Bhubaneswar, Jan 13: Makar Sankranti, a Hindu festival marks the transition of the sun into the zodiac sign of Capricorn (Makara). It usually takes place around January 14th each year. The festival holds great significance in the Indian cultural calendar and is celebrated with various names and traditions across different regions of the country.
Significance and Customs:
Harvest Festival: Makar Sankranti is primarily a harvest festival. It marks the end of the winter solstice and the beginning of longer days. The day is dedicated to the Sun God and is associated with new beginnings, prosperity, and abundance.
Kite Flying: One of the most popular customs during Makar Sankranti is the flying of kites. In many regions of India, people engage in kite-flying competitions, and the sky becomes filled with colorful kites.
Holy Dips: Taking a holy dip in rivers, especially the Ganges, is considered auspicious on this day. It is believed that taking a dip in the sacred rivers cleanses the soul and brings good fortune.
Sweets and Special Dishes: People prepare special dishes made with sesame seeds, jaggery, and other ingredients during Makar Sankranti. Tilgul (sesame and jaggery sweets) is a popular treat exchanged during this festival.
Donations and Charity: Making donations and engaging in acts of charity are also common during Makar Sankranti. It is believed that such acts bring blessings and prosperity.
Celebrations can vary across different states in India, and the festival is known by various names, such as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Uttarayan in Gujarat, and Magh Bihu in Assam.
Makar Chaula (Makar Rice):
Makar Chaula, a unique prasad associated with Makar Sankranti, is crafted in temples and households across Odisha. The rice utilized is typically sourced from the latest harvest, and ingredient variations exist based on regional preferences.
In Odisha, Makar Chaula is meticulously assembled using raw, freshly harvested rice, along with elements like banana, coconut, jaggery, sesame, rasagola, khai/liaa, and chhena puddings. This delectable mix is offered as 'naivedya' to the deities during the Makar Sankranti festivities.
Makar Sankranti in Jagannath Temple:
At Jagannath Temple in Puri, a ritual known as Makar Niti is observed. During the Makar Vesha of the deities, garlands made from diverse flowers and Basil leaves are provided by the Bada Odia Matha. Thousands of devotees gather at the temple to witness the adorned deities and partake in Makar Chaula.
Special Makar Mala and Makar Tada are presented to the temple on this occasion, and the Makar Chaula prasad is prepared using these offerings. The entire celebration is a blend of cultural traditions and religious observances at this revered temple in Puri.