The day of Sankranti is dedicated to Lord Surya, the Sun God and this day is considered significant to worship Surya Deva. Although there are twelve Sankranti in Hindu calendar but Makar Sankranti is the most significant among all Sankranti(s) due to its religious significance. Due to the popularity of Makar Sankranti, most of the time people call it just Sankranti.
As per Vedic astrology, the Sun enters Makar Rashi on Makar Sankranti
. Although all twelve days in Hindu calendar when Surya Deva transits a Rashi are considered significant for worshiping Surya Deva, but the day when Surya Deva starts moving into Makar Rashi is considered the most auspicious day of the year to worship Lord Surya. Sankranti is celebrated by worshiping the Sun God as Surya Deva and taking religious bath in holy water bodies and performing charity activities. In South India, on the next day of Sankranti Lord Krishna is also worshiped. According to legends famous in south India, Lord Krishna lifted Govardhan on the next day of Makar Sankranti
The day of Makar Sankranti is decided as per Hindu solar calendar. Makar Sankranti is observed when the Sun transits from Dhanu Rashi to Makar Rashi and it falls on the first day of the tenth solar month in most Hindu calendars. The day of Sankranti falls either on January 14 or January 15 on Gregorian calendar.
If Sankranti moment occurs before sunset then it is observed on the same day otherwise it is observed on the next day.
In most regions Sankranti festivities last for two to four days.
Each day of four days Sankranti festivities is celebrated with distinct names and rituals. Makar Sankranti
is one of the few festivals which are celebrated throughout India. However each state and region has its own custom and rituals to celebrate Makar Sankranti along with local legends associated to it.
- Day 1 is celebrated as Lohri, Maghi and Bhogi Pandigai
- Day 2 is celebrated as Makar Sankranti, Pongal, Pedda Panduga, Uttarayana and Magh Bihu
- Day 3 as Mattu Pongal, Kanuma Panduga and Day 4 as Kaanum Pongal, Mukkanuma
In Tamil Nadu, Sankranti is known as Pongal and it is celebrated for four days. In Gujarat, Sankranti is celebrated as Uttarayana while in Assam, Sankranti is known as Magh Bihu. Sankranti is known as Pedda Panduga in Andhra Pradesh and similar to Tamil Nadu which is celebrated for four days. Sankranti is celebrated as Lohri and is observed one day before of Makar Sankranti in Punjab. In Karnataka Sankranti is known as Sankranthi and Makar Sankramana.
However, in all regions Sankranti is observed as the day of thanksgiving to Surya Deva, the Lord of the light and energy who nourishes all living beings on the Earth.
The numerous rituals that are followed during Sankranti vary from state to state and within a state region to region.
However, Sankranti Observance include:
- Ritualistic bonfire a day before Makar Sankranti
- Worshiping rising Surya Deva, the Sun God
- Holy dip in sacred water bodies
- Making Pongal and distributing it as Prasad in Tamil Nadu
- Performing charity by giving alms to the needy
- Flying kites especially in Gujarat
- Worshiping live stocks
- Preparing sweets make of sesame and jaggery
- Taking oil bath mostly in South India