Makar Sankranti 2024: Unraveling the Date, Historical Tapestry, Significance, and Revelry of the Festival

Spread the love

Makar Sankranti, also known as Uttarayana, is a vibrant Hindu festival celebrated annually on January 14 (January 15 in leap years) in India. This auspicious occasion marks the transition of the sun from Sagittarius to Capricorn, symbolizing a new beginning. The festival holds immense cultural significance, with diverse celebrations across the country under different names, such as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Magh Bihu in Assam, Lohri in Punjab, and Uttarayana in Gujarat. Makar Sankranti is not just a festival; it’s a reflection of India’s rich cultural tapestry, bringing people together in joy and gratitude.

The Spiritual Essence of Makar Sankranti

Worship of Surya, Vishnu, and Lakshmi

Makar Sankranti holds profound spiritual significance as it is dedicated to the worship of the Hindu solar deity, Surya. Devotees across India engage in rituals venerating Surya, seeking blessings for prosperity and well-being. The day is not only about the sun but also a time to honor Vishnu and goddess Lakshmi, emphasizing the interconnectedness of various deities in the Hindu pantheon. The spiritual aura during Makar Sankranti is palpable, with devotees participating in prayers, hymns, and ceremonies to express gratitude for the sun’s life-giving energy.

Magha Mela: A Grand Pilgrimage

Makar Sankranti 2024
Source : Wikipedia

Magha Mela, mentioned in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, is an integral part of Makar Sankranti celebrations. Every twelve years, this festival transforms into the Kumbha Mela, one of the world’s largest mass pilgrimages. Millions of people congregate at the Prayagaraj confluence of the River Ganga and River Yamuna, immersing themselves in a ceremonial bath to express thanks to the sun. This grand pilgrimage is a testimony to the spiritual fervor that Makar Sankranti inspires, fostering a sense of unity and devotion among the masses.

Rituals and Traditions

Makar Sankranti is not merely a festival; it is a tapestry woven with diverse rituals and traditions. Many enthusiasts flock to sacred rivers or lakes to partake in a ceremonial dip, symbolizing purification and the washing away of sins. Families come together to celebrate, emphasizing the importance of togetherness. Traditional sweets, especially those made from sesame and jaggery, symbolize unity in diversity. The air resonates with joy as people engage in colorful decorations, rural children sing and seek treats, and communities come alive with dances, bonfires, and feasts. These rituals embed Makar Sankranti in the cultural fabric of India, making it a celebration that goes beyond religious boundaries.

Makar Sankranti and the Solar Cycle

Astronomical Alignment

The precise astronomical alignment of Makar Sankranti marks its uniqueness. The festival corresponds to the exact time when the Sun enters the zodiac sign of Capricorn, emphasizing the intricate connection between celestial events and cultural celebrations. Understanding this alignment adds a layer of appreciation for the festival’s timing and reinforces its astronomical roots.

Leap Years and Calendar Adjustments

The cyclic nature of Makar Sankranti’s occurrence, with a shift in dates during leap years, is intricately linked to the Earth’s revolution around the Sun. The Gregorian calendar’s adjustments, including the addition of a leap day, ensure that the festival consistently falls on January 14, with a leap year exception on January 15. This connection between the festival and calendar intricacies showcases the harmonious dance between astronomy and human traditions.

Shifting Equinoxes and Solstices

Makar Sankranti’s date is not static; it shifts within a four-year cycle due to changes in the time of equinoxes and solstices. The intricate dance of the Earth around the Sun results in this cyclical variation. Observing the table showcasing the time of equinoxes and solstices over a four-year span provides a fascinating insight into the dynamic nature of Makar Sankranti’s occurrence. This cyclical shift adds a layer of complexity to the festival’s astronomical underpinnings.

Also Read,

Unveiling Remarkable Tablet Bargains at Amazon Great Republic Day Sale 2024

Makar Sankranti and Uttarayana

Sidereal and Tropical Measures

Makar Sankranti and Uttarayana, though intertwined, are distinct in their measurement methodologies. Makar Sankranti is celebrated when the Sun’s ecliptic longitude becomes 270° measured from a fixed point, while Uttarayana begins when the Sun’s ecliptic longitude becomes 270° measured from the Vernal equinox. These different starting points highlight the intricate calculations that define these celestial events, contributing to the festival’s uniqueness.

Historical Significance

Delving into the historical context reveals that Makar Sankranti and Uttarayana were once perfectly aligned. However, due to the precession of the equinoxes, these two celestial events have slowly drifted apart. The last perfect alignment occurred 1700 years ago in 291 CE, showcasing the dynamic nature of celestial phenomena and their impact on cultural celebrations.

Uttarayana Start Date

The commencement of Uttarayana on December 21 signifies the gradual increase in daylight hours in the Northern Hemisphere. As the Sun enters the 10th house of the zodiac Makara, it marks a shift towards longer days and shorter nights. Understanding the start date of Uttarayana enhances the appreciation of Makar Sankranti as a celebration intertwined with the cosmic rhythms governing our planet.

