MakaraSankranti refers to the event of the Sun entering the zodiac sign of Makara or Capricorn. On this day the Sun God is worshipped for blessing humanity with light and heat and for providing life-giving harvest of food grains.It marks the transition of the Sun into the celestial path. The day also marks the arrival of spring.
According to the Hindu calendar, MakaraSankranti celebrates the joy of farmers receiving fresh harvest. The Sankranti festival is generally celebrated from 13th to 15th January every year. The day before Sankranti, i.e. 13th January, is celebrated as Bhogi and the day after, i.e 15th January, as Kanuma. Sankranti / Pongal is celebrated on 14th January. Every few years, the festivals are moved forward by one day. This day is timed according to the winter solstice, which is the day on which the North Pole is the farthest from the Sun. In the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh, the 4th day is celebrated as Mukkanuma.
This festival marks the end of morning dew. Mango trees begin to blossom. The sun begins to stay longer in the evenings. Sankranti is also associated with Goddess Lakshmi. She is called 'Sankaranti Lakshmi'.
The day preceding Sankranti is called Bhogi. On this day, toddlers are treated to a special ritual called 'bhogipallu'. Aarati is offered to them. Women sprinkle regu (ber) fruits, til(sesame), flowers, coins on their heads and the neighborhood women bless the kids and sing songs. It is celebrated widely in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Before sunrise, people make a bon fire with logs of wood, old wooden furniture and other solid-fuels.The disposal of used items is symbolic of giving up old habits; vices, attachments and material things.They are thrown into the sacrificial fire of the knowledge of Rudra, known as the "Rudra Gita GnanaYajna." This is symbolic of focusing on new transformations.In Maharashtra and north Karnataka, winter vegetables such as carrots, fresh green chana(chickpea), brinjals and beans are used to make 'bhogibhaji', a mixed vegetable curry on Bhogi day. It is also known as 'Lekurvali'.
MakaraSankranti is known by different names in the states of India.
In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, it is called Sankranti.
In Tamil Nadu more commonly it is Pongal.
In Assam it is celebrated as MaghBihu and BhogalBihu.
In Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana It is celebrated as the Lohri festival.
In Uttar Pradesh it is the Khichdi Utsav.
In Bihar it is known as the TilSankranti or Khichdi Festival.
In Maharashtra & Gujarat it is known as MakarSankranti or Uttarayan.
It is also celebrated in several other Asian countries, such as Nepal, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, with different names.
In many regions of Maharashtra, people wear black clothes on MakaraSanktanti day. Since it is winter, black clothes are worn on Sankranti day to keep the body warm. For the same reason, sesame seeds (til) are given a lot of importance. Friends, relatives and neighboursshare goodwill among each other by exchanging 'TilGur' on the day.
In Karnataka, on 'Sankranti' day, cows and bullocks are gaily decorated in a warm gesture of gratitude for their services. Their horns are painted, turmeric and vermillion are smeared on their faces and bodies and garlands adornedon their necks. 'Huggi', a rice preparation is one of the itemsmade for this festival. In Tamil Nadu the festival is called Pongal. People cook Pongal, which is a sweet rice pudding in front of their houses on a fire built withfirewood and cow-dung cakes. A tripod is made with three sugar canes as part ofthe sacred ritual.
The recitation of Tiruppavaipasuras (a poem in glorification of Lord Vishnu by Andal) ends on the previous day of Bhogi. On Sankranti day, GodaKalyanam, the marriage of Goda Devi or Andal with Lord Vishnu is performed in most of the Vishnu Temples in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
'Jallikattu' (taming of young bulls) is a popular sport in Tamil Nadu conducted on the fourth day of the festival.