India is a country with rich diversity that celebrates its differences. There are so many festivals that it is easy to lose count. In Jaipur alone, festivals exist in abundance. There is not a month that goes by without some festival. One of the biggest festivals in Jaipur is Makar Sankranti which is celebrated on the 14th of January every year.
It is the first festival of the year which is why people celebrate it with great enthusiasm and zeal. Kids, in particular, are extremely fond of this festival due to the involvement of kites.
Kites are an integral part of Makar Sankranti in Jaipur. Kites make this festival more exciting. Since most of the festivals in India follow the lunar calendar, their dates constantly change but Makar Sankranti is one festival that follows the solar calendar which is why its date remains unchanged.
Meaning of the festival
Makar Sankranti is one of the most beloved Hindu festivals observed by the people of India. It is celebrated in different ways in different parts of the country.
The festival is observed in honor of the Sun God. The term “Makar” means “Capricorn – the Zodiac sign” and the term “Sankranti” means “change” or “transition”. In short, this festival marks the first day of the sun’s transition into the Capricorn zodiac sign. Every month, the sun makes a transition from one Rashi (zodiac sign) to another. Check out my article on the sun temple in Jaipur.
When this transition occurs, a Sankranti is observed. Makar Sankranti, in particular, is observed when the sun makes its first transition of the new year. Everyone is aware that this auspicious festival is celebrated in the month of January.
The date of the festival also remains unchanged. It is celebrated on the 14th of January every year. In some rare cases, it is also celebrated on the 15th of January, as was evident for the year 2020.
Meaning of Makar Sankranti
As mentioned previously, there are several Sankrantis that occur throughout the year. The two most important Sankrantis are Makar Sankranti and Karka Sankranti. Makar Sankranti occurs during the winter solstice and Karka Sankranti occurs immediately after the summer solstice.
Unlike other Hindu festivals, the date of Makar Sankranti is fixed. This is because the sun’s first zodiac transition into Capricorn always falls at the start of the new year. Since this is the first religious festival of the year, it is celebrated with much enthusiasm and zeal. It is a major Hindu festival celebrated by Indians from all over the world
Cultural significance of Makar Sankranti
The festival is known by many different names in different states. The festival signals the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The cultural significance of this festival varies from state to state.
Each state observes and welcomes the new harvest season according to its cultural rituals. The festival is known by various names depending on where it is observed.
In Maharashtra, it is observed by the name of Poush Sankranti. Assamese people observe this festival by the name of Magh Bihu. In Tamil Nadu, it is known by the name of Thai Pongal or simply Pongal.
Sikh communities residing in Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh observe Lohri the day before Makar Sankranti. They welcome the harvesting season by wearing vibrant colors, doing the bhangra (a dance form), and lighting a bonfire to celebrate the event. In Rajasthan and Gujarat, kite-flying is observed.
Importance of the festival
The festival is symbolic of the age-old triumph of good over evil. It is said that the festival is named after Sankranti, a popular Hindu God, who is renowned for defeating the monster Sankarasur.
The triumph over evil is what makes this festival so auspicious. People believe in taking pavitra snaans or holy baths to absolve them of all their sins.
This rite is said to be very important for the people of India because it symbolizes new beginnings. The arrival of spring brings with it hope and new beginnings.
The symbolism behind the festival
The movement of the sun from Tropic of Cancer to Tropic of Capricorn is seen as Sun God visiting his son, Saturn. The Zodiac sign of Saturn is Capricorn according to ancient belief.
According to popular belief, the Sun God pays a visit to his son, Saturn, every year in the month of January to stay with him for a while.
This belief implies that we should let go of our bitterness and resentment and show care and affection towards others by accepting love over hate. The festival “Makar Sankranti” is symbolic of “change” just like the new year brings hope for change. People get together and forge cordial connections with each other.
The whole environment is extremely jovial which is why people forget any and all grudges or resentment they have to enjoy the auspicious event. Makar Sankranti is a day to rejoice because of the cheerful environment created by everyone.
The role of Sun God or Suryadev
Makar Sankranti, one of India’s most important Hindu festivals, is a major harvest festival celebrated in honor of Surya, the Sun God. It is also a seasonal observation as it signifies the end of winter.
During the festival, people worship the Sun God for providing them with abundant harvest as well as the blessings that were bestowed upon the world. Makar Sankranti marks the beginning of a prosperous season called Spring.
The Sun God’s blessings are counted to express gratitude. The Sun God represents all that is good in the world. People pray for each other’s well-being and unite to celebrate the blessings they received during the past year and the ones they are yet to receive in the following year.
Makar Sankranti celebrations include:
Kite-flying is the most integral part of Makar Sankranti in North India. It is one of the most popular and enjoyable activities organized during Makar Sankranti.
In Jaipur, kids start flying kites a month before Makar Sankranti and continue to fly kites a month after that as well.
