how and why did we celebrate makar sankrat?

December 22, 2006 11:13pm CST
What is Makar Sankranti? Makar Sankranti marks the commencement of the sun's journey to the Northern Hemisphere and is celebrated on the 14 of January every year all over India. It is also a celebration of the harvest festival. People take dips in rivers and worship the Sun God especially in the holy Ganges river. The dip is said to purify the self and bestow "punya". Special puja is offered as a thanksgiving for good harvest. According to folklore, girls who take the holy dip get handsome husbands and boys get beautiful brides. When do we celebrate it? Makar Sankranti is perhaps the only Indian festival whose date always falls on the same day every year i.e. the 14th of January. Can you guess why? This is because the festival of Sankranti is based on the solar calendar unlike the rest of Indian festivals, which are based on the lunar calendar. During six months of the year, the days are longer than the nights. During the other six months, the nights are longer than the days. Have you noticed this? The first period is called Uttaraayana. Uttara means north. Then the sun moves north from the centre of the sky. The second period is Dakshinaayaria. Dakshina means south. The sun moves southwards now. The Uttaraayana starts roughly in the period January-February. The day Uttaraayana starts is called Makar Sankranti. That day is very auspicious. We celebrate it as a festival all over the country. People bathe in holy waters. They worship the sun-god and give away gifts. During the six following months, happy events like marriages are celebrated. What are some of the recipes made for this festival? Special Recipes For Sankrant Til Poli Pongal Tilache Ladoo Sarsoon Ka Saag with Makke Di Roti or Corn Tortillas Kurmure Ladoo How is it celebrated in India? In Bengal,it is known as "GangaSagar Mela", on this day, people come from all over India for a ceremonial cleansing in the River Hooghly, near Calcutta. In Gujarat, the Kite Festival is celebrated as brightly coloured kites dot the skies, in celebration of Makara Sankranti. In Maharashtra people exchange sweets called Tilache ladoo made from sesame seeds, sugar and jaggery and greet each other saying - "til-gul ghya, god god bola" meaning "accept these tilguls and speak sweet words". Maharashtrian women wear a special black saree called chandrakala which is embossed with crescent moons and starsand get together with other married women to exchange tilgul with a special ceremony called "Haldi Kunku". In Punjab huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Sankrant and which is celebrated as "Lohri". Sweets, sugarcane and rice are thrown in the bonfires, around which friends and relatives gather together. The following day, which is Sankrant is celebrated as MAGHI. The Punjabi's dance their famous "Bhangra dance" and enjoy a huge festival meal which includes Sarson Ka Saag and Makki Di Roti. In Assam, the festival is celebrated as "Bhogali Bihu" Being the month of Magha, the fair held at the confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the Sarasvati rivers at Triveni in Allahabad is also called Magha Mela. In South India, Sankrant is known by the name of "Pongal". The day after Sankranti is Pongal-day. This festival is observed specially in Tamil Nadu. On that day people bathe the cow, put "tilak" on its forehead, tie beads and ornaments round its horns and neck, and worship it. They feed it with feet cakes. The cow is a useful animal. It gives us milk, from which we make curd, butter and butter -milk. It is like a mother to us all. We show our gratitude to her on that day. In ancient times cows were counted as wealth, just as we count rupees now. There is another custom in Tamil Nadu. On the day of the festival women bathe early in the morning and cook new harvested rice in a big fresh earthen pot called Pongal. When the rice boils and overflows, they shout joyfully ‘Pongal-O-pongal!" That is why it is called Pongal-day. After offering the cooked rice to God, by way of thanks, the family and friends eat it. People exchange greetings on that day. They celebrate it just like a New Year’ day....
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