Makar Sankranti is one of the few Hindu festivals which is celebrated all over India. However, the significance and the sentiment attached to the festival vary from region to region depending on the many legends associated with the same.


The exact origin of the festival is unknown. However, it can be traced back to the times of the Aryans who worshiped the Gods to save and protect them from the harsh and cold winters.

Most of the legends that surround Makar Sankranti involve the movement of the Sun from the Southern to the Northern hemisphere, from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn. It is also known as the harvest festival.

The Mahabharata Legend

One specific historical reference of Makar Sankranti can be found in the Mahabharata epic dating back to 3102 BC.  It is believed that the great warrior of the Mahabharata, Bhishma, fell to the arrows of his brother Arjuna on the Kurukshetra battlefield. He had been granted a boon by his father to choose the time of his death according to his free will.  After lying on the bed of arrows for almost a month, he chose the day of Makar Sankranti to leave his mortal self.  That is why there is a belief that those who die during this period will have no rebirth.

Makar Sankranti Mahabharat Legends

The Lord Krishna Legend

Makar Sankranti or Bhogi as it is called in Andhra Pradesh also has a tale from the antics of Lord Krishna. Apparently, on the Bhogi day, Lord Krishna asked his cow herd friends to worship the Govardhan Mountain instead of Lord Indra. Lord Indra felt deeply insulted and in a fit of rage sent heavy clouds to cause thunder, lightning, rain and floods. In order to protect the farmers and their cattle, Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhan Mountain on his last finger and stopped the havoc. The vane Indra, realizing his mistake begged for Lord Krishna s forgiveness and Lord Krishna in turn granted the worship of Indra on Bhogi day.

Makar Sankranti Lord Krishna Legends

The Lord Shiva Legend

There is one legend associated with the worship of animals during Makar Sankranti. One day, Lord Shiva asked his bull Nandi to go to the earth and deliver a message to the disciples. The message was to "have an oil bath everyday and food once a month." However, poor Nandi got confused with the message and told the worshippers that Lord Shiva had asked them to "have an oil bath once a month, and food everyday." When Shiva learnt of this, he was enraged and ordered Nandi to stay back on earth and help the poor farmers to plough the fields, since they would now need to produce more grains in order to be able to eat every day.

Makar Sankranti Lord Shiva Legend

Vedic Belief

There are also Vedic beliefs attached to Makar Sankranti. In Vedic times, Uttarayan was known as Devayana (the day of the devatas) and Dakshinayan was called Pitriyan (the night of the devatas). The month before Maagh, which is Poush, the Gods are asleep and therefore no auspicious activities should be conducted. However, in the month of Maagh the Gods are fully awake and therefore Makar Sankranti also marks the beginning of an auspicious phase. A lot of philanthropic activities are done during this period as well as auspicious events like marriage, starting of a new business can be organized during this period.

It is commonly believed that God themselves come down to accept the donations that have been made to the Brahmins. The pure souls enter into heaven during the Uttarayan movement of the Sun. That is why Makar Sankranti is also called Alok Parva.

The Legend According to the Puranas

In the Puranas, there is a mention of the Sun God visiting the house of his son, Shani who is the ruler of the Makar Rashi. The father – son duo do not really get along very well but the Sun God still makes it a point to visit his beloved Shani at least once a year and stays with him for a month. Therefore, there is a special emphasis placed on the father- son relationship during this period and it is the son who is expected to shoulder the responsibilities of carrying forward the family name and legacy and his father’s dreams.

Makar Sankranti Puranas Legend

The Lord Vishnu Legend

It is also believed that on this day Lord Vishnu ended the rising terrorism of the Asuras by killing them and burying their heads under the Mandar Parvat. Thus, it symbolizes the end of negativity and evil in life and the beginning of an era of righteous living.

The Maharaj Bhagirath Legend

Another legend has it that Maharaj Bhagirath, the great saviour of his forefathers, did a staunch and intense tapasya to bring the Ganga River down to the earth in order to save the 60,000 sons of Maharaj Sagar who were burned to ashes at the Kapil muni Ashram which is near the present day Ganga Sagar. It was on this day that Bhagirath liberated the ancestors from the curse with the help of the water from the Ganges. The Ganga visited the Patala, freed the ancestors and merged with the Sagar. Even today, people flock to the Ganga Sagar which is the point of confluence between the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal for a holy dip. Even the Maha Ganga Sagar Mela is organized there every year on this day.

The Lord Ayyappa Legend

Legend has it that Lord Ayyappa s father upon realizing that his son is divine wanted to build a temple in his honor. Ayyappa took out an arrow from his quiver and asked his father to construct a temple at the spot where the arrow fell. He shot the arrow and it fell on Sabarimala. The construction of the temple started. In fact, it is believed that the great sage Parasuram disguised himself as a sculptor and gave an image of Ayyappan to the king to place in the temple. The temple was built and the king realized the truth about Parasuram. Parasuram asked him to open the temple on Makar Sankranti day.

On the appointed day Ayyappan was asked to light the lamp in the temple. As he did so, the flame started moving towards the image and finally entered it. There was a huge burst of light as Ayyappan entered the image with it and was never seen again. But to this day, it is believed that on Makar Sankranti day, Lord Ayyappa himself lights the lamp in the temple. That is why worshipers from all over South India flock to the temple to worship it.

Makar Sankranti Lord Ayyappa Legend

The Folklore

According to folklore, any boy or girl who takes a bath at any of the holy places will be blessed with a charming and beautiful partner.  Another belief associated with the holy dip is that Lord Vishnu himself comes down to take a dip in the Triveni Sangam and therefore anyone who bathes there is blessed with his grace.

Thus, though the exact origins may be unknown but people in different parts of the country celebrate this wonderful festival with a lot of gusto believing in a legend that has the highest meaning and significance to them.

मकर संक्रांति की कथाओं को हिंदी में पढ़ें, यहां क्लिक करें

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