Makar Sankranti falling on January 14/15, marks the begining of Sun’s northward journey and entering Makara raasi (Capricon) signifying the onset of Uttarayana Punyakalam. The sun standing for knowledge and spiritual light, tells us to move away from darkness of delusion to light and enjoy a new phase of self-illuminated life. In Magh Mela and Gangasagar Mela held at Allahabad, thousands take a holy dip in Ganga, for attaining Nirvana.
Considered to be an auspicious time, Mahabharat’s veteran Bhishma, waited on a bed of arrows, preferring to depart from this world only on this day, as it is a belief that those who die in this period are spared of rebirth. Indians begin this day by taking dips in Ganga and offering water to the Sun, meant to purify oneself and gain punya, followed by a thanksgiving puja, for good harvest.
People of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, make a rice-centric meal, called Gangasagar Mela and take a ceremonial dip in the river Hooghly, Calcutta. In Maharashtra, people greet each other exchanging Til gul (jaggery and sesame seed) saying “til gud ghya, god god bola”. In Gujarat, scholarships and certificates are given to meritorious students for attaining degree in philosophy. New vessels are purchased and used and people fly colourful kites; One witnesses 50 to 500 kites flying in the sky. In Karnataka men, women and children dress colourfully, visit friends and relatives and exchange sugarcane, a mixture of fried til, molasses, pieces of dry coconut, peanuts and fried gram, for prevalence of sweetness in all dealings. Cows and bulls are bathed, horns colourfully painted, garlanded and procession taken, accompanied by pipes and drums.
Called Pongal in Tamil Nadu, which is made by boiling rice with fresh milk and jaggery and allowed it to boil over, admist shouts of `Ponggalo Ponggal’, and offered to Sun God, as thanksgiving for good harvest. Dhanurmasam before Sankaranti is equally auspicious with people waking up early, bathing and singing devotional songs. Houses whitewashed and warehouses cleaned and (muggulu) colorful rangoli drawn in courtyards, with rice flour, decorated with marigold and girls circumbating them signing songs.
Makar Sankranthi is celebrated as Bhogali Bihu in Assam,
Makar Mela in Orissa,
Lohri in Punjab and Sankranti in Central India
Gangar Sagar Mela and Pithey Parban in Bengal.
Khicheri or Til Sakranti in U.P., Khicheri, a combination of rice and cereals is distributed to poor.
Magh Mela and Kumbh Mela, at Sangam (Prayag) in Allahabad.
Pongal in Tamil Nadu, for four days namely, Bhogi, Thai, Mattu and Kannu Pongal.
Pedda Panduga in Andhra Pradesh for four days, namely Bhogi, Makara Sankaranti, Kanuma and Mukkanuma.
Makaravilakku in Kerala. Sabarimala Pilgrimage culminates with the sight of Makaravilakku
Uattarayan in Gujarat and Rajasthan, known for kite flying.