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Makar Sankranti
With inputs from: Malini Bisen

The great diversity of Indian religious beliefs is projected throughthe various festivals that are celebrated in our country. They arisefrom the innate desire of man to seek diversion from humdrumactivities and they help in symbolising, reflecting and enrichingsocial life in a specific cultural setting.

The festival of Makar Sankrant traditionally coincides with thebeginning of the Sun's northward journey (the UTTARAYAN) when itenters the sign of Makar (the CAPRICORN). It falls on the 14th ofJanuary every year according to the Solar Calendar. This day has avery special significance because the day and night on Makar Sankrantare of exactly of equal hours. This day is celebrated as a festivalright from the times of the Aryans and is looked upon as the mostauspicious day by the Hindus.

The evidence of this festival being lucky is found in our great epicMahabharat wherein it is told that the great warrior-hero, BhishmaPitamaha even after being wounded and lying on the bed of arrows,lingered on till Uttarayan set in, to breathe his last. It is believedthat the person who dies on this auspicious day of Sankrant escapesthe cycle of birth and re-birth and that his soul mingles with theAlmighty.

This festival is celebrated differently in differentparts of the country yet the use of til that is sesame is foundeverywhere. Til or sesame seed contain lot of oil and they thereforehave a quality of softness in them. Therefore, firstly the use of tilin sweets is good for health and secondly being soft their exchangemeans exchange of love and tender feelings.

In Maharashtra on the Sankranti day people exchange multi-colouredtilguds made from til (sesame seeds) and sugar and til-laddus madefrom til and jaggery. Til-polis are offered for lunch and these arespecialities of Maharashtra. Maharashtrian women are proud of theirexcellence in preparing these delicacies. While exchanging tilguls astokens of goodwill people greet each other saying - "til-gul ghya, godgod bola" meaning "accept these tilguls and speak sweet words". Theunder-lying thought in the exchange of tilguls is to forget the pastill-feelings and hostilities and resolve to speak sweetly and remainfriends. This is a special day for the women in Maharashtra when marriedwomen are invited for a get-together called "Haldi-Kumkoo" and givengifts of any utensil, which the woman of the house purchases on thatday.

>In Gujarat Sankrant is observed more or less in the same manner as inMaharashtra but with a difference that in Gujarat there is a custom ofgiving gifts to relatives. The elders in the family give gifts to theyounger members of the family. The Gujarati Pundits on this auspiciousday grant scholarships to students for higher studies in astrology andphilosophy. This festival thus help the maintenance of socialrelationships within the family, caste and community.

In Punjab where December and January are the coldest months of theyear, huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Sankrant and which iscelebrated as "LOHARI". Sweets, sugarcane and rice are thrown in thebonfires, around which friends and relatives gather together. Thefollowing day, which is Sankrant is celebrated as MAGHI. The Punjabi'sdance their famous Bhangra dance till they get exhausted. Then theysit down and eat the samptions food that is specially prepared for theoccasion.

In Bundelkhand and Madhya Pradesh this festival of Sankrant is knownby the name "SUKARAT" or "SAKARAT" and is celebrated with great pomp merriment accompanied by lot of sweets.

In South Sankrant is known by the name of "PONGAL", which takes itsname from the surging of rice boiled in a pot of milk, and thisfestival has more significance than even Diwali. It is very popularparticularly amongst farmers. Rice and pulses cooked together in gheeand milk is offered to the family deity after the ritual worship. Inessence in the South this Sankrant is a "Puja" (worship) for the SunGod.

In Uttar Pradesh, Sankrant is called "KICHERI". Having bath on thisday is regarded as most important. A mass of humanity can be seenbathing in the Sangam at Prayagraj where the rivers Ganga, Jamuna andSaraswathi flow together. At the confluence of these holy rivers everyyear Kumbh Mela is held for full one month.

In Bengal every year a Mela is held at Ganga Sagar where the riverGanga is believed to have dived into the nether region and vivifiedthe ashes of the sixty thousand ancestors of King Bhagirath. This melais attended by a large number of pilgrims from East India.

The tribals in our country start their New Year from the day ofSankrant by lighting bonfires, dancing and eating their particulardishes sitting together. The Bhuya tribals of Orissa have theirMaghyatra in which small home-made articles are put for sale.

There is also a fair in the Western Ghats at a place called ShabariMala, where the temple of the Community Goddess is decorated withdazzling lights. The Goddess is worshipped by touchables andun-touchables both and the "bhog" to the Goddess is cooked in thetouchables and un-touchables both. These tribals participate in theMela and enjoy all together as if they belong to one singlefamily. May be therefore, the experts pine that this festival ofMakar Sankrant comes to us from those olden times when the castesystem did not exist in India as it emphasises or communal harmony.

Thus we see that this festival occupies a significant place in thecultural history of our country and symbolises the victory of ORDERover CHAOS and of Love over Hate.

These are specially prepared for the Sankrant festival because a mixture of til(sesame) and jaggery contribute to the health if eaten during coldseason.

2 cups cleaned white sesame
2 cups grated jaggery
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
1 1/2 teaspoonpowder of cardamoms
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg powder
1 1/2 cups maida(refined flour)
oil as required.
Method :

The article is provided by Malini Bisen.

Seeking the spirit of India, Jai Hind

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