How is Makar Sankranti celebrated differently in different parts of India? Find out here

An auspicious day in the Hindu calendar, Makar Sankranti has many meanings and just as many ways of celebrations across India.

Dedicated to worshipping the Surya Devta or Sun God, Makar Sankranti is celebrated across India on January 14 every year. Considered as the day on which the Sun transitions into Makara or Capricorn on its celestial path, the auspicious day is celebrated with great pomp and show, and is marked by a variety of festivities including kite-flying competitions, elaborate fairs, bonfires, and traditional foods. Here’s all you need to know about the significance, festivities, and legends associated with the festival, as celebrated in different states of India.

The various versions of Makar Sankranti in India

Khichdi Sankranti or Sakraat in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand

Makar sankranti
Khichdi is the staple dish that dominates the festival in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand. Image: Shutterstock/Rangeecha.

In Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj (earlier Allahabad), Magha Mela is set up at Prayag Triveni Sangam, the confluence of holy rivers of Ganga, Yamuna, and Sarasvati on Khichdi Sankranti or Sakraat. A dip in the holy waters followed by a massive community celebration complete with til laddoos, kite-flying, and khichdi (a staple main dish of rice, lentils, and vegetable) mark the day. Devotees throng the temples and offer the home-cooked dish to gods, while seeking blessings for a prosperous harvest year. Later, it is distributed as prasada to everyone. The alternative name ‘Khichdi Sankranti’ has its own significance. Since the dish is cooked with freshly harvested rice and lentils in a single pot, it is symbolic of unity.

Lohri or Magha Sajhi in Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh

Lohri is celebrated with great fervour across north india
Lohri is celebrated with great fervour across North India. Image: Shutterstock/PradeepGaurs.

Most of northern India, including Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and even some parts of Jammu & Kashmir lights up with the warmth and fascinating flames of blazing bonfires on Lohri. People come together in open public spaces, light up bonfires, and pray while encircling them. Gajak, rewri, and peanuts are thrown into open fire as offerings to the gods and people indulge in merry-making by dancing to folk songs.

Ghughutia or Uttarayani in Gujarat and Uttarakhand

Women celebrating ghughutia in uttarakhand
Women celebrating Ghughutia in Uttarakhand. Image: Shutterstock/RAMESH SINGH RAWAT.

Popular as Ghughutia in Uttarakhand, the festival is celebrated with great pomp and show in the Kumaon region. Ghughut or deep-fried sweetmeats of wheat flour, ghee, and jaggery are prepared in a variety of shapes like drums, pomegranates, knives, swords etc., which are then strung into garlands and worn by children on the morning of the festival. Crows arriving to your household is considered a good omen on this day and so the black birds are offered portions of these edible necklaces. Ancient folklores are shared, celebratory songs are sung, and people from near and far arrive at the Uttarayani Mela organised in the Bageshwar district. Gujarat turns alive with unique spectacles full of colours. The two-day celebration of Uttarayani begins when kites and coloured manjhi fill the blue skies. The second day or Vasi Uttarayani is marked by preparing local delicacies like undhiyu (a winter dish of seasonal vegetables) and peanut chikki.

Sakkarai Pongal in Tamil Nadu

Kolam designs and mud pots are the highlights of sakkarai pongal
Kolam designs and mud pots are the highlights of Sakkarai Pongal. Image: Shutterstock/177.

A result of generational passing down of strong faith and customs is Sakkarai Pongal in Tamil Nadu, where rice, jaggery, kolam (traditional rangoli), and mud pots are the highlights of the four-day festival. Homes are cleaned, walls and doors are decorated with mango leaves, and unique rangoli designs made of flowers and coloured rice flour adorn the floors. Cattle is worshipped on the auspicious day. Freshly harvested rice is boiled in pots along with milk and jaggery till they overflow and spill. The ceremony captures the essence of the word ‘pongal‘ which means to boil or overflow. After it is offered to the Sun God, pongal is served on banana leaves for family members to eat.

Sankranthi or Pedhha Panduga in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana

Cattle are dressed up and worshipped on the occasion of pedhha panduga
Cattle are dressed up and worshipped on the occasion of Pedhha Panduga. Image: Shutterstock/Alla Sravani.

Similar to Tamil Nadu, celebrations of Pedhha Panduga last for four days. People dress up in traditional attires, homes are bedecked with adorable decorations, and cattle or mattu is bathed, their horns are painted, and bodies are covered with patterned drapes, flower garlands, and bells. Later, people worship their cattle for aiding them with produce all year long.

Maghi Sankranti in Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Goa

Tilgud laddoos paired with hali kumkum ceremony take centerstage in maharashtra and goa
Tilgud laddoos paired with Hali kumkum ceremony take centerstage in Maharashtra and Goa. Image: Shutterstock/StockImageFactory.com.

Across Maharashtra and Goa, multi-coloured halwa and tilgud laddoos are exchanged as tokens of goodwill. People greet each other by saying “til-gul ghyaa aani goad-goad bola” meaning ‘accept these sweets and utter sweet words’. Women hug each other and put Haldi-Kumkum on each other’s foreheads, and skies are filled with colourful kites. In Karnataka, a ritual called Ellu Birodh is performed where women exchange regional delicacies or ellu-bella made using freshly cut sugarcane, sesame seeds, coconut, and jaggery. While exchanging sweets, sweet Kannada words are said, “ellu bella thindu olle maathadi” meaning ‘eat the mixture of sesame seeds and jaggery and speak only good.’ Farmers celebrate the festival by decorating their bulls and cows in colourful costumes and jumping over fire along with their cattle.

Poush Sankranti in West Bengal and Odisha

People rise up early to take a holy dip on this occasion in odisha
People rise up early to take a holy dip on this occasion in Odisha. Image: Shutterstock/CRS PHOTO.

In Odisha, the festival is kicked off with an early-morning holy dip in ponds, tanks, and rivers. Tribal communities in Mayurbhanj and Sundargarh regions sing and dance on folk songs for a week. Desserts made of muri (rice crispies) are exchanged and people prepare Makara Chaula or uncooked new harvest rice, coconut, banana, sesame, jaggery, rasagola, khai or liaa and chhena puddings, which are later offered to gods and goddesses. Special rituals are performed at Puri’s Jagannath Temple. In West Bengal, Poush Sankranti is, again, celebrated with home-cooked sweets made of fresh harvested rice and date palm, and Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped.

Magh Bihu in Assam

Assamese communities celebrate the festival by dancing to folksongs.
Assamese communities celebrate the festival by dancing to folksongs. Image: Shutterstock/bijitdutta.com.

Marking the end of harvest season in the month of Magha, Assam celebrates the festival of Magh Bihu with week-long festivities, including celebrations where locals install makeshift huts of bamboo and thatch, prepare community feasts, and play traditional Assamese games like Tekeli Bhonga (pot breaking). The huts of meji are burned the next morning. Delicacies include traditional rice cakes called sung pitha and til pitha, and coconut sweets called laru.

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