Makar Sankranti is the first major festival celebrated all across India. It is an Indian harvest festival that brings the whole country together. As we move from state-to state, the cultural significance of the festival differs geographically, with every state welcoming the season of harvest.
The festival is unique and special from other Hindu festivals because it has a fixed date every year. It is based on the solar calendar and falls on the day the Sun moves into Makara i.e. Capricorn constellation or zodiac. Makar Sankranti in different states has different names, with the same reason to celebrate. What is interesting as well as exciting is how Makar Sankranti celebrations vary from state-to-state
Let us have a look at the different traditions and rituals associated with Makar Sankranti in different states and how people celebrate it.
Makar Sankranti in Maharashtra
Makar Sankranti is celebrated with great pomp in Maharashtra. People exchange til ladoo as a token of goodwill along with the words, “til gud ghya, aani god god bola.” The underlying thought behind this Sankranti tradition is to forget the past ill-feelings, be friendly and utter only sweet words to each other. A traditional Maharashtrian lunch is cooked on this day that includes multi-coloured halwa, til ladoo, gulachi poli or puran poli and some gram flour toasted to golden in pure ghee. Women wear black clothes on Sankranti in Maharashtra to increase body warmth since it is celebrated in the winters. People enjoy kite flying on Makar Sankranti in Maharashtra as well in the three days celebration.
Uttarayan in Gujarat
Makar Sankranti in Gujarat is named as Uttarayan. The name of the festival is derived from the course that the sun takes as it starts to move along the northern sky. It is one of the major festivals in the state and lasts for two days - 14th January is Uttarayan and 15th January is Vasi-Uttarayan. People joyously participate in kite flying on Makar Sankranti in Gujarat. The kites are specially made of light-weight paper and bamboo and are mostly rhombus in shape. In major cities like Ahmedabad, Surat, Jamnagar, Rajkot, etc. the sky is filled with colourful kites on Makar Sankranti in Gujarat. Spicy undhiyu, til chikki and peanut chikki, are the specialities of this festival in Gujarat.
Maghi in Punjab
Maghi or Makar Sankranti in Punjab is an extremely popular and auspicious festival. People bathe in the early hours of the morning on Maghi or Makar Sankranti in Punjab. Hindus follow the tradition of lighting lamps with sesame oil as it brings prosperity and drives away all sins. A grand mela is held at Sri Muktsar Sahib on Maghi which is a historical event for Sikhs. People light bonfires and worship it on Makar Sankranti in Punjab. They indulge in the folk dance ‘bhangra’ and consume traditional food like kheer, bajra khichdi and jaggery or gur. Maghi represents the change of season to warmer temperatures from the coldest months of November-December and the harvest of winter crops.
Sakraat or Khichdi in Bihar and Jharkhand
Makar Sankranti in Bihar is a two-day affair- 14th and 15th January. It is celebrated as Sakraat or Khichdi on 14th. As a tradition, People bathe in rivers or ponds and savour seasonal delicacies that include chura, gur or jaggery, sweets made from til, curd, milk and seasonal vegetables. Kite flying on Makar Sankranti in Bihar is organized as well but on a small scale.
Makar Sankranti in Bihar is celebrated as Makraat on 15th January. People begin this auspicious day by worshipping and putting sesame seeds into the fire. They enjoy eating “dahi-chuda”, a traditional dish made of beaten rice and served with a larger serving of curd cooked with red pumpkin and sweets like tilkut and lai. At night, a special khichdi along with the traditional ‘chaar yaar’ - chokha (roasted vegetable), papad, ghee and achaar, is served on this auspicious occasion. Since this special khichdi is prepared on the occasion of Makar Sankranti in Bihar, it is popularly referred to as “Khichdi.”
Pongal in Tamil Nadu
Pongal in Tamil Nadu is a four-day festival celebrated with great enthusiasm. Day 1 is Bhogi Pandigai, Day 2 is Thai Pongal, Day 3 is Mattu Pongal and Day 4 is Kaanum Pongal. Pongal in Tamil means “to boil,” and the festival is observed as a thanksgiving ceremony for Sun God. Sakkarai Pongal is a traditional sweet dish specially prepared during the festival. It is also a popular tradition followed by women to draw “kolam” in front of the houses on Pongal.
Makara Sankranti in Odisha
Makar Sankranti in Odisha is called as Makara Sankranti. People make the traditional sweet dish makara chaula with newly-harvested rice, banana, coconut, jaggery and sesame. They also make khai or liaa and chena pudding as offerings to Gods and Goddesses. Makar Sankranti in Odisha is of astronomical importance for devotees who worship the Sun God at Konark Temple as the sun starts its annual swing northwards. Some people start the day with a ritual bath while fasting. Besides the traditional rituals, the people of Western Odisha practice ‘Makar Basiba’ that means to reaffirm the strength of friendship during Makara Sankranti.
Makar Sankranti or Sankrant in Rajasthan
Makar Sankranti is one of the major festivals of Rajasthan. People celebrate this auspicious occasion with delicious Rajasthani dishes like pheni, til-patti, gajak, kheer, ghevar, pakodi, puwa, and til ladoo. Women of Rajasthan follow the tradition of gifting a household, makeup or food item to 13 married women. People also invite close friends and relatives at home for a special festival meal called “Sankrant Bhoj.” People of Rajasthan also enjoy kite flying on Makar Sankranti.