Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious day for the Hindus, and is celebrated in almost all parts of the country in innumerable cultural forms, with great devotion, enthusiasm, passion & gaiety.
It is a day for which Bhishma Pitamah kept waiting to leave his mortal coil.
Makar Sankranti is the day when the glorious Surya Bhagawan 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, eternal, glorious divinity blessing one & all untiringly. 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.
Makara is Capricorn and Sankranti is transition. There is a sankranti every month when the sun passes from one sign of the zodiac to the next. There are twelve signs of the zodiac, and thus there are twelve sankrantis as well. Each of these sankrantis has its own relative importance but two of these are more important – the Mesh (Aries) Sankranti and the most important, the Makar (Capricorn) Sankranti. Transition of the Sun from Sagittarius to Capricorn, during the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere is known as Makar Sankranti. From this day begins the six-month long Uttarayana, the day for celestial beings (devas) considered very auspicious for attaining higher worlds hereafter.
The Capricorn sign is ruled by Shani Bhagawan, who is the son of Sun God. Both are bitter enemies as per Vedic Astrology. Sun meets his Son who is his enemy in his house first day of Uttarayana to forget all past and hostility and to be friendly with his Son, Therefore Thai month is considered very auspicious to forget the past and promote good. (In Tamil also we say, Thai Piranthal Vazhi Pirakkum”)
Religious Significance from Scriptures:
1. The Puranas say that on this day Sun visits the house of his son Shani, who is the Lord of Makar Rashi. These father & son do not ordinarily get along nicely, but inspite of any difference between each other Lord Sun makes it a point to meet each other on this day. Father in fact himself comes to his son’s house, for a month. This day symbolized the importance of special relationship of father & son. It is the son who has the responsibility to carry forward his fathers dream and the continuity of the family.
2. From Uttarayana starts the ‘day’ of Devatas, while dakshinayana is said to be the ‘night’ of devatas, so most of the auspicious things are done during this time. Uttarayana is also called as Devayana, and the next half is called Pitrayana.
3. It was on this day when Lord Vishnu ended the ever increasing terrorism of the Asuras by finishing them off and burying their heads under the Mandar Parvat. So this occasion also represents the end of negativities and beginning of an era of righteous living.
4. The great savior of his ancestors, Maharaj Bhagirath, did great Tapasya to bring Gangaji down on the earth for the redemption of 60,000 sons of Maharaj Sagar, who were burnt to ashes at the Kapil Muni Ashram, near the present day Ganga Sagar. It was on this day that Bhagirath finally did tarpan with the Ganges water for his unfortunate ancestors and thereby liberated them from the curse. After visiting the Patala for the redemption of the curse of Bhagirath’s ancestors Gangaji finally merged in the Sagar. Even today a very big Ganga Sagar Mela is organized every year on this day at the confluence of River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal. Lakhs take dip in the water and do tarpan for their ancestors.
There is another spiritually symbolic aspect of this story. The 60,000 cursed son of Maharaj Sagar represent our thoughts, who become dull & dead-like because of uncultured & blind ambition. Redemption of such people is only by the waters of Gangaji, brought down ‘to’ & later ‘from’ the Himalayas with great tapasya. This represents dedicated hard work to get the redeeming Brahma-Vidya, which alone enlightens, enthuses & enlivens the life of anyone.
Makar Sankranti is India’s major festival. This day, sun moves from Tropic of Capricorn(Dakhshinayan) to Tropic of Cancer(Uttarayana). Makar Sankranti is celebrated in different states of India with different names. In Tamil Nadu it is called Pongal. In Assam it is celebrated as Magh Bihu and Bhogal Bihu. In states of Punjab and Haryana it is celebrated as Lohri festival. In Uttar Pradesh it is celebrated as Khichdi or Donation festival. In Bihar it is known as Til Sankranti or Khichdi festival.
For Makar Sankranti, there is one more religious story which states that, Yashoda Mata kept fast to have Lord Krishna as her son.
Night is considered as the symbol of sin, false and wrong doings, whereas, day is regarded as the symbol of truth, virtue and religion. So, when it is day for Gods (Devas), all work of virtue are performed. The fruit of work is also good. On the day of Makar Sankrati when sun enters the Uttarayan, days become long and night becomes shorter. From this day the doors of Heaven are opened, so people celebrate the auspicious occasion.
The Festival of Blessings
On Makar Sankranti day, the sun enters in Uttarayan resulting in long days from then. Married women pray to Sun God for long life of their husbands and give gifts to their elders, in return take blessings that the way days are getting longer, similarly, the life of their husbands also keep increasing. Inspired by all these beliefs and feelings people celebrate the festival of Makar Sankranti.
We invoke GF’ prayerful and Vishesha Blessings and wish you all Happy Pongal and Makara Sankranti!
May Surya Bhagawan shower His infinite Grace on all of us for security, peace, auspiciousness, prosperity happiness and blissful life and living.
“You shine, all living things emerge. You disappear, they go to rest. Recognizing our innocence, O golden-haired Sun, arise; let each day be better than the last.” — Rig Veda (10.37.9)
Sri Surya Mandala Stotram: