Makar Sankrati festival for all round development


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The main intention of our forefathers in conceiving and framing different customs, traditions and religious rituals at different dates and times of the year was to ensure physical, mental and spiritual perfections of human beings besides social and individual development of men on earth. They knew that certain norms, rules and code of conduct were necessary to make an individual, and the society he lived in, disciplined and to elevate them to a higher status. That is why they spared no efforts in formulating appropriate rituals and festivals suited to different seasons of the year and appropriate norms and rites suited to the temperament of these different festivals.

Among the major festivals which aim at all round development of an individual, the festival of Makar Sankranti is the one, and it has direct bearing upon the movement of the sun, the king of the planets.

With the change of Sun’s position from Dhanurasi to Makarasi, the month of Magh starts. The last season of the year “winter season” also starts from this day onwards. That means the sun completes its shorter southern journey of six months and resumes its longer Northern journey thereby elongating the duration of the days and shortening the nights. Therefore, the first day on which the sun’s position is over makarasi is observed by Hindus as Makar Sankranti. It is a shour purba related with the position of the sun.

On the day of this festival people take bath early in the morning. They shun talking with anybody till they complete this customary bathing. Those who can afford visit the confluences of rivers like the Ganga, Yamuna or the Swarswati or any other sacred rivers or lakes where they not only take holy dip but also offer puja to their guardian deity. Those who lack means and time go to the nearest spring water for the purpose. While bathing water mixed. with til and kush is used. Til is judiciously used during this season and such traditions as consumption of laddo made of til and molass, using of til oil for burning lights in mandirs and temples, messaging the body with til oil and to bask in the fire made of til stalk are some of the practices which are still in vogue in many parts of the state. Not only that, alms of til is considered to be of great value on this day.

On the day of this festival people take bath early in the morning. They shun talking with anybody till they complete this customary bathing. Those who can afford visit the confluences of rivers like the Ganga, Yamuna or the Swarswati or any other sacred rivers or lakes where they not only take holy dip but also offer puja to their guardian deity. Those who lack means and time go to the nearest spring water for the purpose. While bathing water mixed. with til and kush is used. Til is judiciously used during this season and such traditions as consumption of laddo made of til and molass, using of til oil for burning lights in mandirs and temples, messaging the body with til oil and to bask in the fire made of til stalk are some of the practices which are still in vogue in many parts of the state. Not only that, alms of til is considered to be of great value on this day.

Almost coinciding with Makar Sankranti different Indian states celebrate different festivals with different names but of similar nature. Such as, a day before Makar Sankranti a festival called Lohari is celebrated in Punjab. Instead of yagya they make fire and use Khoya for hawan and distribute prasad of rewari of til and instead of chanting vedic mantras they gather together at a common place and revel with songs and dance.

In Gujrat and Maharashtra, even the poorest of the poor, draw different coloured pictures on their courtyard. Bath early in the morning smearing bukuwa on the body and wish each other as “Til guruthya api, garul, garul boola til gurlew, mitto mitto balow” offering a piece of molass, this means, always speak good and pleasant. Women go to their friends place with turmeric powder and kumkum to invite them to attend a feast at their house where they treat their guests with halowa of rice. They call this festival as Guduchi.

As Pongal this festival is celebrated in Tamilnadu and Andra Pradesh. To them Pongal is as great and important a festival as Dasai and Tihar to Nepali. During Pongal, statues of Gods are decorated and taken out in procession for public display and the deity is reverentially offered a specially prepared recipe called pongal which afterwards is distributed among the devotees as prasad. The day for them is so important that they consider it most pertinent to initiate schooling for minor children from this auspicious day. Similarly, teaching of Vedas to new students are also started from this day onwards.

Although the norms and the system of celebration of these festivals differ according to geographical and social differences, the main ritualistic aspect of all the communities are almost the same. The theme and essence of all these different festivals are the same and they all aim at purifying a man of all his vices and finally to ensure his soul the salvation and emancipation that every human being either directly or indirectly crave for.

The Brahamin of Nepali community, on this day, worship the Sun, Lord Shiva and Lord Bishnu with hawan of freshly harvested rice, til and butter near a tulshi math and use the residue of hawan for tika which he distributes by visiting every household of the vicinity. It is believed that the black tika of hawan can prevent premature death.

As during major festivals, during Makar Sankranti also the Government declares holidays for two days providing ample opportunity for all to take part in the celebration. Tribeni Melas organized at the confluence of rivers are the main attraction of the festival where everybody, irrespective of sex and age throng in dressed in their best of apparels to extract the maximum of enjoyment. The number of shops in the melas also do not lack behind who sell fancy items and different types of delicious food stuff. Those who visit the mela are not all revellers, some come as here pilgrims to make animal sacrifice at the confluence in order to be blessed and their cherished wishes fulfilled.

The young boys and girls engage themselves in singing and playing juwari in tune with madal. The tired and weary farmers also, on this day, take leave of their fields and farming implements and go to the mela to be entertained and relieved of the tedium of their monotonous life style. In reality these melas, once in a while, not only regale the populace, which mostly constitute farmers, but also invigorate them with renewed zeal and strength to work in their fields from the next day onwards.

From social point of view this festival and particularly the mela is of great importance, because, it is at this mela that the departed relatives meet and renew a fresh lease of relationship between them. It. is here that some marriages are proposed and the destiny of couples determined. The revellers not only entertain themselves at such melas but also purchase cheap and fancy goods of
their need and choice.

Various social and religions beliefs and recognitions have given birth to different customs and traditions, which in turn, have been leading our societies through the generations. Although many changes have come in them with the change of time, these customs and traditions are the main factors for establishing our identity on earth. They are the main pillars on which our national and social unity are founded upon, so, it is our prime duty and responsibility to safeguard and continue them incessantly.

Courtesy: Cultural Affairs & Heritage Department, Govt. of Sikkim

 

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