Delhi
Kites are an intrinsic part of Sankrant celebrations in Harayana and Delhi, so are delicacies made of til (sesame seeds) and jaggery. People wake up early, adorn themselves in new warm clothes and offer their thanks to the Sun God. Later through the day, they fly kites while munching into delicacies like til ladoo, rewadi, gajak, peanuts. Another festive preparation of Sankranti celebration of Haryana is churma of ghee, atta, and nuts. People also assemble for a special Sankranti bhoj (Sankranti feast) which is concluded with a round of kheer.
People gather from different parts of the country for the ever-so magnanimous Maagh Mela, an annual gathering in Prayag, on the banks of Triveni Sangam. While some take the holy dip in the Ganges, some simply enjoy the lavish fair, stalls, and delicious foods on offer. In other parts of Uttar Pradesh too, Sankranti is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm, people eat variety of delicacies like chikki, chura, til ladoo, gud ladoo, kheer, khichdi etc.
In Bengal, Sankranti is a grand affair. It is also often referred to as Poush Sankranti as it falls on the last day of the month of Poush. Bengali's prepare many festive delicacies made with the freshly harvested paddy and date palm jaggery (or Khejurer Gur). This form of jaggery is available only for a brief spell in winters. Dudh puli (coconut-jaggery stuffed dumplings), payesh, patishapta are some of the desserts prepared on this auspicious day. Sankranti celebrations are normally a three day affair for Bengalis, which starts on a day before Makar Sankranti and ends a day later.
Maharashtrians also celebrate the festival with a lot of festive foods. They prepare a round of sweets and delicacies with til and jaggery like puran poli and tilachi ladoo. While feeding tilachi ladoo to family and friends as a greeting they say "til gud ghyaa, aani goad goad bola", which means eat til (sesame) and gud (jaggery) and speak well.
In Himachal Pradesh, Makar Sankranti is known as Magha Saaji, on this auspicious day people wake up early take dips in springs and baolis (stepwells). Later in the day they visit their neighbours and enjoy khichdi, ghee and milk, and listen to folk songs. They also make offerings in temples.
Makar Sankranti is also called Suggi in Karnataka. On this day, girls wear new, beautiful clothes pay visit to her friends and family with a plate of Sankranti offerings. This ritual is called "Ellu Birodhu", the plate generally consists of white sesame seeds mixed with fried groundnuts, dried coconut and jaggery. The plate also contains Sakkare Acchu a special kind of sugar candy and a piece of sugar cane. They greet each other saying "ellu bella thindu olle maathadi" that translates to 'eat the mixture of sesame seeds and jaggery and speak only good.'
Makar Sankranti is called Uttarayan in Gujarati, which celebrates the sun's movement towards Northern equinox. This transition is called Uttarayan in Sankrit. Uttarayan is one of Gujarat's biggest festivals. On 14th January they celebrate Uttarayan, on 15th they celebrate Vasi-Uttarayan or stale Uttarayan. Gujaratis indulge in a hearty medley of baked winter vegetables called undhiyo, chikki and til ladoo are an intrinsic part of Gujarati Uttarayan celebrations too. On this day, parents also sweet dishes to their daughters.
Here's wishing all of you a very Happy Makar Sankranti. If you happen to be in one of these states this festive season make sure you make most of their vivid celebrations!