The festival is celebrated for three days- Bhogi, Makara Sankranti and Kanuma.
Makara Sankranti 2014Bhogi- January 13th
Makara Sankranti - January 14th
Kanuma - January 15th
Vedic SignificanceIn the Holy Scriptures it is believed that lord Surya visits the house of his son Shani (the lord of Capricorn sign) on this day. Despite some differences between each other, lord Surya makes it a point to meet his son on this day. Thus, symbolising a special bond between a father and his son.
The period of Uttarayana also signifies the days of devatas, whereas the dakshinayana is said to be the night of devatas, hence most of the auspicious things are done during this period.
This day also has a reference in the Hindu epic of Mahabharata, according to which Bhishma had declared his intention to leave his body on this day. He kept lying on a bed of arrows till this day and then left his body on Makar Sankranti. It is believed that a person who dies during this period becomes free from transmigration or rebirth.
Makar Sankranti marks the arrival of spring season and the festival is celebrated throughout India with varied customs. It is known by different names in different parts of the country- Uttarayan in Rajasthan, Magh Bighu in Assam, Maghi in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, Pongal in Tamil Nadu and Makar Sankranti in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Khichdi Parv or Kicheri in Uttar Pradesh.
Makar Sakranti is also known as Khichdi Parv in UP. During this parv, people prepare a special dish known as Khichdi and offer it to the Sun God as naivedya. After the pooja, it is distributed among the family members as prasad.
Highlights of the FestivalThe highlight of the festival are the til laddoos (made of jaggery and sesame seeds), hence the festival is also known as Til Sankranti. Kite flying is a tradition observed with fun.
The most important ritual on this day is that of holy dip in Prayag at Allahabad. This is also called the Magh Snan. On this day, millions of devotees take part in the holy bath at Sangam (the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers).The Triveni Sangam is believed to be the spot where drops of Nectar fell from the pitcher of the Gods. It is widely believed that devotees attain moksha and get rid of their sins by bathing in this confluence on Makar Sakranti.
A one month long Magha Mela or fair begins at Prayag (Allahabad) on this occasion. Apart from Triveni sangam, ritual bathing is also observed at many places like Haridwar and Garh Mukteshwar in Uttar Pradesh.
Charity forms an important part of the rituals. In the state of Uttar Pradesh, one can witness people donating til, gud and khichdi to the poor ones. Giving woollen clothes and blankets to Bramhins has special importance on this day.
It is very good to chant the Gayatri Mantra on this day. Goddess Saraswati (the bestower of knowledge) is worshipped on this day. People also pay obeisance to their ancestors. On this day, people make offerings to the animals, especially the cow since it is revered as source of life in Hinduism.