Makar Sankranti is all about grouping on terraces, cutting your rivals manjhas and taking the sport of kite flying to the Olympic levels. It is the biggest festival dedicated to the God of the Sun that also marks the harvest season. But before we continue the tradition of flying kites and eating Tilguls (Sesame seed laadoos), think again as for how well do you really know this festival.
Why is it called Makar Sankranti?
The literal meaning of Makar is Capricorn and Sankranti is movement of the Sun from one zodiac sign to another. This day marks the transition of the Sun into the zodiac sign of Capricorn on its celestial path.
It falls on the same day every year
It is the only festival that falls on the same day every year that is 14th of January. This is because it follows the solar calendar. The other festivals follow the lunar calendar which is based on the position of the moon. This cycle is disrupted only once in eight years when day is postponed by one day. The change is due to revolution. It has also been predicted that from 2050 the festival will fall on the 15th of January and occasionally on 16th. Now that is clearly something most of us are not aware of. To mark this amazing piece of information, Makar Sankranti falls on 15th of January this year!
Equal day and night
Since it is the oldest solstice festivals and falls on the equinox day, day and night are believed to be equal. Scientifically this day marks the beginning of warmer and longer days. This termination of the winter season is the beginning of a new harvest or spring season.
One festival with several names
It is a festival that is celebrated not only in India but across the entire South Asia. It is celebrated in different cultures with different customs and is therefore known by man regional names. It is known as Makar Sankranti in most of India. It is called Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Uttarayan in Gujarat, Maghi in Punjab, Bhogali Bihu in Assam and Khichdi in Uttar Pradesh. Apart from India it is also celebrated in Nepal, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.
Why do we fly kites?
The festival of Makar Sankranti is quite a beneficiary to health in multiple ways. The tradition of kite flying is for a healthy exposure in the early morning Sun. These initial rays are healthy and a good source of Vitamin D. It is also considered to be good for skin and helps in fighting many infections and sickness caused by the chilly winter winds. The festival brings in a fun way of reaping these benefits by engaging in this fun activity of kite flying.
What is the significance of Tilguls?
The celebration involves exchange of Tilgul Laadoos among all. Tilgul Laadoos are sweetmeats made of sesame seeds and jiggery. It is typically derived from Maharashtrian culture that is followed by saying, “Tilgul ghya ani goad goad bola” which translates to “eat these sesame seeds and jaggery and speak sweet words”. The distribution of sweets signifies bonding and forgetting ill past and simply spreading sweetness. The scientific importance of these sweets is that sesame seeds help in keeping the body warm and provide good amount of oil that is essential to provide moisture during winter.
Marks a start of pilgrimages
In many parts of the country, Makar Sankranti marks the time of pilgrimages. In Uttar Pradesh it is the beginning of Kumbh Mela whereas in Kerala it is the end of Shabrimala. People all over the country consider this day as holy and take a dip in holy rivers as it is believed to cleanse them of their sins.
After a fun and thoughtful read on this culturally rich festival, let us also keep in mind that the use of manjhas in flying kites is equally dangerous. The sharp strings are harmful enough to cause a deep concussion to humans as well as birds. Free Press Journal wishes you a Happy and safe Makar Sankranti!