Dictionary Of Hindu Religion | Dictionary


Home | Rel-Dictionary | Dictionary

Makar Sankraanti

Back to M

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P-Q  R  S  T-U  V-W-X  Y-Z

Makar Sankraanti

This is the only Hindu festival which is solely linked to the the western Solar calendar. It always falls on January 13 or 14. Otherwise all Hindu festivals are observed according to Hindu Lunar calendar (Tithi).

The astrologers around the world imagine the Earth's orbit to be a belt (Westerners call it a Zodiac) around the Sun and divide it into 12 segments. Hindu call each part a Raashi (Sign). When the Earth crosses from one Raashi (Sign) to another Raashi, this phenomenon is called Sankraanti. Thus, there are 12 Sankraanti in one Solar year. For example when the Earth moves from Dhanu (Sagittarius) Raashi to Makar (Capricorn) Raashi, this is called Makar Sankraanti. According to Hindu astrologers, this happens 23 or 24 days after Winter Solace (December 21).

Because one western Solar year consists of 365.25 days, the quarter day difference is corrected by having a Leap year every four years. This is the reason, Makar Sankraanti can fall in the morning of 14th January instead of the 13th January. According to Western astrology, Makar Sankraanti takes place on December 21 (Winter Solace) and Makar Raashi ends January 19.

For all the Hindu people, this is the day to take bath in Trivenee (Sangam of three rivers at Ilaahaabaad - Gangaa, Yamunaa and Saraswatee). Every year tens of thousands of people take a dip here. Every 12 years hundreds of thousands people try to do it. This 12 yearly event is called Maagh Melaa (Maagh Fair) or Kumbh Melaa.

Almost all the states of India celebrate this festival with varied festivities including singing and dancing.
In Panjaab this festival is known as Lohadee. On this day Til is considered auspicious, so people make Til sweets and offer them to guests and Braahman.
In Assam it is called Bhogali Bihu.
In Uttar Pradesh and Bihaar it is known as Makar Sankranti, and
In Andhra Pradesh it is celebrated as Bhogee, when each household puts on display its collection of dolls. Following is the state wise regional significance of the Pongal festival.
In Tamilnaadu, Aandhra Pradesh and parts of Karnaatak, it is called Pongal. It is a three day festival, starting one day earlier and ending one day later. In Tamilnaadu the first day is called Bhogee Pongal, the second day is Soorya Pongal and the third day is Muttu Pongal. The name Pongal is derived from a special rice dish eaten on these three days.

Pongal - Thai Pongal
Pongal is a harvest festival. In an agriculture based civilization the harvest plays an important part. The farmer cultivating his land depends on cattle, timely rain and the Sun. Once a year, he expresses his gratitude to these during the harvest festival. With the end of the wet month of Margazhi (mid December to mid January) the new Tamil month of Thai heralds a series of festivals. The first day of this month is a festival day known as "Pongal Day".

According to the calendar based on the solar system the year is divided into two halves following the apparent movement of the Sun Northwards and Southwards. The former is termed Uttaraayan and the latter is called Dakshinaayan. On the first day of the Thai, the Sun leaves the zodiac sign of Sagittarius and enters that of Capricorn, the latter is known as Makaram. The event thus is celebrated as Pongal.

The four day celebration of Pongal marks a period of plenty, peace and happiness. There is a Tamil saying that "Thai peranthal Vali Perakum". That paraphrase means with the dawn of the month of Thai, there will be peace, happiness, prosperity, brightness and harmony in the life of everyone. It is held to honor the Sun, for a bountiful harvest. Families gather to rejoice and share their joy and their harvests with others. The Sun is offered a "Pongal" of rice and milk.

Preparations for this festival start early and the first thing that is always found in Hindu homes before the start of Pongal is the "Kolam". This is a form of decoration for the Hindus' homes. This decorative pattern is made with rice flour and is usually drawn on the floor outside the door. The Kolam serve as a symbol of welcoming guests to the entrance of the house. At the center of the Kolam is a lump of cow-dung, which holds a five-petal pumpkin flower - a symbol of fertility and an offering of love to the presiding deity.

Four days of Pongal have their own significance as separate deities are worshiped each day.

The First Day - This first day is celebrated as Bhogee festival in honor of Lord Indra, the supreme ruler of clouds that give rains. Homage is paid to Lord Indra for the abundance of harvest, thereby bringing plenty and prosperity to the land. Another ritual observed on this day is Bhogee Mantaalu, when useless household articles are thrown into a fire made of wood and cow-dung cakes. Girls dance around the bonfire, singing songs in praise of the gods, the spring and the harvest.

The Second Day - On the second day of Pongal, the Poojaa or act of ceremonial worship is performed when rice is boiled in milk outdoors in a earthenware pot and is then symbolically offered to the Sun god along with other oblations. All people wear traditional dress and markings, and there is an interesting ritual where husband and wife dispose off elegant ritual utensils specially used for the Poojaa. In the village, the Pongal ceremony is carried out more simply but with the same devotion. In accordance with the appointed ritual a turmeric plant is tied around the pot in which the rice will be boiled. The offerings include the two sticks of sugar-cane in background and coconut and bananas in the dish. A common feature of the Poojaa, in addition to the offerings, is the Kolam, the auspicious design which is traditionally traced in white lime powder before the house in the early morning after bathing.

The Third Day - The third day is known as Mattu Pongal, the day of Pongal for cows. Multi-colored beads, tinkling bells, sheaves of corn and flower garlands are tied around the neck of the cattle and then are worshiped.. They are fed with Pongal and taken to the village centers. The resounding of their bells attract the villagers as the young men race each other's cattle. The entire atmosphere becomes festive and full of fun and revelry. Aarati is performed on them, so as to ward off the evil eye.

The Fourth Day - The Fourth day is known as Knau or Kannum Pongal day. On this day, a turmeric leaf is washed and is then placed on the ground. On this leaf are placed, the left over of sweet Pongal and Venn Pongal, ordinary rice as well as rice colored red and yellow, betel leaves, betel nuts, two pieces of sugarcane, turmeric leaves, and plantains.

Pongal signals the end of the traditional farming season, giving farmers a break from their monotonous routine. Farmers also perform Poojaa to some crops, signaling the end of the traditional farming season. It also sets the pace for a series of festivals to follow in a calendar year. In fact, four festivals are celebrated in Tamil Nadu for four consecutive days in that week. "Bhogee" is celebrated on January 13, "Pongal" on Jan 14, and "Maattuppongal" on Jan 15, and "Thiruvalluvar Day" on Jan 16.


Home | Rel-Dictionary | Dictionary


Back to M

Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 06/09/11