Makar Sankranti is one of the most favorable occasions for the Hindus, and is celebrated in almost all parts of the country in numerous artistic forms. It is a crop festival. Makar Sankranti is perhaps the only Indian festival whose date always falls on the same day every year i.e. the 14th of January.
Makar Sankranti is the day when the glorious Sun-God begins its ascendancy and entry into the Northern Hemisphere and thus it signifies an event wherein the Sun-God seems to remind their children that 'Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya', may you go higher & higher, to more & more Light and never to Darkness.
To Hindus, the Sun stands for knowledge, spiritual light and wisdom. Makar Sankranti signifies that we should turn away from the darkness of vision in which we live, and begin to enjoy a new life with bright light within us to shine brighter and brighter. We should gradually begin to grow in purity, wisdom, and knowledge, even as the Sun does from the Day of Makar Sankranti.
The festival of Makar Sankranti is highly regarded by the Hindus from North to down South. The day is known by various names and a variety of traditions are witnessed as one explores the festival in different states.
Makar Sankranti is observed and celebrated throughout India by all communities but with slight variations in the festivities.
In Gujarat, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as the kite-flying day. Kite-flying day in Gujarat is an extraordinary day, unlike at other places.
Gujarat Uttarayan is incomplete without Undhiyu, jalebi and Chiki. Ahmedabad, as a Gujarat's premier city, leads the way in the celebration of Uttarayan, and is the venue of the International Kite Festival.
In Uttar Pradesh, Sankranti is called ‘Khichiri’. It is an important bathing date during the famous Magh Mela and Kumbh Mela at Sangam (Prayag) in Allahabad.
It is known as Gangasagar Mela in Bengal and on the particular day people come from all over India for a ceremonial cleansing in the river Hooghly, near Kolkata.
In Tamil Nadu, Makar Sankranti is known by the name of ‘Pongal’. It is very popular particularly amongst farmers. Rice and pulses cooked together in ghee and milk is offered to the family deity after the ritual worship.
In Andhra Pradesh, it is celebrated as a three-day harvest festival, known as Sankranthi.
In Maharashtra, on the Sankranti day, people exchange multi-colored tilguds made from til (sesame seeds) and sugar and til-laddus made from til and jaggery.
Bhogali Bihu is celebrated on the day in Assam.
In Punjab where December and January are the coldest months of the year, huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Makar Sankranti and which is celebrated as "Lohri".
In Central India, it is known as Sankranti.
In Gujarat and Rajasthan, it is known as Uttarayan and is noted for the kite flying event.