Makar Sankranti, which shall be celebrated on January 14 this year, is a Hindu festival which marks the end of the month with the winter solstice and the starting of longer days.
The day is dedicated to the Sun God and devotees take a dip in the Ganga river to mark this auspicious day. The day acts as a harbinger of the harvest festival and marks the beginning of spring. An activity which is synonymous with this day is kite flying and the sky is seen covered by kites of all colours and sizes.
The festival has different names in different states, even though it is celebrated on the same day. It is referred to as Pedda Panduga in Andhra Pradesh, Makar Sankranti in Karnataka, Magh Bihu in Assam, Magha Mela in parts of central and north India and Pongal in Tamil Nadu.
One tradition common to all these celebrations is making sweets from sesame and jaggery. This sweet symbolizes peace and happiness.
In many parts in India, this time period is during the early stages of growth cycle of the Rabi crop and others. Family functions, meeting friends, tending to cattle, flying kites and gathering with family members around bonfires take place during this time.
Makar sankranti also marks the starting of a six months propitious period for Hindus referred to as the Uttarayana period. Every 12 years, along with Makar sankranti celebrations, the Kumbh Mela also takes place, which is one of the world’s largest mass privileges.
In 2019, the Ardh Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj shall start from January 14 and end on March 3 at the Triveni Sangam, which is where the river Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati meet.