Makar Sankaranti And Its Significance
Makar Sankraantee is one of the important festivals of the Hindus, observed across the world where ever Indian immigrated. Traditionally, this has been one of many harvest days in India. It is basically celebrated at the transition of the sun to Makar Raashi (Capricon) on its celestial path. Hence it is a festival dedicated to the Sun God.

Makar Sankaranti is the blossoming of life in all its buzz from a period of cessation of auspicious activities. It marks the auspicious beginning of a new phase in accordance to the Hindu culture.
 
Sankranti In Mythology
According to the Puranas, on this day Surya(Sun) visits the house of his son Shani(Saturn), who is the lord of the Makar rashi (Zodiac Capricorn). Though the father and son duo did not get along well, the Surya made it a point to meet his son on this day. He, in fact, comes to his son’s house, for a month. This day thus symbolizes the importance of the special relationship between father and son.

It was on this day when Lord Vishnu ended the ever increasing terror of the Asuras(Demons) by finishing them off and burying their heads under the Mandaraa Parvata. So this occasion also represents the end of 'negativities' and beginning of an era of righteous living. Hence considered as the beginning of the period when negativities are destroyed.

Maharaja Bhagiratha, performed great penance to bring Ganga down to the earth for the redemption of 60,000 sons of Maharaj Sagar, who were burnt to ashes at the Kapil Muni Ashram, near the present day Ganga Sagar. It was on this day that Bhagirath finally did tarpan with the Ganges water for his unfortunate ancestors and thereby liberated them from the curse. After visiting the Pataala(underworld) for the redemption of the curse of Bhagirath’s ancestors the Ganges finally merged into the sea. A very big Ganga Sagar Mela is organized every year on this day at the confluence of River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal. there is also worship for the departed ancestors devotees take a dip and perform tarpan for their ancestors.

Another well-known reference of this day came when the great grand-sire of Mahabharata fame, Bhishma, declared his intent to leave his mortal coil on this day. During uttaraayan on ashtamee his soul departed, that day named by bhishmaashtamee.He had the boon of Ichha-Mrityu(death at his will) from his father, so he kept lying on the bed of arrows till this day and then left his mortal coil on Makar Sankranti day. It is believed that the person, who dies during the period of Uttarayana, becomes free from transmigration(rebirth). So this day was seen as a definite auspicious day to start a journey or endeavours to the higher realms beyond.

Celebrating Makar Sankaranti
Sankranti is celebrated by taking a dip in the holy Ganges . Special prayers are offered to Sun God. Though it is an important festival for the Hindus , People offer thousands of their colorful oblations to the Sun in the form of beautiful kites, on the day signifying their wish to reach the ultimate, God.

Spiritual Significance of Makar Sankaranti
Since Makar Sankaranti marks the beginning of an auspicious period from the dark days, it signifies one's awakening from ignorance to enlightenment. Owing to the vast geography and diversity of culture, this festival is celebrated for innumerable reasons and in innumerable ways depending on the climate, agricultural environment, cultural background and location.

In Indian Astrology which refers to the transmigration of the Sun from one Rashi (sign of the zodiac) to another. Hence there are 12 such sankrantis in all.

While the traditional Indian Calendar is based on lunar positions, Sankranti is a solar event. So while dates of all Hindu festivals keep changing as per the Gregorian calendar, the date of Makar Sankranti remains constant over a long term, 14 January. Makar Sankranti is celebrated in the Hindu Calendar month of Magha.

Makar Sankranti, is also regarded as the beginning of an auspicious phase in Indian culture. It is said as the 'holy phase of transition'. 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. All over Makar Sankranti is observed with great fanfare. However, it is celebrated with distinct names and rituals in different parts of the country. the festival is celebrated as the Sankranti day with special zeal and fervor. 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 divinity and wisdom, the festival also holds an eternal meaning to it.

From Makar Sankranti starts the ‘day’ of devatas(Gods), while dakshinayana (southward movement of the sun) is said to be the ‘night’ of devatas, so most of the auspicious things are done during this time. Uttarayana is also called as Devayana, and the dakshinayana' is called Pitrayana.

Makara Sankranti identifies a period of enlightenment, peace, prosperity and happiness followed by a period of darkness, ignorance and viciousness with immense sorrow.

Food prepared for this festival is such that it keeps the body warm and gives high energy. Laddu of til made with Jaggery is a specialty of the festival.

The day preceding Makara Sankranti is called Bhogi and this is when people discard old and derelict things and concentrate on new things causing change or transformation. At dawn people light a bonfire with logs of wood, other solid-fuels and wooden furniture at home that are no longer useful. The disposal of derelict things is where all old habits, the vices, attachment to relations and materials things are sacrificed in the sacrificial fire of the knowledge of Rudra, known as the "Rudra Gita Gyan Yagya. It represents realization, transformation and purification of the soul by imbibing and inculcating divine virtues. This is a sort of prayer to Agni, the fire god, to bless the land with abundance and prosperity.

In many families, infants and children (usually less than three years old) are showered with fruit called "Regi Pandlu", that is the Indian jujube fruit. It is believed that doing this would protect the children from evil eye. Sweets in generous quantities are prepared and distributed. It is a time for families to congregate. Brothers pay special tribute to their married sisters by giving gifts as affirmation of their filial love. Landlords give gifts of food, clothes and money to their workforce.

On the day after Makara Sankranti, the animal kingdom is remembered and in particular, the cows. Young girls feed the animals, birds and fishes as a symbol of sharing. Travel is considered to be inappropriate, as these days are dedicated for re-union of the families. Sankranti in this sense demonstrates their strong cultural values as well as a time for change and transformation. And finally, gurus seek out their devotees to bestow blessings on them.

