Makar means Capricorn and Sankranti is transition. This is significant considering the Winter Solstice marks the beginning of the gradual increase of the duration of the day. However, the Sankranthi festival usually refers to Makara Sankaranti, or the transition of the Sun from Dhanu rashi (Sagittarius) to Makara rashi (Capricorn).Sankranti remains constant, 14 January. Makar Sankranti is celebrated in the Hindu Calendar month of Magha.
Sankranti is celebrated all over South Asia with some regional variations:
In India, it is known by different names and celebrated with different customs in different parts of the country.
- Makar Sankranti or Sankranti – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, orissa, Manipur, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa.
- Uttarayan- Gujarat and Rajasthan.
- Lohri – Himachal Pradesh, Punjab.
- Pongal – Tamilnadu.
- Makara Vilakku Festival – Sabarimala Temple.
In other countries too the day is celebrated under different names and in different ways:
- In Nepal Tharu people – Maghi Other people – Maghe Sankranti or Maghe Sakrati
- In Thailand – Songkran
- In Laos – Pi Ma Lao
- In Myanmar – Thingyan
Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious days for the Hindus and is celebrated in almost all parts of India in myriad cultural forms, with great devotion. Millions of people take a dip in places like Ganga Sagar (point where the river Ganga meets the Bay of Bengal) and Prayag and pray to the Sun God (Surya). It is celebrated with pomp in southern parts of India as Pongal, and in Punjab as Lohri and Maghi.
Kite Flying Festival
In the western Indian state of Gujarat, the celebrations are even bigger. People offer thousands of their colorful oblations to the Sun in the form of beautiful kites. The act stands as a metaphor for reaching to their beloved God, the one who represents the best. Makar Sankranthi also happens to be the day on which Bhishma, the grand sire of Pandavas and Kauravas from the epic Mahabharata voluntarily left his mortal coil. In the rural and coastal areas, cock fights are held and is a prominent event of the festival. It is celebrated differently in different regions of India.