What is Sankranti
It is a widely known fact that our Earth takes one year to complete one revolution round the Sun in its designated orbit. However, as we are living on Earth, for us the earth appears stationery and the Sun revolves. Hence from olden times for practical convenience of weather forecast and astrological studies and predictions, it is taken as Sun travels and completes a revolution in one year.
The Sun's theoretical journey or orbit in a whole year is divided into twelve parts called Zodiacs or Rasi s. Each Raasi is 30 degrees thus the total orbit of 360 degrees divided by twelve. These Raasi s are named in Sanskrit as Mesha,Rishabha,Mithuna,Kataka,Simha,Kanya,Thula.Vrischika,Dhanur,Makara,Kumbha, and Meena,(The English zodiacal names equivalent start from Aries and end in Pisces) The Sun's movement from one Zodiac to the next is called the transit. The day on which the actual time (by calculation) of Sun leaving one Zodiac and entry into the next Zodiac falls, is the "Sankranti". Sankramanam is 'journey' and Sankranti is the transmigration or simply leaving one and entering another.
What is Makar Sankranti
In the previous paragraph the definition of Sankranti is given for easy understanding. The Sankrantis are the entry point time to the Zodiacs (in their Sanskrit names).
Makar Sankranti is the day on which the Sun enters the Makara Raasi ( Zodiac of Capricorn) from Dhanur Rasi . It is considered very important throughout India.
When does the Makar Sankranti occur
The Makar Sankranti as in any other case is calculated by the Panchang preparers and learned astrologers. It is also scientifically calculated and arrived at by modern mathematical and astronomical calculations. They are given among much other information in Panchangs and traditional and modern Hindu Calendars. People following a good Panchang and the Hindu Calendars know and keep in mind in advance the day and time for observance of the various rituals and celebrations.
The Maka Sankranti is generally falling on or near the date of January 14 or 15. This is the beginning of the traditional month of Makaram in some states( in Sanskrit). In linguistic states the corresponding names may vary, like Thai, Maghi etc In this year 2013, it is on January fourteenth.
Why Makar sankranti is significant to India
India being a large tropical sub continent falling to the North of Equator, spanning from near to equator in South to about 35degree North, its climate and day to day weather, crop pattern and life in general depend on the movement of Sun over the sub continent. The period of Sun's journey from equator to North is thus a very significant period to the Indian Sub continent. As per the Vedic astrology the Sun's northward journey starts from Makar Sankranti day. This six month period is called the Uttarayana- Uttara Ayana or Northward journey of Sun. Hence this is a very significant period for the country. The start of such an auspicious and significant period is thus considered as bringing all good luck and happiness and prosperity. Hence this is celebrated and observed with rituals to propitiate (Sun) God .
Mkara Sankranti in different states
Makara Sankranti is observed and celebrated in different names in the various states of India as below:
In Tamil Nadu, - Makara Sankranti is celebrated as Thai Pongal- Beginning of Tamil month Thai corresponds to the month of Makara
Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa , Maharashtra, , Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh , Manipur Bihar , W Bengal, Orissa - celebrated as Makara Sankranthi or Sankranti. In Andhra Pradesh, the previous day is the Bhogi.
Gujarat , Rajasthan – Makara Sankranti is celebrated as Uttarayana
Haryana, Himachal Pradesh as Magha Saaja or Sankranti, and Punjab - celebrated as Lohri
Assam - it is celebrated as Bihu- Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu
In Kerala the most important event is the 'Makara Vilakku' in the famous forest temple of Sabarimala
In many states Makara Sankranti coincides or immediately follows harvest and is thus a harvest festival also.
Religious significance and rituals
Most places the Sun God is worshipped. The day is also observed for paying respects to the memory of 'pitrus' or souls of dead ancestors. The ritual is called 'Tarpan" a offering of 'Til"- black sesame and water. Another religious belief is the worship to Shani or Saturn Hence also the dark grain 'Til" and "Jaggery" items related to Saturn are used. Hence Til and Jaggery are used in some way on Makara sankranti day. Jaggery is used for cooking of Pongal in TamilNadu, payasam , kheer or other sweets in other parts, Til-Gul in Maharshtra and related parts etc.
There are many legends and refernces in various religious texts and epics. Reference to Makar Sankranti in Mahabharat makes it very significant. The grand old Bhishma waits for his death ( he is booned to choose) on Mkara Sankranti day as dying in Uttarayana is believed to liberate the soul.
Apart from visiting temples and offering prayers and Pujas, offering Pitru Tarpan; various festivities in the form of adventure sports, Kite flying, social gatherings, exchanging greetings and courtesies and gifts are all made. Some states give holiday on Makara Sankranti.
Makar Sankranti in 2013
In this year 2013 the Makara Sankranti falls on January 14. Let me conclude by extending the greetings to all on the auspicious occasion for every one's peace, happiness and prosperity.
The author has narrated well the significance and meaning of makara sankaranthi.
In this context I wanted to add how this has politically significant in the state of Tamil nadu. The story goes like this.
The former CM of TN Karunanidhi has changed the first month of a Tamil new year from Chithirai in April to Thai in January and naturally the day of Makara Sankranthi called as Pongal in Tamil.
He has changed with the support of the resolution passed by the group of scholars earlier with the lead of a great Tamil scholar Maraimalai Adigal from the practice of many years as Chithirai at par with other states.
Though he claimed the official reason the secret reason behind this is, as per the article makara Sankranti is transformation of sun from dhanusu to makara rasi and kanimozhi is dhanusu rasi and stalin is makers rasi that is Joseph Stalin from whom this MK Stalin is named is Capricorn (makers rasi in English).