India is a country of rich culture with myriad rituals and traditions. It celebrates a number of festivals which have wide significance and meaning. Apart from major festivals like Diwali, Holi, Eid etc the people of India and especially Hindus celebrate with great faith and devotion other auspicious days associated with season change.
Makar Sankranti is one such festival. It is observed on 14 January every year. It marks the transition of Lord Sun into ‘Makar Rashi” (Capricorn) and Lord Sun become ‘Uttarayan’ (moving northwards). The days of Uttarayan Sun (14 Jan to 14 Jul) are believed to be auspicious and suitable to perform religious and spiritual rituals. So, on this transition day Lord Sun is worshipped by offering sacred water (mixed with sesame & cereals) and paying obeisance to Him. Lakhs of devotees take dip in holy water of the river Ganges and cleanse themselves of their accumulated sins. Bathing in this holy river is highly spiritually elevating. Charity on this day is very significant and rewarding. Charity of ‘khichdi’ (mixture of several pulses), ghee and blankets is especially important.
Chilling cold days of winter start turning warmer from this day. This day marks the end of extreme cold of winter and beginning of spring. Dullness and laziness of winter give way to exuberance, enthusiasm, energy and liveliness of spring season. Days become more comfortable, sunnier and warmer. Kite flying is also very popular on this day. It is observed across the country in different forms. In Punjab “Lohri” is observed a day before which carries the same spirit of season change. In Assam and Tamil Nadu, Bihu and Pongal are celebrated respectively symbolizing and carrying the same fervor, gaiety and sense of merriment.