Sankranti depicts transition of the Sun from one rashi (constellation) to the next. Thus there are 12 Sankrantis every year. Makara Sankranti is considered the most pious and this is generally a festival that is aligned to the solar cycle (most of the other festivals are aligned to the Lunar cycle)
The Makara Sankranti festival marks official end of the winter season and signals beginning of the spring, from harsher chillness to moderate climate – a sign of hope and prosperity as described by Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji of The Art of Living.
It also marks a change in season, as from this day the Sun begins its Northern Hemishperic (Uttarayana) movement from Southern Hemispheric movement (Dakshinayana). Uttaryana is considered a phase for Divinity where are important events of the life are planned and carried out. Which signficance of Makara Sankranti is seasonal (change of season from winter to sprin) it also marks sun’s transit into Makar Raashi (Capricorn). It also has religious significance as it is the day Humans pay their respects to Bhagwan Surya (Sun) as it is His energy that enables, nourishes and sustains life on earth. While many region observe it as harvest festival, it also is the time to celebrate abundance when they reap the fruits of their labour.
According to our scriptures, it is on Makar Sankranti that Bhagwan Vishnu defeated demons, beheaded and buried them under a mountain. Significance of this act is exterminating all negativities of one’s life and giving way to Dharma paving way to live well and prosper. Makara Sankranti is considered suitable for Sadhana (spiritual practices like Yoga, Bhajans, Meditation) as the Chetana (consciousness) is considered high during this period.
Another belief is that Maa Sankranti, a Deity killed Sankarasur on this day and the day after killing Sankrasura, She kills another asura, Kinkarasur. This is why this day is known as Kinkrant.
Significance of Ellu-Bella (Sesame seed and Jaggery)
In Karnataka (and in Maharashtra) and possibly many other states, it is important to give Sesame seed and Jaggery along with Peanuts and wish everyone saying “ಎಳ್ಳು ಬೆಲ್ಲಾ ತಿಂದು ಒಳ್ಳೆ ಮಾತಾಡೋನ (Ellu-Bella tindu Olle maataadona) which means, let us have Sesame seeds and Jaggery and speak good/ nice words. In Marathi the same wish is तिळगुळ घ्या आणि गोड गोड बोला (Til Gul Ghya aani god god bola)
Sesame seed is black on the outside, and white on the inside. The message it gives us is, ‘Maintain purity inside’. If you scrub the sesame seed, it becomes white outside also. We are like a sesame seed with respect to this universe. If you see, what is our significance in this universe, what is life? Next to nothing, like a sesame seed – a mere speck! We are minuscule. We are tiny and sweet; delightful like sesame seeds with jaggery. So, stay small and sweet and you will truly become big. – Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Yet another significance as explained by an elderly relative, this festival is also the time to forget the differences, bury hatchets and come together. Sesame seeds representing individual and Jaggery that is sticky, bonding it together.
Sankranti festival is celebrated towards the end of winter, all the food prepared for this festival are such that it provides warmth and energy to our body. Jaggery, Sesame seeds peanuts keeps the body warm and gives energy.
Rituals and Observances
General practice (this is specifically by us and predominantly a South India based, especially Karnataka practice
Wake up early in the morning before sunrise and offer Arghya (oblations) to Bhagwan Surya. For those access to any Holy river, this holy ritualistic bath along with Arghya Pradhana is performed there.
We then perform Arati to Bhagwan Surya after which Puja is performed and Naivedya offered to the God. After which it is generally having food that suits the climatic conditions which is in transitory phase. The mantra in praise of Bhagwan Surya as below is chanted.
ॐ ह्रीं ह्रीं सूर्याय नमः
ॐ ह्रीं घृणिः सूर्य आदित्यः क्लीं ॐ ।
ॐ घृणिं सूर्य्य: आदित्य:
ॐ ऐहि सूर्य सहस्त्रांशों तेजो राशे जगत्पते, अनुकंपयेमां भक्त्या, गृहाणार्घ्य दिवाकर:।
ॐ ह्रीं ह्रीं सूर्याय सहस्रकिरणाय मनोवांछित फलम् देहि देहि स्वाहा।
For traditional way Pongal is celebrated in a particular region of Tamil Nadu, you can read by old article, Pongal – Tribute to our Culture & Nature
Wishing everyone and their near ones, a very Happy Makara Sankranti/Pongal/Lohri/Til Sakraat/ Magha/Mela/Ghughuti/Bhogi/Sakraat/Pedda Panduga/Pusna/Hangrai/Shishur Saenkraat.
On this auspicious day, wishing your life moves northwards, every moment filled with joy, prosperity, peace and health