What is the significance of 'Uttarayan'?

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.

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