India’s cultural heritage is richer than any other nation in this world. There are countless festivals celebrated across the length and breadth of this country and most of us probably have never even heard of many festivals. Unlike those less-famed festivals, one festival that almost every Indian knows is Makar Sankranti. While each festival celebrated in India has its own uniqueness in terms of rituals, demographics etc., Makar Sankranti nails its uniqueness with something out of the box. Let us learn 15 interesting Makar Sankranti facts and find out what’s so unique about this festival.
Interesting Makar Sankranti Facts: 1-15
1. Makar Sankranti is THE ONLY festival in India that follows the solar calendar. This is the reason why it falls on the exact same date year after year as per Georgian calendar. For the records, it is celebrated on 14th of January each year.
2. It is being said that 2015 onwards, this festival will be celebrated on 15th of January each year. Well, that’s true because this year, Makar Sankranti celebrations took place on January 15, 2015.
3. Over ages, the date of Makar Sankranti has changed. A 1000 years ago, this festival was celebrated on 31st of December.
4. This change in date occurs because of orientation change in rotational axis of Earth.
5. As per Hindu Solar Calendar, the festival is celebrated on 1st Magh (for those who are not aware of Magh, it is the name of a month as per Hindu calendar).
6. Makar Sankranti is a Festival of Harvest and is celebrate on the day after winter solstice. There is no separate celebration for the day of winter solstice in Hindu religion, which is why the Hindus combine or conflate the winter solstice with the festival, believing that the sun end Dakshinayana (southward journey) at the Tropic of Cancer and starts Uttarayaana (northward journey) towards the Tropic of Cancer.
7. Scientifically however, the day for winter solstice in Northern Hemisphere falls between 21st and 22nd That is, on 22nd December the sun starts its northward journey with days becoming longer than nights.
8. Every 70 years, the date for winter solstice one day earlier. This happens because of the change in orientation of the rotational axis of Earth. Going by this calculation, if Makar Sankranti actually marked the day after winter solstice, it would have been back in 300 BCE.
9. Since Makar Sankranti is actually a Festival of Harvest, which means that it is not really restricted to one state of India. It is celebrated across India with most notable celebrations taking place in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Jharkand, Telengana, Delhi and Haryana, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Maharashta, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
10. Makar Sankranti is also very popular in Nepal. As per Bikram Samwat (Nepali calendar), it is celebrated on 1st Magh and marks the end of Poush – the ill-omened month. All religious activities in Nepal are completely forbidden in month of Poush and the festival marks sun’s northward journey from its southernmost position.
11. Khichdi, Maghi, Uttarayan, Lohri, Poush Parbon, Makara Sankramana, Pongal (in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka) Maghe Sankranti (in Nepal), Songkran (in Thailand), Pi Ma Lao (in Laos), Thingyan (in Mayanmar) are some of the other popular names of this festival in different places.
12. Makar Sankranti in India is usually associated with kite-flying. This tradition has long been followed not because it has any specific religious significance but because it allows people to bask in early morning sun when sun rays are gentle.
13. Hindus believe that winter brings sickness and infections and basking in the early morning sun on the day of Makar Sankranti will help them to get rid of variety of harmful bacteria that live on their bodies. Kite-flying is only a mode of making this sun basking a little more interesting and fun.
14. Makar Sankranti is associated with pilgrimage. In Uttar Pradesh, Kumbh Mela starts with Makar Sankranti. In West Bengal it is Gangasagar or Sagardweep mela. Pilgrims take a dip in holy river water to wash off all their sins.
15. Makar Sankranti denotes the transition of sun from the zodiac Sagittarius to Capricorn. Makar is the Sanskrit word for Capricorn while Sankranti is the Sanskrit word for transition.