Significance of Makar Sankranti

Dedication to Surya: The Sun God

At the heart of Makar Sankranti lies a deep dedication to Surya, the sun god. This significance traces its roots to Vedic texts, particularly the sacred Gayatri Mantra found in the Rigveda. The festival becomes a spiritual journey, with devotees taking a holy dip in rivers like Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri to absolve past sins and seek blessings for a prosperous future.

Spiritual Practices and Rituals

Makar Sankranti is not just a celebration; it is a time for spiritual practices and rituals. The symbolic act of bathing in sacred rivers is believed to confer merit and cleanse the soul. Devotees express gratitude to the Sun for successes and prosperity, creating a connection between the cosmic and earthly realms. The shared cultural practice of making sesame and jaggery-based sweets symbolizes unity, peace, and joyfulness, transcending individual differences.

Symbolism in Festive Treats

The preparation and sharing of sticky, bound sweets made from sesame and a sugar base hold deep symbolism during Makar Sankranti. These treats represent the coming together of people in peace and joy, irrespective of their uniqueness and differences. The act of sharing these sweets becomes a metaphor for the communal harmony that the festival encourages, fostering a sense of togetherness and mutual celebration.

Regional Variations and Customs

Maharashtra: Til-Gul and Joyful Celebrations

Makar Sankranti 2024
Kite Flying

In Maharashtra, Makar Sankranti is celebrated with the exchange of til-gul, sweetmeats made from sesame seeds and jaggery. The festive atmosphere is heightened with the famous line, “til gul ghya god god bola,” encouraging the consumption of sesame and jaggery while speaking sweet words. The tradition of offering tilacha halwa in the Devghar and celebrating Haldi-Kunku adds unique cultural flavors to the festivities.

Makar Sankranti 2024
Tilgul Source – Wikipedia

Andhra Pradesh and Telangana: Four Days of Festivities

Makar Sankranti 2024
Bhogi Day 1, Source – Wikipedia

The celebration of Sankranti spans four days in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, marked by vibrant decorations using colored rice flour, known as Muggu. Each day has its significance, with Bhogi dedicated to discarding old belongings, Sankranti for flying kites and preparing special dishes, Kanuma for livestock worship, and Mukkanuma for feasting on various non-vegetarian delicacies.

Assam: Magh Bihu and Traditional Games

Assam celebrates Magh Bihu as a part of Makar Sankranti, emphasizing the agricultural aspect of the festival. Traditional Bihu dances, feasts, and bonfires are integral to the celebrations. The festival also brings communities together through traditional games like buffalo fighting, egg fight, and kite flying, fostering a spirit of camaraderie and joy.

Bihar: Sakraat and Khichdi Tradition

In Bihar, Makar Sankranti is known as Sakraat or Khichdi. Devotees take a holy dip in the Ganga and visit temples to seek blessings. One distinctive tradition is the preparation of khichdi, a mixture of rice and lentils, which is then distributed as prasad. The act of serving khichdi holds cultural and symbolic significance, symbolizing unity and equality.

Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, and Delhi: Diverse Celebrations

Makar Sankranti 2024
Source : Wikipedia

In different regions like Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, and Delhi, Makar Sankranti is celebrated with unique cultural nuances. In Goa, the festival is marked by the tradition of burning old agricultural items in a bonfire. Gujarat’s International Kite Festival during Sankranti attracts participants from around the world, showcasing the art and skill of kite flying. In Haryana and Delhi, traditional foods and festive gatherings highlight the essence of the festival.

Jammu: Uttrain and Traditions

In Jammu, Makar Sankranti is known as Uttrain. Devotees visit temples, particularly the famous Vaishno Devi shrine, to seek divine blessings. The festival is marked by special prayers, offerings, and the distribution of prasad, emphasizing the spiritual aspect of Makar Sankranti in the region.

Odisha: Makara Chaula and Cultural Significance

In Odisha, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Makara Chaula. Devotees visit temples and offer special rituals to deities. The festival is marked by the preparation of a special dish called Makara Chaula, consisting of newly harvested rice, sugarcane, and various seasonal fruits. This tradition symbolizes the connection between agriculture, nature, and spirituality, embodying the cultural significance of the festival.

Lohri’s Warm Embrace in Punjab


Punjab is enveloped in the warmth of Lohri celebrations, as bonfires illumine the landscape. Kith and kin converge, bartering gifts and relishing traditional confections like gajaks, peanuts, revdi, and popcorn. Folk refrains like Sundari Mundari Ho reverberate through the night.

Culmination of Cosmic Celebrations: Embracing Unity, Light, and Renewal in Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti, with its rich tapestry of spiritual, astronomical, and cultural elements, stands as a testament to India’s diverse heritage. The festival’s spiritual essence, rooted in the worship of Surya and cultural practices, brings people together in a celebration of light, harvest, and renewal. Whether it’s the intricate astronomical alignment, the regional variations in customs, or the symbolism in festive treats, Makar Sankranti transcends geographical boundaries, fostering unity and joy across the nation.

As India rejoices in the colorful festivities, kite flying, and traditional sweets, Makar Sankranti continues to be a beacon of cultural richness, symbolizing the interconnectedness of humanity with the cosmic rhythms that govern our existence. May this festival bring light, prosperity, and unity to every corner of the nation, reinforcing the cultural mosaic that defines India.

Stay Healthy, Stay Safe, Jai Hind!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *