Representing The Eternal Mystery Of Makar Sankranti
Makar Sankranti, means “movement of the Sun to Capricorn zodiac constellation” in Sanskrit, is celebrated on 14th or 15th of January every year.
It is one of the few Hindu festivals, which is based on the solar calendar and celebrated on a fixed date i.e. 14th/15th of January. The harvest festival is also regarded as the beginning of an auspicious phase of transition. On this day, people pray to Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of Education and Knowledge (Jnana), which marks the beginning of an auspicious phase in Indian culture.
It is the festival of Sun God; the sun on this day ends its southward journey, i.e. dakshinayan, and starts moving northwards i.e. uttarayan, towards the Tropic of Cancer in the Hindu month of Paush (starts mid-December).
Uttarayan is the daytime of the deity. Night is considered as the symbol of sin and false doing, whereas day is regarded as the symbol of truth, virtue and religion. So when it is day for Gods, all works of virtue are performed on Makar Sankranti when days become longer and nights become shorter.
To Hindus, the Sun stands for knowledge, spiritual light and wisdom. Makar Sankranti signifies that we should turn away from the darkness of delusion in which we live and begin to joyously let the light within us shine bright. We should grow in purity, wisdom and knowledge just as the sun does from this day. Sun stands for all ideals; its message is that of light, unity, equality and true selflessness. These are the ideals of a karma yogi. Hence, the sun is the biggest karma yogi. Does it ask for any rewards for all that it gives us ? If it stops giving light, we will be doomed. If we learn this one lesson from the sun, our lives will shine with the divine lustre.
Story behind Makar Sankranti
Capricorn is the sign of Saturn (shani); the sun on this day enters the sigh of Saturn. The sun is the father of Saturn and as per Hindu mythology, father (sun) and son (shani) don’t get along well. But on this day, the father goes to meet his son. Both Saturn and Sun are mighty planets whose auspicious blessings can make humans achieve great success. Hence on Makar Sankranti, people pray to both sun and Saturn. In the era of Mahabharat, Bhishma Pitamaha had a blessing of wish death. Although lying on the bed of arrows, he did not sacrifice his life in dakshinayan and waited for the sun to go in uttarayan to discard his body. It is believed that people who die in uttarayan get a place in Krishna lok, and get moksha. Another story is that on this day King Bhagirath brought Ganga to earth, thus providing moksha to 60,000 sons of Maharaj Sagar.
On Makar Sankranti from sunrise to sunset, the environment is full of chaitanya or divine consciousness. Thus a seeker doing sadhana (spiritual practice) can derive the maximum benefit of the increased chaitanya. Due to the chaitanya, tejtattva (absolute fire principle) also increases in seekers. This day is very conducive for sadhana.
This festival is related to foodgrain harvesting; it is also called lohri in Punjab. Traditionally lohri is associated with the harvest of Rabi crop. This is the time to sow sugarcane crop, which is harvested between December and March with a 12 to 18 month cycle. Sugarcane products such as gur and gajak are an important part of lohri.
Significance of sesame sweets
Sesame seed sweets have the ability to absorb and emit high amounts of sattva frequencies. By consuming seed sweets, inner purification happens which helps improve one’s sadhana. By distributing these sweets to each other, there is an exchange of sattvikta. According to Ayurveda, eating sesame seeds in winters is beneficial for our health.
Fairs and Festivals
On this day many fairs are held in different regions of India. The biggest fair is held at Ganga Sagar in West Bengal, where River Ganga enters the sea thousands of pilgrims and sadhus come here for the holy bath on Makar Sankranti. The bullock festival, cattle fair is held at different places on this day, where camels, horses and bullocks are sold and purchased. A famous and unique fair is held at Rajgir in Bihar.
On the day of Makar Sankranti, surya mantra japa should be done and the sun should be worshipped. The mantra to be recited is: “Om Hreem Hreem Hroumm Sah Suryaya Namah.”
Celebration known by different names
Makar Sankranti is also called Pongal by Tamilians for whom it ushers in the new year. The day begins with surya pongal or sun worship. The newly harvested corn is then cooked for the first time. Sankranti is celebrated all over South Asia with some regional variations. It is known by different names with different customs, like Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Uttrayan in Gujarat, Bhogali Bihu in Assam, Shishir Sakranti in Kashmir, Makar Sankranti in Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Haryana.
Makar Sankranti as an International festival since it is celebrated not just in India. Makar Sankranti is celebrated in Nepal as Maghe Sankranti, in Myanamar as Thingyan, in Cambodia as Moha Sagkran, in Thailand as Songkran and in Sri Lanka as Uzhavar Pongal.
During this holy festival, we learn to feel oneness with all creations we learn to be unselfish and to tread the path of love, purity and forgiveness. We learn that our real wealth is the goodwill and friendship of those around us, the land on which our food grows, and the animals that help make our work easier.
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