14 Jan 2006 @ 03:38, by Alana Tobin
Four Days of Pongal
During this period pilgrims from all over the country, in numbers exceeding 500,000 gather on Sagar Dweep, a small island some 156 kilometers (93 miles) south of Kolkata, for the three day Ganga Sagar Mela. The northern extremity of the island, which is about 25 miles long, is called Mud point.
During the Kurukshetra war, it is said, the wounded Bhisma Pitamaha, who had the power to choose the time of his death, lay on his bed of arrows for 26 days so that he could die on Makar Sankranti day. Why Makar Sankranti? “On this sacred day, when the sun begins its northward journey (the uttarayan) by entering the ‘Makar Rashi’ (the Capricorn), the doors of heaven are kept open. All ‘divya-atmas’ (sacred souls) will go to heaven and will be spared a rebirth”, explained Bhisma to Yudhishthira.
Maharashtra - when two persons greet each other on this festive day, they exchange a few grains of multi-coloured sugar and fried til mixed with molasses and say "til gud ghya, god god bola" (henceforth, let there be only friendship and good thoughts between us).
How to Celebrate in the Spirit of Makar Sankranti
It never ceases to amaze me! Source presents us with delightful surprises along the journey! I stumbled upon this information today when doing a google search about earth shifts as it relates with mid January.
I felt it important to post this on NCN as a way of bringing more emphasis to the message that was written in our January report, a request from Source, the Earth and Ancestors for groups to gather tomorrow to assist Earth.
We have been invited by special friends to travel to a particular sacred space out on the earth. A place that is in very profound need of opening and healing. Well, my personality rests more easy now as I feel such spiritual support. I am filled with a deep and profound gratitude as I type these words, because I acknowledge the profound magic that is present in our lives. It is morning in India now and so people are just gearing up to move into rituals and celebrations that will continue on for four days.
In and with the Spirit of Makar Sankranti, I invite you to utilize this time to align with other brothers and sisters all around the world to open to the Light in service to earth and humanity. We will be meditating, sharing treats and dancing upon the earth in celebration of new life!
Perhaps you may even choose to go out and fly a kite as a way of observing this auspicious time, when there is the opportunity to celebrate the One Heart as we open to the surprises that come as we remember our part, together!
"til-gul ghya, god god bola!"
Alana and Max
Makar Sankranti - January 14, 2006
The festival of Makar Sankranti traditionally coincides with the beginning of the Sun's northward journey (the UTTARAYAN) when it enters the sign of Makar (the CAPRICORN). It falls on the 14th of January every year according to the Solar Calendar. This day is celebrated as a festival right from the times of the Aryans and is looked upon as the most auspicious day by the Hindus.
Makar Sankranti marks the commencement of the Sun's journey to the Northern Hemisphere (Makara raasi), signifying the onset of Uttarayana Punyakalam, and is a day of celebration all over the country. The day begins with people taking holy dips in the waters and worshipping the Sun.
The evidence of this festival being lucky is found in our great epic Mahabharat wherein it is told that the great warrior-hero, Bhishma Pitamaha even after being wounded and lying on the bed of arrows, lingered on till Uttarayan set in, to breathe his last. It is believed that the person who dies on this auspicious day of Sankrant escapes the cycle of birth and re-birth and that his soul mingles with the Almighty.
The Indo Gangetic plain begins this day with taking dips in the Ganga and offering water to the Sun god. The dip is said to purify the self and bestow punya. Special puja is offered as a thanksgiving for good harvest. According to folklore, girls who take the holy dip get handsome husbands and boys get beautiful brides.
Til and Rice are two important ingredients of this festival. Til or sesame seed contain lot of oil and they therefore have a quality of softness in them. Therefore, firstly the use of til in sweets is good for health and secondly being soft their exchange means exchange of love and tender feelings.
This festival is celebrated differently in different parts of the country.
In Maharashtra on the Makar Sankranti day people exchange multi-coloured tilguds made from til (sesame seeds) and sugar and til-laddus made from til and jaggery. Til-polis are offered for lunch and these are specialities of Maharashtra. Maharashtrian women are proud of their excellence in preparing these delicacies. While exchanging tilguls as tokens of goodwill people greet each other saying - "til-gul ghya, god god bola" meaning "accept these tilguls and speak sweet words".
The under-lying thought in the exchange of tilguls is to forget the past ill-feelings and hostilities and resolve to speak sweetly and remain friends. This is a special day for the women in Maharashtra when married women are invited for a get-together called "Haldi-Kumkoo" and given gifts of any utensil, which the woman of the house purchases on that day.
In Gujarat Makar Sankrant is observed more or less in the same manner as in Maharashtra but with a difference that in Gujarat there is a custom of giving gifts to relatives. The elders in the family give gifts to the younger members of the family. The Gujarati Pundits on this auspicious day grant scholarships to students for higher studies in astrology and philosophy. This festival thus help the maintenance of social relationships within the family, caste and community.
In Punjab where December and January are the coldest months of the year, huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Sankrant and which is celebrated as "LOHARI". Sweets, sugarcane and rice are thrown in the bonfires, around which friends and relatives gather together. The following day, which is Sankrant is celebrated as MAGHI. The Punjabi's dance their famous Bhangra dance till they get exhausted. Then they sit down and eat the samptions food that is specially prepared for the occasion.
