Makar Sankranti, a Hindu festival that marks the end of the month with the winter solstice and beginning of longer days, falls on January 14. It is a day dedicated to Lord Surya and devotees mark this day by taking a holy dip in river Ganges. According to the Hindu calendar, this day is also celebrated as the harvest festival and marks the arrival of spring. The day is synonymous to kite flying too. People across India are seen on their roof tops and sky fills up with colourful kites.
Makar Sankranti, a pan-Indian solar festival, is known by different names though observed on the same date. It is known as Pedda Panduga in Andhra Pradesh, Makar Sankranti in Karnataka, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Magh Bihu in Assam, Magha Mela in parts of central and north India. A day before Makar Sankranti is Lohri, the Punjabi harvest festival.
A shared cultural practice is making sweets bound from from sesame and jaggery. This type of sweet is a symbolism for being together in peace and joyfulness, despite the uniqueness and differences between people. this period is a part of early stages of the Rabi crop and agricultural cycle, where crops have been sown and the hard work in the fields is mostly over. The time thus signifies a period of socializing and family get-together, taking care of the cattle, celebrating around bonfires and flying kites.
The festival also marks the beginning of a six months auspicious period for Hindus known as Uttarayana period. Every twelve years, the Hindus observe Makar Sankranti with one of the world’s largest mass pilgrimages and pray to the sun god and bathe in the holy rivers at the Kumbh Mela.
This year, the Ardh Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj will begin from January 14 and continue till March 3 at the Triveni Sangam – the holy confluence of river Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati.
Thousands of devotees are expected to arrive in the city to take a holy dip in the Triveni Sangam.