Makar Sankranti has an astrological significance, as the sun enters the Capricorn (Sanskrit: Makara) zodiac constellation on that day. This date remains almost constant with respect to the Gregorian calendar. However, precession of the Earth's axis causes Makar Sankranti to move over the ages. A thousand years ago, Makar Sankranti was on 31 December and is now on 14 January. According to calculations, commencing the year 2050, Makar Sankranti will fall on 15 January and occasionally on 16 January.
Makar Sankranti is a major harvest festival celebrated in various parts of India. Makara Sankranti commemorates the beginning of the harvest season and cessation of the northeast monsoon in South India. The movement of the Sun from one zodiac sign into another is called Sankranti and as the Sun moves into the Capricorn zodiac known as Makara in Sanskrit, this occasion is named as Makara Sankranti in the Indian context. It is one of the few Hindu Indian festivals which are celebrated on a fixed date i.e. 14 January
Makar Sankranti, apart from a harvest festival is also regarded as the beginning of an auspicious phase in Indian culture. It is said as the 'holy phase of transition'. It marks the end of an inauspicious phase which according to the Hindu calendar begins around mid-December. It is believed that any auspicious and sacred ritual can be sanctified in any Hindu family, this day onwards. Scientifically, this day marks the beginning of warmer and longer days compared to the nights. In other words, Sankranti marks the termination of winter season and beginning of a new harvest or spring season.
All over the country, Makar Sankranti is observed with great fanfare. However, it is celebrated with distinct names and rituals in different parts of the country. In the states of northern and western India, the festival is celebrated as the Sankranti day with special zeal and fervour. The importance of this day has been signified in the ancient epics like Mahabharata also. So, apart from socio-geographical importance, this day also holds a historical and religious significance. As it is the festival of Sun God, and he is regarded as the symbol of divinity and wisdom, the festival also holds an eternal meaning to it.
This is the one of the very important rituals in India to be performed on Makar Sankranti. Women will offer the Shreemangalchandika prapatti on the day of Sankranti (the 14th or the 15th of January). It holds a significance because on this day, Mata Mahishasurmardini with the purpose of destroying Mahishasur, first set foot on earth, in the Kataraaj ashram of Rishi Kardam and Devahuti. Women will offer the ShreeMangalChandika Prapatti‘Shreemangalchandika naimittik prapatti’ after sunset on the day of Sankranti. This again because it was after sunset that the Mahishasurmardini set foot in the Kataraaj ashram. If She were to come during the day, no man would have been able to bear her radiance and so She came after sunset, when it was dark.
Offering the prapatti on the day of Sankranti makes out of every woman, the protective soldier of her family on the one hand and the bodyguard of each of her family members on the other. Irrespective of whether she is a mother, a sister or a wife, she definitely becomes the protector of the family.
It is also celebrated differently in different regions of India.
Sankranti is celebrated all over South Asia with some regional variations. It is known by different names and celebrated with different customs in different parts of the country popularly celebrated in Karnataka (Sankranthi), Andhra pradesh (Sankranthi) and Tamil Nadu (Pongal).
In India it is known by different regional names.
Makar Sankranti: Chhattisgarh, Goa, Odisha, Haryana,Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, and West Bengal
Pongal, Uzhavar Thirunal: Tamil Nadu
Maghi: Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. The day before, people of Punjab celebrate Lohri.
Bhogali Bihu: Assam
Shishur Saenkraat: Kashmir Valley
Khichdi: Uttar Pradesh and western Bihar
Makara Sankramana: Karnataka
In other countries too the day is celebrated but under different names and in different ways.
Nepal: Maghe Sankranti
Maithali, Newar :- Maghe Sankranti
Other people: Maghe Sankranti or Maghe Sakrati
Thailand: สงกรานต์ Songkran
Laos: Pi Ma Lao
Cambodia: Moha Sangkran
Sri Lanka: Pongal, Uzhavar Thirunal
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