Sankranti means to go from one place to another place (to change). It also means one meets another. The time when the Sun moves from one sign of the zodiac to another is also known as Sankranti. Makara is the sign of Capricorn. Annually when Sun moves from the sign of Sagittarius to Capricorn, then Makar Sankranti is celebrated. In India, every month the Sun changes sign, it is celebrated but Makar Sankranti is the most major celebration as this is when the Sun stops moving away from earth and begins Uttarayana or the northerly course coming closer to earth and promising longer and warmer days.
Makar Sankranti is the day the Sun dies and is reborn. The symbolic rebirth of the Sun, celebrates the Sun coming back towards the earth on its northerly route. The ancients felt that the Sun on its southerly route was going away from them and they were getting less of its energy. This is a major celebration, prayers are said to welcome the Sun back. The Sun is divine light and wisdom, the living God. Makara Sankranti signifies that we should turn away from the darkness of delusion in which we live in, and begin to joyously let the light within us shine brighter and brighter. We should gradually begin to grow in purity, wisdom, and knowledge.
Although the Sun is furthest away from the Earth on 21st of December, the winter solstice and from then onwards it begins to come closer to the earth. The Sun has to change signs to activate the winter solstice, the celebration of Uttarayana in India will only begin once Sun changes signs on 13-14 January and moves into Capricorn.
Sun’s entry into Capricorn is celebrated all over India in different ways in each of the different regions of India. Makara Sankranti is called Pongal by the Tamilians, for whom it ushers in the New Year. The day begins with Surya Pongal or Sun worship. The newly harvested corn and rice are then cooked for the first time. Lohri is celebrated on Makara Sankranti day as well. According to Bhagawad Gita, Lord Krishna manifests himself in his full magnificence during this time. Bonfires are lit in houses to symbolically show the ending of the old year and the light Sun will bring to all in the coming months.
To celebrate Makar Sankranti, Pongal and Lohri, we should extend our love to the poor, the needy, the animals and honour the food we eat. It is good to give gifts of money and clothes. But also to use this energy as a day for rebirth where we let go of our past issues and develop warmth and love for others and bring divine light to our life.
by Komila Sutton
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