Until now, all that we knew about Makar Sankranti was to gather in groups on the terraces of our houses, flying kites, and eating Tilguls (Sesame seed laddoos). It is a festival that is celebrated on 14th January every year, a day that is dedicated to the God of Sun and also marks the harvest season. But before thinking that you know everything and start bragging about it, just take a look at some more facts related to Makar Sankranti.
- What significance does Makar Sankranti hold?
The literal connotation of the word ‘Makar’ is derived from a Sanskrit word ‘Makara’, also known as the sun-sign Capricorn and represents crocodile, and ‘Sankranti’ denotes the movement of the Sun. On Makar Sankranti, the Sun transits from one Zodiac sign on its celestial path to another called Makar. Therefore, the name of the festival in its literal sense signifies the movement of the Sun into Capricorn.
- Falls on the same day every year
It is the only festival that falls on 14th January every year. Why? While the rest of the festivals follow the lunar calendar, based on the position of the moon – Makar Sankranti, on the other hand, follows the solar calendar. This cycle gets interrupted only once in eight years, when day is postponed by one day. However, it is forecasted that from the year 2050 the festival will start falling on 15th January and occasionally on 16th January.
- Day becomes equal to Night (DAY = NIGHT)
The day is known as one of the oldest solstice festivals. The length of day and night is falls on the equinox, which means that the length of the day and the night on this day are equal. Scientifically, the days officially start getting longer than the nights, that denotes the onset of the summer season. In layman language, days become longer, and nights become shorter. Or, we can say that the end of the winter is the beginning of a fresh harvest season.
- One festival, various names
The festival is popular all over India, but people know it by different names in different parts of the country, from north to south and east to west. As we know, the day is predominantly known for the commencement of a harvest season, celebrated differently in diverse customs. It is acknowledged as Pongal in South India, Uttarayan in West India (mainly in Gujarat), Bhogali Bihu in East India (mainly in Assam), and Maghi and Khichdi in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh (both in North India) respectively.
- Why do we fly kites on this day?
Flying kites on this day is linked to health benefits in multiple ways. In olden days, the kite-flying was done in the early mornings, that exposes a human body to beneficial sunlight (good for skin), during the time when its rays are not bright and harsh. These rays of early morning are a good source of Vitamin D. It helps in fighting in several infections and other illnesses caused due to chilly winter winds. Celebrating it in the form of a festival is a fun way of reaping such health advantages.
- Denotes the commencement of pilgrimages
The day also symbolizes the beginning of pilgrimages. Kumbh Mela starts on this day in Uttar Pradesh. However, it is known as the last day of Shabrimala in Kerala. While people in other parts of the country consider it to be an auspicious day to take a dip in the holy rivers flowing through different states in India to cleanse themselves of their sins.
- Why do we eat Tilguls or Sesame Seeds Laddoos?
Jaggery and sesame seeds are warm foods and beneficial for health. There is a saying in Maharashtrian culture “Tilgul ghya ani goad goad bola”, which simply means “eat jaggery and sesame seeds and speak sweet words”. It signifies the importance of spreading sweetness by forgetting ill past and propagating good bond with others.