History/origin of makar Sankranthi/sankranthi:
Makar Sankranthi or Sankranti is a popular Indian festival.Shankranti means transmigration of Sun from one zodiac in Indian astrology to the other. This day is celebrated as a festival right from the times of the Aryans. As per Hindu customary beliefs, there are 12 such Sankrantis in all. But the festival is celebrated only on the occasion of Makara Sankaranti i.e. the transition of the Sun from Sagittarius ('Dhanu' Rashi) to Capricorn ('Makara' Rasi). In this case, the zodiacs are measured really, and not tropically, in order to account the Earth's precession. That is why the festival falls about 21 days after the tropical winter solstice which lies between December 20 and 23rd. Here the sun marks the starting of Uttarayana, which means northern progress of Sun. Makar accurately means "Capricorn" and Sankranti is the day when the Sun changes its position from one sign of the Zodiac to the other. Even though Sankranti comes every month, but in the month of "Magha" (January) auspicious it coincides with the crop season and marks the end of the winter season and then celebrated largely.
Importance of sankranthi
It is celebrated in many parts of the country and also in some other parts of the world. It is a harvest festival which is basically celebrated in the Hindu communities. In Indian, the states of Bihar, Bengal, Punjab, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu celebrate this festival. In Tamil Nadu the festival is known as Pongal, in Assam as Bhogali Bihu, in Punjab, as Lohiri, in Gujarat and Rajasthan, as Uttararayan.
Celebrating sankranthi/makar sankranthi:
Makar Sankranti here is a 3-day festival.
Bhogi is the first day of Pongal and is celebrated in honor of Lord Indra, "the God of Clouds and Rains". In the villages, courtyards are swept, sprinkled with a mixture of water and cow dung, and beautiful designs made in the centre. The courtyards are further decorated with small lumps of cow dung with bright yellow pumpkin flowers stuck in them. In the evening, these lumps of cow dung are patted onto rock or wall and allowed to dry. On the early morning of Bhogi, a day before Sankranti, a bonfire is made at street corners, the main ritual called ‘Bhogi Mantalu into which all these go. One can see people gathered round the fire to keep themselves warm. In the evening or the sacred bonfire is performed. The waste material is kept in middle and set fire. In some places, people dance around the Bhogi Mantalu or sacred bonfire.
Rich cooked with Jaggery is a special preparation for the Sankranthi day. What is the reason for this? In the olden days, this sweetened rice was prepared to celebrate the gathering of the harvest and after the cows had been fed with the sweetened rice, it was scattered over the fields. In the Telengana districts of Andhra Pradesh, in addition to the harvest festival, Makar Sankranti is also marked by kite flying.
On the third day, all the cattle used to be decorated and taken around the markets in procession. For this season, the festival is called in Tamilnadu as ‘Matupongal’ - the Pongal festival of the cattle. The bull is much more than a mere quadruped. As a vehicle of Siva, it has an honoured place in siva temple as Nandi. Its eyes are always directed towards the Lord in the sanctum. Nandi is worshipped before one enters the sanctum.
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