Makar Sankranti: What Is This Festival & How Do Hindus Celebrate?

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Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious Hindu festivals celebrated with great religious fervour across the country with distinct names and traditions. 

Makar Sankranti represents celebration of the Winter Solstice and its known as harvest festival because this is the time when harvesting is complete and there are big celebrations. 

It is regarded as a festival of sun and celebrated in different parts of the country in their own indigenous way. Sankranti is the first Hindu festival of the year that is considered as the first day of the spring and celebrated either on 14th or 15th of January every year.

The word Makar Sankranti is derived from Sanskrit words – Makar means the zodiac sign Capricorn, Sankranti means transition.

Significance of the festival across India

Although this harvest festival is celebrated on the same day across the country, it is celebrated at different places with different traditions that highlight the rich cultural traditions of the place and vary across the different geographical regions of the country.

The multicultural festival Makar Sankranti is one such festival that has much significance that people across the country celebrate with a lot of joy and festivity. Let’s see how different regions of India celebrate it

Uttarayan:  The word Uttarayan is derived from 2 Sanskrit words – Uttara (North) and Ayana (Movement). According to Hindu Puranas, on the day of Sankranti, the Sun enters the zodiac sign Makara (Capricorn) that means the sun starts to move towards north from that day onwards.

Uttarayan is celebrated in western state of Gujarat, this major festival is well known for displaying kite flying skills. Each year this auspicious day is celebrated as International Kite festival.

Pongal: In South Indian state Tamil Nadu this festival is called Pongal that signifies the successful harvest of the season and people thank Sun god for blessing with a rich harvest.

The main tradition of this festival is to cook a special dish Pongal. The name Pongal is derived from the Tamil word pongu which means “overflow” so on this auspicious day, a new clay pot filled with freshly harvested rice, milk, jaggery, cooked until it boils and overflows from the pot. The overflow of rice is regarded as abundance and prosperity.

Maha Bihu: It is also called Bhogali Bihu celebrated in the Eastern state of India, Assam. The celebration features buffalo fighting and fun game tekeli bhonga (pot breaking).

Maghi: In the North Indian state Punjab Maghi signifies the end of winter season and start of the agricultural New Year and increasing daylight time.

Poush Parbon: In Eastern Indian state West Bengal the Sankranti is called Poush Parbon, named after the Bengali month in which the festival falls on.

Sankranti Special Dishes

Just like other festivals rituals and special food are an integral part of the festival. Different regions of India have a unique dish specially made to celebrate this festival. Let’s see some of the popular delicacies specially made to celebrate this festival.

Pongal: Sweet dish made with rice, moong dal, jaggery, ghee and flavoured with cardamom and dry fruits. It is called Thai Pongal in Tamil and Chakkara Pongal in Telugu.

Peanut Chikki: Crispy brittle made with peanuts and jaggery.

Til ke Laddu: Simple sweet dish prepared with sesame seeds, jaggery syrup, peanuts and desiccated coconut.

Puran poli: A flatbread stuffed with lentil, jaggery and cardamom mixture.

Undhiyu: One-pot mixed vegetable casserole cooked in a clay pot. A pot filled with vegetables, spices are buried underground in a large furnace covered by a pile of dried leaves and are set alight to cook.

Ellu Bella: A special dish from Karnataka prepared by mixing sesame seeds, peanuts, jaggery and shredded coconut.

Makara Chaula: Odisha special dish made with the mixture of powdered rice, grated coconut, milk, sugarcane pieces, banana, sugar, pepper powder, cottage cheese, grated ginger and pomegranate.

Gokul Pithe: Bengal special dish made with the mixture of grated coconut, jaggery and then stuffed into small balls of flour dough. These stuffed balls are flattened like patties and then deep-fried in oil or ghee.

Kangsubi: Manipur special baked sweet dish made with sesame seeds and sugarcane juice.