Meethe GUD me mil gaya TIL,
Udi PATANG aur khil gaye DIL,
Jeevan me bani rahe SUKH aur SHANTI,
MUBARAK ho apko MAKAR-SANKRANTI.


Makar Sankranti falls on the day of the year when the sun-considered the king of all grahas (planets)-is in the rashi (zodiac sign) known as Makar (Capricorn). This is considered the most beneficial and auspicious zodiac of the sun. The calculations for determining Makar Sankranti are done according to the solar calendar. Therefore, Makar Sankranti always falls on the 14th January according to the English calendar. It is usually the month of Magh of the Hindu calendar, the 'Tithi' or the position of the moon keeps shifting because of the difference in calculations.

During six months of the year, the days are longer than the nights. During the other six months, the nights are longer than the days. The first period is called Uttaraayana. Uttara means north. Then the sun moves north from the centre of the sky. The second period is Dakshinaayaria.Dakshina means south. The sun moves southwards now. The Uttaraayana starts roughly in the period January-February. The day Uttaraayana starts is called Makara Sankranti. That day is very auspicious. We celebrate it as a festival all over the country. People bathe in holy waters. They worship the sun-god and give away gifts. During the six following months, happy events like marriages are celebrated.

"Let purity come, dirt depart. Dirt be uprooted and its roots Cast in the fire."

Makar Sankranti is celebrated all across the country with great zeal, vigor and fervor. India being such a diverse country, all states celebrate this festival in their own individual style, tradition and culture.
The bonfire signifies the burning away of all evils for a bright and auspicious new year.

The main reason for exchanging sweets like til guhas and til polis are to forgt any past hard and harsh feelings and to start afresh!!!

Makar Sankranti festival holds special significance according to the solar calendar as the day and night are of exactly equal duration on this day. For the people of northern hemisphere, the northward path of the sun marks the period when the sun is getting closer to them. This signifies that the days will get longer and warmer after Makar Sankranti.

The importance of the day was noted even by the Aryans who celebrated the auspicious day as a festival. Also, an episode from the great epic Mahabharata shows that people in early times marked the day as auspicious. Warrior-hero Bhishma Pitamah even after being wounded in the Mahabharata war lingered on till Uttarayan set in. Death on this day is set to bring Moksha or salvation for the deceased.

Sankranti enables man to turn his vision towards the sublime. It is the day when the sun move from one horoscope to another one apparent northward motion of the sun begins (Uttarayana Kaala). The day is considered auspicious for man to embark on his journey . towards the goal of a purposeful, sacred and blissful life."

"This festive day has been celebrated from ancient times as a day of fulfillment and joy. Every festival is a social occasion, arising in society, flourishing in society, and promoting the well-being of society. Every festival has been designed to promote the welfare of society.

(Translation of a Telugu poem sung by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba on 14 January 1999 at Prasanthi Nilayam)
The sun appears cool,
The day gets shortened,
And. is made pleasant by chill wind,
On the fields lit by moonlight,
The crows caw over the grain heaps,
While the farmers sing in joy,
Over the golden harvest.
The flowers express their joy by putting forth their petals
While in every home, filled with grain,
The people welcome the advent of Sankranti.

Significance Of Sankranti
Sankranti promotes in one and all a feeling of happiness. Sankranti promotes mental transformation. It illumines the minds of people. It induces the unfoldment of inner feelings. It brings about the manifestation of the invisible Atma within everyone. Sankranti is pregnant with such immense significance. It influences not only the mind but also the powers of the nature. Nature is the projection of the mind. The world is rooted in the mind ('Manomoolam idam Jagat'). When the mind is turned towards the heart, and the heart is filled with the Divine, the mind will cease to be a source of trouble. The mind is the master of the senses. When the senses are controlled, the mind is under control. Only the master of mind can attain Maadhava (the Divine)."

Why Is Sankranti Considered Holy?
Sankranti is a holy day for many reasons. It was the day on which Adi Shankara took Sanyasa (renounced all worldly ties and donned the ochre robe).
On this day, it is the usual custom to offer to people a mixture of jaggery and sesame (til). Jaggery is sweet and is a symbol of love. 'Til' is also known as 'Sneha', which means friendship. Therefore, the offer of jaggery-til mixture means offering to people love surcharged with friendliness. Develop harmony towards everyone.
Because Sankranti was deemed the most important festival, it was the day on i which the newly wed bridegroom visited the bride's home. It was the day on which many people called on others as a mark of goodwill. There were rejoicings in every home because of the get-together of kinsfolk."

Sai Baba's Messages On Sankranti
“Sankranti should be hailed as the harbinger (what is to come) of unity and peace. This was the immemorial message of the Vedas. 'Let us live together in harmony and strive together."
"Kraanti (change) and Shaanti (peace) both reside in the heart. You need not search for them in the outside world. Discover them within you. This is your duty. Serve your parents and society. Lead a godly life, dedicating all your actions to God. Live in love."

Thank you and Namaskar
Considering the Winter Solstice marks the beginning of the gradual increase of the duration of the day. Scientifically, the shortest day of the year is around December 21-22 after which the days begin to get longer, hence actual Winter Solstice begins on December 21 or December 22 when the tropical sun enters Makara rashi. Hence actual Uttarayana is December 21. This was the actual date of Makar Sakranti too. But because of the Earth's tilt of 23.45 degrees and sliding of Equinoxes, Ayanamasha occurs. This has caused Makara Sankranti to slide further over the ages. A thousand years ago, Makar Sankranti was on December 31 and is now on January 14. Five thousand years later, it shall be by the end of February, while in 9,000 years it shall come in June.