Information and Importance of Makar Sankranti
Makar Sankranti, also known as Sankranti or Makara Sankrant, is one of the highly auspicious days in a Hindu calendar and the day is dedicated to the worship of Lord Surya (Sun God). Makar Sankranti 2018 date is January 14. Punyakaal or time for puja and to take holy bath is from 1:56 PM on January 14 to early morning hours of January 15, 2018. Makar Sankranti is the day when the sun enters into the zodiac Capricorn or Makara. It is also known as Uttarayana Punyakalam and heralds the arrival of spring season.
What is Makar Sankranti?
Makar Sankranti – also Makara Sankranti, Makar Sankrant and Makarasankranti – is an auspicious day based on the movement of the Sun (Surya). ‘Makar’ or ‘Makara’ refers to ‘Makara rashi’ – the zodiac corresponding to Capricorn. ‘Sankranti’ in Sanskrit means ‘to cross into’ or the day when sun enters from one zodiac sign to another. So Makar Sankranti is the day when the sun enters into the zodiac Capricorn. It is also known as Uttarayana Punyakalam or the entry of sun into the Northern Hemisphere. The six-month long Uttarayana begins on this day.
Usually the day of Hindu celebrations vary from year to year in English Calendar. Hindu calendar is based on the movement of the moon and therefore it is a lunar calendar. Hence the change in the date of various celebrations with corresponding English Calendar. But Makarasankranti is based on solar movement and therefore it has almost a fixed date. But depending on the movement of the sun from south to north Makar Sankranti date progresses i.e., a decade ago Makar Sankranti was observed on January 12 and later on 13. Now it is on 14 or 15. In future it will be observed on January 16.
Hindu God Worshipped on Makar Sankranti
Lord Surya is worshipped on the Makar Sankranti day and is a form of Nature Worship. Every living and non-living being merges with the Brahman and Sun is the Pratyaksha-Brahman or the Brahman that can be seen.
How is Makar Sankranti Observed by Hindus?
A major spiritual event on the day is the bathing ritual at Sangam (confluence of Yamuna, Saraswati and Ganga) in Allahabad and also in the famous bathing ghats on River Ganga. Taking a holy dip on the day is considered to cleanse sins committed and this will lead to Moksha (Salvation). Uttarayana Punyakalam, the day time of Devas, begins with the Makar Sankranti and lasts for six months. This period is ideal for all kind of auspicious activities.
Makar Sankranti in Hindu Scriptures – Stories
One of the most important myths is the death of Bhishma Pitamaha in the Mahabharata. Bhishma chose the Uttarayan period. (Bhisma had got a boon from his father that he will only die when he wishes.) It is believed that people who die during Uttarayana merges with the Brahman, thus ending the cycle of rebirth. Legend also has it that Lord Vishnu buried Asuras on this day beneath the Mandara Mountain. It signifies the end of evil and the dawn of righteousness.
Another legend is that King Bhageeratha brought Ganges down into Patala on Makara Sankranti day. This was to get salvation to his ancestors who were cursed by Sage Kapila and turned into ashes. On this day millions of people take bath in the Ganges. Makara Sankranti is also an important bathing date during Kumbh Mela and Magh Mela.
Puranas state that on Makar Sankranti day, Surya visits Lord Shani. In mythology Lord Shani, is the son of Surya.