People are most commonly seen flying their kites from their homes’ rooftops or terraces.
When the bright-colored kites grace the sky, it is indeed a sight to behold. When kites of various sizes and designs make it to the sky, it adds an extra delight to the whole activity. Families all gather around the rooftops to enjoy the view and compete with other kite-flyers.
Bathing in the holy waters of the Ganges is also a popular ritual for people during Makar Sankranti.
This ritual is performed widely by the people to ask for forgiveness for the sinful activities of the past. It is seen as a means to cleanse one’s body and soul of past sins.
Sweets and delicacies are an integral part of festivals. Sesame sweets mixed with jaggery are particularly popular among the people of Jaipur.
Reasons to celebrate Makar Sankranti in Jaipur
Everyone enjoys festivities as it brings family, relatives, neighbors together. The festival is filled with joy, happiness, and love which is one of the more prominent reasons why people like to celebrate Makar Sankranti in Jaipur.
Makar Sankranti attracts a lot of tourists from around the world because of the way Jaipurites celebrate and welcome the new season. People set up speakers on the roof and play music all day long on full blast to breathe life into the celebrations.
The combination of music, sweets, family, and kites certainly makes the festival an enjoyable event.
Family and relatives get together. Popular delicacies like Dal Bati Churma, Til Ke Ladoo, Pheni, Gajak, and more are prepared in almost every household.
Ladoos prepared with til (sesame) and jaggery, in particular, is a very popular delicacy made during this festival. Til ke ladoo is almost synonymous with Makar Sankranti due to its affiliation with winter.
This is because Sesame is not only nutritious but also protects the body from cold weather. It also prevents the skin from getting dry and flaky.
If you are a tea lover check out these cool places in Jaipur to have tea.
Makar Sankranti is also known as the “kite festival” of India. In many parts of North India, Makar Sankranti is incomplete without kites. The “kite-flying” activity is what makes Makar Sankranti popular among non-Hindu communities.
The sight of the sky is something to behold on this day. The vibrant colors of the kites completely take hold of the blue sky. Tourists visit Jaipur during this season to experience the kite festival.
Kite-flyers use their skill and expertise to fly kites high in the sky and cut strings of other kite flyers to add a bit of competition during the event.
Kite fights are a huge part of the whole festival. Expert kite flyers, who love to cut strings of other kite flyers, use a very specific kind of string, known as manja, to fly their kites.
Manjas can be dangerous as several incidents of injury have been reported from its use but as long as children use it under adult supervision, there is not much to worry about. ‘Others use a less dangerous white string, which although not as strong as manja, is still preferred by the majority of the people due to its safe nature.
The best part about the kite festival is that it is a kind of “get-together” for families, friends, and neighbors to enjoy some quality time with each other. People get into the spirit of the holiday by taking some time off their busy lives to just sit with their family and enjoy the festivities.
While the older generation observes and makes comments, the younger generation is entrusted with the task of holding charkis, and middle-aged persons actively participate in kite flying.
Kites of all sizes, designs, and colors grace the blue sky which makes for a beautiful sight. Kids and young adults fly up to 10 kites a day on Makar Sankranti. Kite battles make up for a great time not only for the people involved but also for the people watching with young boys screaming with joy whenever they cut strings of other kite-flyers.
If you thought that the sky couldn’t look any more beautiful than it does during the day on Makar Sankranti, then you probably have not witnessed the recently emerged tradition of lighting lamps when the darkness sets in.
Floating lamps have become another “must-observed” tradition in recent years. Just like every resident participates in kite-flying, they also participate in lighting lamps at night.
With almost everyone participating in the activity of lighting lamps, the sky looks beautiful and lit. The floating lamps make for a great sight which is another reason why people in Jaipur love to celebrate Makar Sankranti.
If you wanna hit the club after the evening lamps ceremony check out these cool clubs in Jaipur.
Another reason why Japurites celebrate Makar Sankranti is the deep holy plunge people take in the kunds of Galta Ji Temple. This is another tradition in which people take off for Galta Ji Temple during the early hours of the day to bathe in the holy springs of the kunds of the temple.
Thousands of people can be seen taking the plunge to bathe in the water of the holy Ganges. It is believed that by doing so one can get all their sins absolved. People believe that they will cleanse themselves of all the sins by dipping in the holy water. Worshipping the Sun God is still an important aspect of the festival.
Additionally, people also believe in donating clothes, food, and sweets to the needy and poor for some goodwill. Some people engage in charitable activities to observe the auspicious day. Cows are revered in Indian society which is why people feed hay and grass to them as part of a ritual.
Makar Sankranti is one of the most important Hindu festivals celebrated across India. Its name changes as the geographical location changes. Different people from different cultures within India celebrate this festival in their own unique style.
This festival can be seen as a conclusion of the dark phase in people’s lives and the beginning of a new hopeful life. The festival is associated with peace, love, fun, brotherhood, connections, and above all unity.