Makar Sankranti has special significance because it on this day that the sun starts its ascendency and enters the northern hemisphere. On this day the sun moves from tropic of Sagittarius to tropic of Capricorn. Here sign of Capricorn is called makar in Hindi and hence the name makar sankranti. Here the sun starts its northwards progress called the uttarayana.
Makar Sankranti Significance
This day has got great geographical significance. On this day the day and night are of equal duration. After this the days will get longer and nights shorter. This festival marks the end of winter season and beginning of harvest season. From this day onwards very auspicious period of uttrayana begins which lasts for the next six months. This period is considered to be very auspicious for religious ceremonies to be solemnized in the Hindu families.
Apart from geographical significance this festival also has historical and religious significance. It is believed that uttaryana marks the beginning of the days of Devtas and it is also believed that it was on this day that lord Vishnu ended the terror of asuras or demons and buried their heads under mandar parvat. This festival also dates back to Mahabharata times where it is believed that Bhishma waited till this day to depart from this even after being wounded by the arrows. Popular belief is that one who dies on this day attains moksha or salivation and has no rebirth.
How is Makar Sankranti Celebrated?
Makar sankranti is a major harvest festival. It is celebrated cross the country with great grandeur and vigour. The festival is celebrated with distinct names and varied customs in India. In Maharashtra this festival is called Gudi Padwa, in Tamilnadu the festival is called Pongal, in Punjab it is known as Lohri, in Gujarat and Rajasthan it is known as Uttarayan and in Assam it is known as Bhogali bihu.
Varied rituals are practiced on this day. In Uttar Pradesh this festival is called Kichiri and taking a holy dip in river Ganges is a must on this day. In Maharashtra tilgul which is a sweet made from sesame and jiggery is prepared and exchanged. In Gujarat the kite flying is very famous. In coastal regions of the country this day is celebrated as a harvest festival dedicated to lord Indra.
This festival is highly regarded by the Hindus and celebrated with great devotion and fanfare across the length and breadth of the country.