How many times have you looked forward to Makar Sankranti so that you get to eat lot of laadoos? I and my brother awaited 14th Jan every year, and celebrated the festival without knowing its religious significance. I helped my mom prepare the laadoos, gobbled up as many as I can, and then distributed these amongst neighbors. Sometimes, we used to be invited for haldi kumkums, which meant more laadoos for me.
My aunt stays in Surat, and her family celebrate this festival my flying kites. Three years back, I had been to Surat in December. Every evening, the sky used to be filled with kites of all colors, shapes, and sizes. I had a nice time learning to fly a kite, and most of the times I used to get a cut with the “manja”. There used to be undecided competition between all the kites and often you could hear a shout of “Kaipoche”.
So, as far as I was concerned, Makar Sankranti meant eating laadoos and flying kites.
Well, I am a married woman now. It is high time I get to know the significance of all the festivals. I wanted to find more information on Makar Sankranti, so I googled and was amazed to read so much about the festival. Here are excerpts from some of my findings:
- Sankranti means “transition”. It signifies the transition of Sun from one zodiac to another. There are 12 transitions in a year considering that there are 12 zodiacs. But, two of these transitions are important. One is the “Mesh (Aries)” transition and the other is the “Makar (Capricorn)” transition.
- Makar Sankranti is the transition of the Sun from Sagittarius to the Capricorn zodiac during the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere (Uttarayana). After this day, winter starts reducing and days become longer in the northern hemisphere.
- The Sun signifies light, power, and sparkle. So it is important to worship the Sun on this day and pray for knowledge and wisdom.
- While most of the festivals are celebrated depending on lunar positions, Sankranti is a solar event. The English calendar date of Sankranti is always the same - Jan 14th.
- Bhishma Pitamah from Mahabharata waited for this day to leave his mortal coil and reach immortality.
- Lord Sun visits his son Shani on Makar Sankranti. Although the two of them don’t get along well, Lord Sun visits his son for a month every year. This day symbolizes the love of father and son.
- 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.
People from all religions celebrate Makar Sankranti in their own unique way. Most of the people worship the Sun by chanting the Gayatri mantra.
- Maharashtrians: Celebrate this festival by worshipping the Sun and distributing sweet laadoos called til-gul. These laadoos are made from sesame seeds and jaggery. They are distributed among relatives and neighbors in the hope of a new year filled with love and affection.Newly married females celebrate this festival by inviting married females for Haldi – Kumkum. The newly married female is gifted a black saree by her in-laws, and she is decorated with all kinds of jewelry made from halwa. Small gifts are distributed to all the married females who attend the haldi-kumkum.Similarly, babies are also decorated with jewelry and dressed in black. There is a separate function for toddlers called the “Bornahan”, where other kids are invited. You mix up a good quantity of bor (fruit), halwa, chocolates, or anything else you feel like. This mixture is then poured on the toddler’s head and the other kids are supposed to collect whatever they can.
- Gujrathis: They look up to the Sun and worship him. They fly kites before and on this day. Kites are available at all prices, starting from Re. 1. The International Kite Festival is held in Ahmedabad every year on the 14th of Jan. Hundreds of people from the world participate in kite flying competitions, and thousands of tourists flock Ahmedabad every year.
- Tamilians: Celebrate the festival by the name of Pongal. Rice and pulses cooked in ghee and milk are offered to the family diety, after worshipping the Sun.
- Punjabis: Celebrate the Sankrant eve by the name of Lohari. Sweets, sugarcane and rice are thrown in the bonfires, around which friends and relatives gather together. The following day, which is Sankrant, is celebrated as MAGHI. The Punjabi's dance their famous Bhangra dance till they get exhausted.
Celebration this year
I was pondering over how to celebrate Sankranti in the US, when it struck me that I could at least make laadoos. I asked a friend to get sesame seeds and found a good recipe on the Internet. I set out to make laadoos on my own for the very first time. Just when the process was about to hit disaster, I called my husband for help. We found a solution and made a decent amount of laadoos. We offered these to the God and tasted them. They had really turned out well. We were the proud makers and took lots of snaps from all possible angles of our laadoos. We set out to distribute these among our friends. All our friends liked the laadoos and complimented us. I think I will make laadoos every year now.