Makara Sankranti is a socio-religious celebration. Kranti means “change”. Sankranti signifies “total and complete change”. When the Sun moves from one zodiac sign (Rashi) to another it is called Sankramana or Sankranti and it denotes the change of the month. Therefore the sun in the 12 zodiac signs represents the 12 months of the year. Out of the 12 Sankrantis, Karkataka Sankranti and Makara Sankranti are important. Karkataka Sankranti indicates the Southern Solstice (Dakshinayana Punyakala) when the Sun moves from the Northern to the Southern hemisphere. Makara Sankranti which comes in the month of Pushya, represents the Northern Solstice (Uttarayana Punyakala) when the Sun enters the Makara Rashi and starts moving towards the Northern hemisphere.
The month of Kartika represents initiation into Spiritual Knowledge. The next month, Margashirsha represents intense Spiritual Sadhana. Then comes Pushya, which signifies nurturing, nourishing (poshan) and concretization of our Spiritual Endeavours. Hence we invoke Lord Sun who is the Nurturer and Nourisher of all Life and Life’s activities – material and spiritual. One human year represents one day for the devatas. If Margashirsha represents the Brahma Muhurtha of the devatas, Pushya represents the early morning (sun rise) for the devatas. Hence it is customary to get up early in the morning during this month for spiritual practices and align ourselves with the “early morning of the devatas.” On Makara Sankranti, we invoke and express our devotion and gratitude to Lord Sun, the Sole Nourisher of all Life and who represents the Light of Spiritual Knowledge, Divinity, Power and Glory.
Our Rishis were aware of the influence of the celestial bodies like the sun, moon, stars and planets on the intermediate atmosphere as well as on the beings on the terrestrial plane. These important aspects were brought into the lives of people in the form of rituals, vratas, etc. The 360° movement of the sun, and its transition through the various zodiac signs, its inclination and effect on the various planets and consequently its effect on us keeps on changing every month. Makara Sankranti ushers in a life of intense activity, both material and spiritual as against the previous winter months of lethargy. Just as lighting the lamp was mandatory and auspicious in the month of Kartika, taking a holy dip in the temple tanks, lakes, rivers and oceans where the waters have been exposed to the beneficial rays of the sun is considered very auspicious and beneficial starting from Pushya Purnima to Magha Purnima. It is known as Magha Snana. Similarly, kite flying festivals are encouraged during the Makara Sankranti so that people are exposed to the beneficial rays of the Northward bound Sun. The Sun’s rays (electro-magnetic vibrations) during this period are extremely beneficial, especially for spiritual growth.
Makara Sankranti also marks the beginning of the harvest season. The bullocks and cows are decorated and worshipped to express our gratitude to their eternal and selfless service to mankind in the field of agriculture and dairy farming. The freshly harvested crops are worshipped, shared and used for cooking. Sweet Pongal (South India) and Khichidi (North India) are prepared during Sankranti. It is significant to note that both Pongal and Khichdi are by themselves, even individually, a complete meal – a combination of Rice (carbohydrate) and Lentils (protein). The other add-on ingredients like jaggery, ghee, spices like pepper and cumin, turmeric, ginger, dry fruits etc., have therapeutic value. Apart from this, it is customary to prepare til and jaggery ladoos for consumption and distribution amongst relatives, friends and well wishers. Hence Makara Sankranti is also known as Til Sankranti. Til or Sesame is one of the oldest known oil-seeds and is known as the “seed of immortality” and its oil is known as “queen of oils”. It has the highest oil-content and possesses rich nutritive and immense medicinal benefits. It has high stability and preservative qualities and possesses antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiviral, antibacterial, anti inflammatory, antidiabetic, anticancer properties. Til seeds provide the energy necessary to fight the cold and its oil-content helps to fight the dry weather. It also nullifies the negative energy in the surroundings. Similarly, jaggery is rich in iron, and other minerals and vitamins and activates the digestive enzymes during the cold season. Together, til and jaggery boosts the immune system, provides warmth and protects the body from seasonal infections. Til and jaggery (ellu-bella) are exchanged amongst near and dear ones with the words, “Ellu Bella thindu olle mathadu” (Kannada). This means “eat til and jaggery and speak good words!” This signifies vak-tapas (penance of speech). Til is associated with Saturn and it helps the heart-nadi which is governed by Saturn to function smoothly and effectively.
Lord Sun is the presiding deity of Spiritual Knowledge. During this Sankramana, Sun enters Makara Rashi. Lord Saturn (Shani dev) who is the Lord of Makara Rashi is the presiding deity of Karma. Therefore, Lord Sun entering Makara signifies KARMA BEING PERFORMED WITH THE HELP OF THE RIGHT KNOWLEDGE. The Sun and Saturn are opposed to each other, and therefore, the Sun entering the house of Saturn signifies harmony and peace and the consequent end of bitterness and conflict! Makara (crocodile) represents ego or spiritual ignorance. The house of Saturn represents challenges, problems, lethargy, inertia etc. The Sun entering this house represents “overcoming all these adversities with the help of knowledge” – the transition from lethargy and materialism to ACTIVITY and SPIRITUALISM. Hence the importance of Makara Sankranti in an individual’s life.
“Surya Murthe Namostute Sundara Chhayadhipathe; Karya Karanathmaka Jagat Prakasha Simha Rashyadhipathe, Arya Vinutha Teja Spoorthe Arogyadhi Phaladakeerthe” ~ Keerthana on Lord Surya (Navagraha Krithis) by Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar
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