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One India, One Festival: Many Celebrations

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One India, One Festival: Many Celebrations

India is an interesting potpourri of languages, religious faiths, customs, beliefs, and cultural traditions; each adding its charm and vigour to the colourful mosaic of India. Festivals are an integral part of Indian culture as they provide expression to our traditional heritage and cultural legacy. Makar Sankranti donation is also integral to the festivities as doing good makes one enjoy the festiveness more!

India, predominantly an agricultural country, has many of its festivals around harvest seasons to express gratitude to nature and celebrate the agricultural yield. Makar Sankranti is one of the oldest and perhaps the most important harvest festivals in India.

This festival encapsulates the essence of India’s diversity as it is celebrated along the entire expanse of India, from north to south and east to west in multiple states with different names and different traditional customs but the same spirit of happiness. 

This year, let’s add a new colour to our festive celebrations by contributing to positively changing the lives of our less privileged fellow Indians through some meaningful Makar Sankranti donations.

Significance of Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti is a special occasion in many ways. It is not just an Indian harvest festival but holds great cultural, spiritual, astronomical, and mythological significance in the Hindu religion. Makar Sankranti marks the transition of the sun into the zodiac of Capricorn or ‘makar rashi’ and is celebrated on January 14th every year, as it follows the solar cycle.

Scientifically, Makar Sankranti is the time when the sun starts moving toward the northern hemisphere. This marks the beginning of longer days and shorter nights. This transition has a great astrological and religious value attached to it too and is believed to be the beginning of an auspicious phase of the year.

As per Hindu mythology, Saturn or ‘Shani’ is the son of the Sun god or ‘Surya’ and they are always at loggerheads. However, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, Sun successfully enters the house of Saturn or Shani and remains there for nearly a month.

It is considered that during this time Sun forgets all the bitterness and makes peace with his son. Thus, Makar Sankranti symbolizes an occasion where we all should bury the hatchet and move forward peacefully in our lives.

Celebrate Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti celebrations might follow varied traditional practices in different states, but there is something common in all celebrations. People worship and express their gratitude to the Sun God, the source of life-supporting energy and seek blessings for wellness and prosperity. 

Being a harvest festival, the traditional offering to God on this occasion is mainly rice and lentil-based, which are mostly from the fresh harvest. Besides rice and lentils, the other most common Sankranti preparations are various sweets made from sesame (til), jaggery (gur), and ghee.

Below is a glimpse of the grand Makar Sankranti celebrations across India, highlighting some specific customs and rituals observed in different states:

Celebrate Lohri

Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Lohri in Punjab and is considered a New Year by the farming community here. On this day holy bonfires are lit and farmers show gratitude for their crops and also pray for prosperity and abundance in the New Year.

Black sesame seeds (Til), gajak (til-based sweet), Jaggery (gur), peanuts, etc. are fed to the holy fire as part of the harvest ritual. It is believed that offering these to fire or ‘agni’ takes away the negativity and ushers in prosperity in their lives. Traditional Punjabi dishes like makke di roti, sarson da saag, makhaane ki kheer, til ki barfi, pinni, panjiri etc. are included in the Lohri delicacies.

Celebrate Pongal

Pongal is an ancient harvest celebration in South India dating back to the Sangam age (200 BC-200 AD) and finds a mention in the puranas. It is a 4-day long festival in mid-January mainly celebrated in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka.

This multi-day festival begins with Bhogi Pongal where old and useless articles are piled up after cleaning the house and burnt along with cow-dung as part of a ritual that symbolises getting rid of negativities and making new beginnings.

The second day which coincides with Makar Sankranti is Surya Pongal as it is dedicated to the Sun God. It is called Thai Pongal in Tamil Nadu as it marks the beginning of the Tamil month ‘Thai’ and is known as Pedda Panduga in Andhra Pradesh which means big festival.

On this day freshly harvested rice is boiled in a pot along with milk and jaggery and allowed to overflow. Both this dish and the process of boiling and overflowing are called Pongal.

On the 3rd day of Pongal known as Mattu Pongal, cattle are decorated and worshiped as a means of expressing gratitude for their help in farm work. The fourth and last day called Kannum is considered auspicious for starting new relationships and people usually rest, relax and feast together on this day.

Celebrate Magh Bihu

Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu in Assam and is an occasion of eating, feasting, and merriment. It marks the end of winter and also the harvesting season. People celebrate the abundance they have reaped and welcome the spring season with traditional rituals.

Celebrate Uttarayan

The event of the sun’s movement from the southern to northern celestial hemisphere is called Uttarayan. Since this transition begins on Makar Sankranti, this day is celebrated as Uttarayan in Gujarat. Celebrated over 2 days, this is one of the most colourful festivals in Gujarat.

Kite-flying competitions are the major attraction of the Uttarayan celebration. Undhiyu and chikkis are among the prominent Gujarati delicacies served on this occasion.

Celebrate Poush Sankranti

Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Poush Sankranti or Poush Parbon in West Bengal. On this occasion, a grand Ganga Sagar Mela is organized every year at Ganga Sagar, the confluence of River Ganga with the Bay of Bengal.

People take a holy dip in this water on this auspicious occasion. Bengalis celebrate their Poush Sankranti with many delicacies like Paayesh, Puli Pithe, and many other sweet treats.

Donation on Makar Sankranti: A Unique Way to Celebrate

As Dr. Shashi Tharoor, author, politician, and public intellectual remarked, “India is a ‘thali’ with a selection of sumptuous dishes in different bowls. Each tastes different and does not necessarily mix with the next but they belong together on the same plate, and they complement each other in making the meal a satisfying repast.” Makar Sankranti is one such unique Indian festival that manifests this unity in diversity.

Amidst all the varied celebrations typical to different states and their cultures, there is an underlying spirit of love, gratitude, and making peace on Makar Sankranti. This is an excellent occasion to stand up for our fellow Indians, the ones in need of our help, to stretch out a helping hand and bring a positive change in their lives.

Smile Foundation wants to bring the warmth of a bonfire to underprivileged children this festive season. Please come forward with your donations towards the health, education, and welfare of underprivileged children and the livelihood of their families.

Any small or big donation on this Makar Sankranti can end a harsh winter and usher spring into someone’s life. Make Makar Sankranti Donation here!

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