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Makar Sankranti – Scientific, spiritual and religious Festival

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There are numerous celebrations on Makar Sankranti as it is observed all over Bharat with various other provincial names such as Maghi Bihu (Assam), Maghi (Punjab), Sankrant (Haryana), Til Sankrant (Bihar), Uttarayan (Jammu, Gujarat), Shishir Sankrant (Kashmir), Pongal (Tamil Nadu), MakaraVolaku (Kerala) etc. In foreign countries it is known as Maghe Sankranti (Nepal), Poush Sangkranti (Bangala Desh), Songkranti (Siam/Thailand), Thingyan (Burma), Mohan Songkranti (Combodia).

By Vinod Johri

Makar Sankranti is an auspicious day in Bhartiya culture and is dedicated to the almighty Surya Bhagwan. Makar Sankranti is a festival of nature. Makar Sankranti is a way or synonym to thank for this blessing. Sun is a factor of life, light and growth.

This day has historical, spiritual as well as scientific significance. It is set by the solar cycle and corresponds to the exact timing of the astronomical events of transition (Sankranti) of Surya into Makar Rashi (Capricon). If we look in the geographical science, we find that equator divides earth into southern and northern hemisphere. Before Makar Sankranti, sun is in the southern hemisphere that is tropic of Capricorn, due to which the nights are longer and days are shorter. The period from Karka Sankranti to Makar Sankranti is known as Dakshinayan. But, after this, the sun start moving towards the northern hemisphere, where Sun is known to enter the northern solstice. According to religious scriptures, Dakshinayan is the night of Devi-Devtas and signifies negativity, whereas Uttarayan is said to be the day of the Devi-Devtas and a sign of positivity. If the chart is divided into zodiacs, then we can notice that it is Makara which is the first among the series of phases witnessing an upward journey, and this trend continues with subsequent phases till peak summer. Hence the Makara phase holds such great significance in astronomy because it represents revival of sunlight & energy.

Contrary to the popular belief, Makara Sankranti is not only a Hindu festival but actually a universal phenomenon because it is purely based on the science of astronomy & crop cycle which is not limited to any particular religion. Much before contemporary scientists came up with their observations of solar system a few hundred years ago, scholars of ancient Bharat, already knew that sun is the centre of our celestial system and is the source of energy for all planets including our planet earth, which takes 365 days to revolve around the Sun.

This complete cycle of 360 degree which is also called the solar calendar is divided into 12 phases or domains or zodiacs of 30 degree each (360/12=30) and each zodiac is associated with certain characteristic depending on the positions of earth & sun in relative to each other, which in turn also determines the season & radiation patterns. Since the radiations are proportional to the amount of sunlight, an easier way to analyse the radiation pattern would be by tracing the amount of sunlight received each day, which again is proportional to the length of the day. If we plot this on a chart with sunlight on Y axis & dates on X axis, we will notice that the amount of sunlight varies in accordance with a sine wave, with the trough (lowest point) in the phase corresponding to late December and early January range.

A festival is said to be a binding force between communities. It infuses new energy in people’s life and facilitates them to move forward with great enthusiasm. Makar Sankranti, with different names but having similar rituals and objectives, is celebrated across the length and breadth of the country and it signifies the unity among the diversity of our culturally rich civilization.

This day marks the termination of cold & harsh winter season and the beginning of longer & warmer days with the onset of spring season.

Most of the Sanatan Dharma festivals are based on lunar events. Makar Sankranti is one of the rare Bhartiya festivals, which is based on a Solar event. Makar Sankranti is the festival to thank nature for its abundant resources and has a special time for farmers as it marks the beginning of the harvest season. Farmers across the country pay their gratitude to Surya Dev and wish for a good crop. As cows and bullocks are the centre of farming families, they are also worshiped in different parts of the country. This festival has no gender-centric rituals and signifies equal importance to every individual in nature. It’s wondrous to see how even common people celebrate a major cosmic change and cyclic movement of the sun God.

