On January 14 the sun enters
the rashi Capricorn. This is known as 'Uttarayan' or Makar
Sankranti. Sankranti means the entry of the sun from one
zodiac to another.
From the south the sun shifts
northwards. Daylight hours increase from this day. The actual
sankranti occurs in an extremely short period.
The sun's sankranti also
occurs in other rashis, as do other planets. However only
the sun's sankranti into Makar is considered auspicious
and meritorious. According to Jaimini rishi, 12 hours and
46 minutes pre-and-post sankranti are considered sacred.
During this time-span, the cow, edible food, money, vehicles,
clothes, flowers or grass are donated to Brahmins, the poor
and ascetics; resulting in infinite punya(merits). Haribhaktos
donate grains or money in the mandir.
During Makar Sankranti it is a tradition for thousands of
pilgrims to bathe in Prayag, at the confluence of three
sacred rivers; Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati, known as Triveni
Sangam. In south India, the eve of Makar Sankranti is known
as 'Bhogi.' All the waste bric-a-brac in the house is heaped
in the front and burnt. Makar Sankranti is also known as
Pongal. 'Pongal' means 'to overflow.' Rice is cooked in
milk and the rice is allowed to flow over the rim. The symbolism
is that one's home should brim with wealth.
In Gujarat grain from the
new harvest is used to cook 'khichdo'. Cows and trees are
also offered pujan since man's existence depends on them.
People forget and forgive ill will. For this, they ritually
offer each other food balls made of sesame seed and jaggery.
This is common in Maharashtra too. In east India, at Gangasagar,
thousands of pilgrims throng to Kapil Muni's ashram on this
day for darshan.
Adults, children, even aged
men and women, spiritedly fly kites all day.