DO you know that this feast is celebrated on January 14th, and is the only feast of the Indian calendar which is not celebrated on a fixed day of the lunar month? When the sun does not cross any constellation then there is an extra month called “Adhik Mas”. The crossing of the Makara constellation takes place in the month of Paush.

“Tilgul”, Symbol of Friendship

On this day people eat “Khichadi” made of rice and dal. The Paush month is also known as Dhundhur Mas and people eat “bajari” bread mixed with “til” (Sesamum). On the feast of Sankrant “til” is given great importance, for in this season it is considered to have special nutritive and medicinal qualities. “Til” is a very oil-giving seed. Mixed with jaugari or sugar it becomes a very sticky sweet which people exchange with one another as a sign of friendship. “Tilgul ghya, god bola.” (“Take tilgul and speak sweetly”) is the phrase on everybody’s lips.

Makara Sankranti is also a day of bonding. Yes, it is believed that with this good social custom of eating and distributing tilgul, all the old enmities are forgotten and new friendships forged. People are encouraged to emulate the quality of “Tilgul” and stick to-gether in permanent union and love.

On this day ladies apply “halad-kumkum” (turmeric powder) on each other’s forehead to pray for prosperity and happiness. Many people take a holy dip at Prayag, near Allahabad, at the meeting point of the Ganges and the Yamuna in the hope that there may not be a rebirth and that all their sins are washed off once and for all.

In Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, it is celebrated as a three-day harvest festival Pongal. In Assam, the festival is celebrated as Bhogali Bihu, and in Punjab it is called Lohri.

In North India, a ritual bath in the river is important on this day. In fact, bathing is considered mandatory on this day, and according to a popular local belief in the hills of Uttar Pradesh, one who does not bathe on Makara Sankranti is born a donkey in his next birth. The belief probably originated in cold climates to compel some of the more reluctant people to observe certain rules of hygiene.

A big fair is held at the confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the Sarasvati rivers at Triveni in Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh) on this occasion. Being the month of Magha, this fair is also called Magha Mela. Apart from Triveni, ritual bathing also takes place at many places like Haridvar and Garh Mukteshwar in Uttar Pradesh, and Patna in Bihar.