Makar Sankranti 2024: Date, Rituals, Bank Holidays – A Primer On Harvest Festival
Makar Sankranti, an ancient Hindu festival, is set to be celebrated on Monday (January 15, 2024), marking the transition of Sun into the zodiac sign of Capricorn (known as Makara in Sanskrit). This auspicious occasion, synonymous with harvest, kite-flying, and cultural festivities, resonates with vibrant traditions that vary across India. The year’s first festival is celebrated around mid-January and the date is based on the solar calendar. In 2024, the Sun will move from Sagittarius to Capricorn two hours past midnight (2.45am to be exact) on January 14, which is why Makar Sankranti will be celebrated on January 15. This astronomical event has been celebrated for centuries, dating back to Vedic times.
Makar Sankranti 2024 date
This year, Makar Sankranti falls on January 15, a day after Lohri. According to Drik Panchang, the Sankranti time is 2:45 am on January 15. The Punya Kala lasts from 7:15 am to 8:07 pm (10 hours, 31 minutes), and Maha Punya Kala is from 7:15 am to 9:00 am (1 hour, 45 minutes).
Symbolism and spiritual significance
Beyond its astronomical roots, Makar Sankranti carries profound spiritual significance. The shift of the Sun symbolises a journey toward enlightenment and spiritual awakening. Devotees view this transition as an opportune moment to rid themselves of negativity, embracing positivity and divine blessings.
Makar Sankranti is also known as the harvest festival. The festival marks the end of chilly winter, heralding longer days and the onset of the harvest season. The celebration is extra special in the farming communities, as this is the time when they reap the fruits or their hard labour.
Popular foods on Makar SankrantiTil and Jaggery delicacies: Makar Sankranti is synonymous with a delectable array of til (sesame seeds) and jaggery-based treats. Traditional foods are til chikkis to melt-in-your-mouth til ladoos – bite-sized balls with warming sesame seeds and jaggery.Pongal in the South: In the southern states, particularly Tamil Nadu, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Pongal. This unique celebration spans four days, with each day dedicated to distinct culinary delights. The most important dish of the festival is Pongal, which is made with newly harvested rice, lentils and jaggery.Puran Poli: This is a popular dish associated with Makar Sankranti in Maharashtra. It is a sweet flatbread filled with a delightful mixture of sweet and crumbly moong that is served for breakfast. Maharashtrians also prepare the dish on Diwali.Dal Khichdi: Makar Sankranti is a harvest festival, so people use newly harvested rice and dal (lentils) to make khichdi. This is a popular food because it is light and easily digested.Community feasts
Makar Sankranti is a time for shared meals and communal feasts. Families and communities come together to share their food, strengthening social bonds over pots of khichdi, gajak and regional specialties. The act of sharing food becomes a celebration of abundance and a reminder of the importance of togetherness.
Rituals that define Makar SankrantiSacred dips: A significant aspect of Makar Sankranti involves devotees taking ritualistic dips in sacred rivers, symbolising the cleansing of sins. The Ganges, Yamuna, and other revered water bodies witness a surge of pilgrims seeking “spiritual purification”. The act of immersing oneself in cold waters becomes an embodiment of devotion.Flying kites: The sky becomes a “battleground” during Makar Sankranti as kite enthusiasts engage in fierce competitions. The tradition is popular in cities like Ahmedabad and Jaipur where colorful kites dance in the air. This tradition not only showcases skill and precision but also reflects the spirit of friendly competition and celebration.Rangoli artistry: Homes come alive with intricate rangoli designs during Makar Sankranti. A riot of colours and patterns adorns doorsteps and becomes a visual celebration of creativity and cultural heritage.Folk performances: The beats of dholaks, the twirls of traditional dancers and the vibrant energy of folk performances add a rhythmic touch to Makar Sankranti celebrations. Bihu in Assam, Lohri in Punjab, and other regional festivities amplify the cultural diversity that defines the festival.Environmental consciousness
Sustainable celebrations: In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the environmental impact of festivals. Makar Sankranti enthusiasts are increasingly adopting eco-friendly kite materials and biodegradable threads to reduce the festival’s ecological footprint. This shift towards sustainable celebrations reflects a collective effort to balance tradition with environmental responsibility.
Conservation initiatives: Some regions have incorporated environmental conservation into their Makar Sankranti celebrations. Plantation drives, cleanliness campaigns, and awareness programs highlight the importance of preserving the natural resources that sustain agriculture, a central theme of the festival.
Other names of Makar Sankranti
The festival is celebrated in large parts of the country around the same time. It is known as Pedda Panduga or Makara Sankranti in Andhra Pradesh, Makara Sankranti in Karnataka, Telangana and Maharashtra, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Magh Bihu in Assam, Makara Chaula in Odisha, Til Sakraat or Dahi Chura in Bihar, Makaravilakku in Kerala, Poush Sankranti in West Bengal, Magha Saaji in Himachal Pradesh, Haldi Kumkum in Maharashtra and Maghi Sankrant in Goa.
Makar Sankranti takes place right after Lohri in Punjab, another harvest festival.
Bank holiday on Makar Sankranti
It is the first big festival of the year, and banks are closed in several states, according to RBI calendar. Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Uttarayana Punyakala, Maghe Sankranti, Pongal and Magh Bihu so banks will be closed in Karnataka, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Sikkim and Assam.
Makar Sankranti on social media
Makar Sankranti trends on social media platforms, with users sharing their experiences, culinary creations, and vibrant attire. Hashtags like #MakarSankranti and #KiteFestival amplify the festival’s reach, creating a virtual space where the global community converges to celebrate the rich tapestry of Indian culture.
People also organise virtual events and live stream kite-flying competitions, along with other online cultural programs that allow people from around the world to participate in the festivities. This digital transformation enhances the inclusivity of the festival.
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