BY: SUN STAFF
Sadhu bathing in the Ganges on Makar Sankrant
Jan 10, USA (SUN) January 14th of this year marks the event known as Makar Sankrant, the first Hindu festival of the solar calendar year. It falls at a time when the Sun enters the Zodiac sign of Makar (Capricorn) and when the day and night are of equal duration. Days become longer from this point on, so it is naturally a time for celebration.
Makar Sankrant celebrations focus on Vivasvan, the Sun God, whom Lord Krsna revealed in Bhagavad-Gita to be His first disciple and the embodiment of knowledge and wisdom. Vivasvan then gave Bhagavad-gita to his son, Manu, who gave it to Iksvaku.
There is a wide variation in the celebration of Makar Sankrant throughout India. Both the names and the festivities are different from region to region:
In Gujarat and Maharashtra, Makar Sankrant is celebrated with colourful kites that are flown all around.
In Punjab, Makar Sankrant is called Lohri. December and January are the coldest months of the year in Punjab, and huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Sankrant. Sweets, sugarcane and rice are thrown on the bonfires and friends and relatives gather together
In Uttar Pradesh, this period is celebrated as Kicheri. It is considered auspicious to have a bath on this day and masses of people can be seen bathing in the Sangam at Prayagraj, where the rivers Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswathi flow together.
In Southern India, Makar Sankrant is the harvest fetival Pongal, which lasts for 3 days. On the first day, rice boiled with milk is offered to the Rain God. On the second day, it is offered to the Sun God and on the third day, the family cows are given a bath and dressed with flowers, bells and colours. The oxen are honored for their hard work in the fields.