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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