It’s Sankranti –– Greet with Sweet – Eat sweet, Talk sweet and be Sweet
India is a land of festivals and fairs. Every day of the year there is a festival celebrated in some part of the country. Some festivals welcome the seasons of the year, the harvest, the rains, or the full moon. Others celebrate religious occasions, the birthdays of divine beings, saints, and gurus or the advent of the New Year. A number of these festivals are common to most parts of India. However, they may be called by different names in various parts of the country or may be celebrated in a different fashion. After all India is a country of diversity.
Makar Sankranti is one such festival that is celebrated all over India in myriad cultural forms, with great devotion, fervor & gaiety. It is one of the most auspicious days for the Hindus. The Sanskrit term “Shankramana” means “to begin, to move”.The day on which the sun begins to move northwards is called Makara Sankranti. Interestingly, this is the only festival in Hindu calendar that follows a solar calendar and is celebrated on the fourteenth of January every year (all other Hindu festivals are computed using the lunar calendar).
On this eve in Karnataka, Ellu Bella – a mixture of teel, jaggery, fried gram, groundnuts (peanuts) is exchanged. Along with sweets, flowers, bangles, dry fruits, sugarcane, sugar cadies are also exchanged. The significance of this exchange is that sweetness should prevail in all the dealings. It’s a favourite festival for children as they wear new dresses, meet their friends and relatives and exchange the sweets and enjoy the moment. In the old Mysore region, people decorate their houses and cattle. They also worship their crop and cattle. In the evening, the cattle in each village are led out in procession to the beat of drums and music. As a part of the celebration they sing and dance, and look forward for flowering of the trees and singing of birds.
Sankranti is termed as Pongal in Tamilnadu, and is celebrated with a popular dish with the same name. Kolams (Rangoli) and prayers constitute the celebration of the festival. People buy new clothes, ornaments, sugarcane and sweet candy for the festival. The farmers worship their harvested crops and share with friends and relatives. Women and young girls wear new clothes, wear golden and silver ornaments, volunteer different flowers and visit their relatives and friends.
On Makar Sankranti day the Sun begins its ascendancy and journey into the Northern Hemisphere, and thus it signifies an event wherein all are reminded that ‘Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya’- May you go higher & higher – towards more & more Light and never towards darkness.
Secrete behind Sankranti
Makar Sankranti is the day when the glorious Sun-God of Hindus begins its ascendancy and entry into the Northern Hemisphere. Sun for the Hindus stands for Pratyaksha-Brahman – the manifest God, who symbolizes, the one, non-dual, self-effulgent, glorious divinity blessing one & all tirelessly. In Hindu belief, a person dying on this auspicious day directly goes to the heaven. Bhishma, an elder in the epic of Mahabharata, is said to have waited for this day to breathe his last. It is also on this day every twelve years the Great Kumbh Mela is held at Prayag.
Sun is the one who transcends time and also the one who rotates the proverbial Wheel of Time. The famous Gayatri Mantra, which is chanted everyday by every faithful Hindu, is directed to Sun God to bless them with intelligence & wisdom. Sun not only represents God but also stands for an embodiment of knowledge & wisdom. Lord Krishna reveals in Gita that this manifested divinity was his first disciple, and we all know it to be indeed a worthy one too.
No Sundays for the Sun, may be because one who revels in its very ‘being’, the very essence of his own Self, is always in the Sunday mood. The co-relation of cosmic events with individual life and values is one of the most astounding traits of Hindu Masters. Once this co-relation is brought about thereafter these cosmic events become instrumental to remind us the best that we cherish & value. Of all the cosmic bodies Sun is the most glorious & important, thus every sun-centric cosmic event became very important spiritual, religious & cultural events.
Til and rice are two important ingredients of this festival. In the rice-eating belt of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, people have a special rice-centric meal on this day. Also known as Gangasagar Mela, on this day people comes from all over India for a ceremonial cleansing in the river Hooghly, near Kolkata. It is celebrated with pomp in Tamilnadu as Pongal, and in Punjab is celebrated as Lohri & Maghi.In Maharashtra, when two persons greet each other on this festive day, they exchange a few grains of multi-coloured sugar and fried til mixed with molasses and say “til gud ghya, god god bola” (henceforth, let there be only friendship and good thoughts between us).
In Gujarat, the pundits consider Sankranti an auspicious day to grant scholarships and certificates of merit to students who have successfully completed their studies in philosophy. In a Hindu household, new utensils are purchased and used for the first time. Gujarati’s not only look reverentially up to the sun, but also offer thousands of their colorful oblations in the form of beautiful kites all over the skyline. They may be trying to reach up to their glorious God or bring about greater proximity with the one who represents the best.