Makar Sankranti is the beginning of the month of Magh, hence the Mela held on this day is termed as Magh Mela. Many Melas are held on this auspicious day in different parts of the country, the most significant being the Kumbh Mela and the Ganga Sagar Mela. Kumbh Mela is held every 12 years at four sacred locations Haridwar, Prayag, Nashik and Ujjain. People take ritual bath in rivers or other nearby water courses, worship Surya Dev and chant the Gayatri Mantra. The day holds special importance for us, particularly the Sikh sect, as two elder sons and forty Shishya/Sikhs (Chalis Mukte) sacrificed their lives to protect Guru Govind Singh Ji Maharaj from huge Mughal Army. Maghi Mela is organised in Muktsar in the memory of these patriots. In the Mahabharat Dharma Yuddha, severely injured Bhishma Pitamah waited for his death till the day of Uttarayan of Surya Dev for Mokshaprapti.

There are numerous celebrations on Makar Sankranti as it is observed all over Bharat with various other provincial names such as Maghi Bihu (Assam), Maghi (Punjab), Sankrant (Haryana), Til Sankrant (Bihar), Uttarayan (Jammu, Gujarat), Shishir Sankrant (Kashmir), Pongal (Tamil Nadu), MakaraVolaku (Kerala) etc. In foreign countries it is known as Maghe Sankranti (Nepal), Poush Sangkranti (Bangala Desh), Songkranti (Siam/Thailand), Thingyan (Burma), Mohan Songkranti (Combodia).

This day is observed with Mela (Magh Mela), Patangbaji (Kite Flying), bonfires, dances etc. Dahi-Chura, Gud, Bhura, Tilkut, Tilwa, Til Laddoo or Anarsa, Kangsubi, Khichdi, Pitha of boiled rice etc. are the traditional dishes of the day.

Makar Sankranti is also known as Til Sankranti. As per the astrological sayings, it is believed that, when Sun (Surya) enters in enemy’s house that is Saturn (Shani) sign, then to reduce the inauspicious effect of Sun, items related to Saturn are donated. Out of these Til is the key factor of Saturn. Til is donated this day in order to achieve the auspiciousness from the sun. On Makar Sankranti, changing of sign by Sun symbolises the change of darkness to light. This is the reason why every state offers worship and prayer to Sun God in different ways. This day, items made of Til and jaggery are eaten and donated. According to Ayurveda, having Til on Makar Sankranti, prevents arthritis disorders. If Til and jaggery is not taken this day, then one may have cough in spring season and arthritis may affect fast during rainy season. A special category which cannot afford these items, get them as donation. By this, they are also able to eat them. These seeds and food are an abundant source of nutrients that play a crucial role in boosting immunity, like zinc, iron, copper, vitamin B6, and E. According to some scientific studies, the human body needs zinc to activate blood cells that prevent the attack of harmful microbes. Of course, flying kites is a wonderful tradition and it is remarkable as well. It gives an opportunity to get Vitamin D through sun bath- a medicine in itself that heals some diseases including cold. Makar Sankranti is not just about flying kites rather, it’s also about honouring an incredible cosmic phenomenon, showing the gratitude and boosting immunity. During the ongoing COVID phase, this is what everyone needs the most – a strong immune system.

Apart from the astronomical & solar significance, this coincides with the harvest season as well, and is hence celebrated with lot of pomp and show by almost all communities through-out Bharat, in different names & slightly varied traditions but the core logic is the same. It is celebrated as Lohri in Punjab, Uttarayan in Gujarat, Makara Sankranti or Makara Sankramana in Karnataka & Maharashtra, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Khichdi in Bihar, Bihu in Assam. Almost all regions in Bharat celebrate this festival, cutting across all castes & creed because it is nothing but a tradition to observe & celebrate the revival of solar energy in our lives. i.e irrespective of our religion, we all benefit from solar energy.

Concentrating minds in God on the day of Makar Sankranti is the thing which gives this festival a spiritual base. In this way, due to the religious, spiritual and scientific significance of Makar Sankranti, we all should celebrate this festival with full enthusiasm & gaiety and should dedicate ourselves for the progress of our religion and society.

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