In Bundelkhand and Madhya Pradesh this festival of Sankrant is known by the name "SUKARAT" or "SAKARAT" and is celebrated with great pomp merriment accompanied by lot of sweets.
In South Makar Sankrant is known by the name of "PONGAL", which takes its name from the surging of rice boiled in a pot of milk, and this festival has more significance than even Diwali. It is very popular particularly amongst farmers. Rice and pulses cooked together in ghee and milk is offered to the family deity after the ritual worship. In essence in the South this Sankrant is a "Puja" (worship) for the Sun God.
Men, women and children attired in colourful tunics visit friends and relatives and exchange pieces of sugarcane, a mixture of fried til, molasses, pieces of dry coconut, peanuts and fried gram. The significance of this exchange is that sweetness should prevail in all the dealings.
In Uttar Pradesh, Sankrant is called "KICHERI". Having bath on this day is regarded as most important. A mass of humanity can be seen bathing in the Sangam at Prayagraj where the rivers Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswathi flow together. At the confluence of these holy rivers every year Kumbh Mela is held for full one month.
In Bengal every year a Mela is held at Ganga Sagar where the river Ganga is believed to have dived into the nether region and vivified the ashes of the sixty thousand ancestors of King Bhagirath. This mela is attended by a large number of pilgrims from East India.
The tribals in our country start their New Year from the day of Sankrant by lighting bonfires, dancing and eating their particular dishes sitting together. The Bhuya tribals of Orissa have their Maghyatra in which small home-made articles are put for sale.
Thus we see that this festival occupies a significant place in the cultural history of our country and symbolises the victory of ORDER over CHAOS and of Love over Hate.
Joy in the north and west Come mid-January, the people of Punjab and Haryana celebrate Lohri, marking the end of winter. The countryside is dotted by bonfires, around which people gather to meet friends and relatives and sing folk songs. Children go from house to house singing and collecting money and sweets.
Makar Sankranti is a big kite festival in most parts of India. In Rajasthan, particularly in Jaipur, skies are filled with kites. In Jodhpur, the Desert Kite Festival is held during Makar Sankranti. The three-day festival starts with an inauguration at the Polo Ground. The Festival includes two sections - the Fighter Kite Competition and Display Flying - with trophies in both categories.
In Gujarat there is a special significance attached to the celebration of Makar Sankranti as the Kite Flying Day. The clear blue sky seems to beckon everyone, and the people surrender themselves to the joys of kite flying. And so, the skies, from morning to evening, is vividly dotted with specks of colour as kites in a variety of hues, shapes and sizes dart across the azure blue.
The excitement is difficult to contain with the onset of night. In the developing darkness youngsters continue their struggle for supremacy in the sky, now with the paper lanterns tied to their kite-strings. These lanterns are known as tukkal and a series of them swinging gently in the evening breeze provide a soothing balm.
In Maharashtra, happy feeling of camaraderie is symbolized by the distribution of til-gul - sesame seed and jaggery. The sesame seed (til) brimming with fragrant and delicious oil, stands for friendship and comradeship and jaggery (gul) for the sweetness of speech and behavior.
The distribution of til-gul with the words 'Til gul ghya ani goad goad bola' (partake this til gul and talk sweetly) signifies the feelings of brotherhood and harmony. In Maharashtra, this festival has another significance attached: gurus choose this season to bestow their grace on disciples.
Makar Sankranti marks the commencement of the Sun's journey to the Northern Hemisphere (Makara raasi), signifying the onset of Uttarayana Punyakalam, and is a day of celebration all over the country. The day begins with people taking holy dips in the waters and worshipping the Sun. To Hindus, the sun stands for knowledge, spiritual light and wisdom. Makar Shankranti signifies that we should turn away from the darkness of delusion in which we live, and begin to joyously let the light within us shine brighter and brighter.
We should gradually begin to grow in purity, wisdom, and knowledge, even as the sun does from this day. Til and Rice are two important ingredients of this festival. In the rice-eating belt of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, people have a special rice-centric meal on this day.
As part of the festival, cows and bulls are given a wash and the horns are painted with bright colours and decorated with garland, and are taken in a procession in the village to the accompaniment of pipes and drums. In the night a bonfire is lit and the animals are made to jump over the fire. It is a big event for the Tamils and the people of Andhra Pradesh. The Telugus like to call it 'Pedda Panduga' meaning big festival.
The whole event lasts for four days, the first day Bhogi, the second day Sankranti, the third day Kanuma and the fourth day, Mukkanuma. Bengal - In Bengal, Makar Sankranti, is celebrated with the charming pithey parban. This three-day event of colourful rituals is the community's offering of thanks to the gods for the harvest. At the centre of this festival are the pithey or pulis - sweets that make use of the basic agrarian ingredients of rice, coconut and date palm juice.
The pilgrims come for a holy dip on Makar Sankranti (last day of the Bengali Month ‘Magh’ — Mid January). They take dips in the Ganges and offer ‘til’ and water to the Sun God. The dip, as they say, purifies their ‘self’ and according to them, ‘punya’ can be obtained thus. A special puja is performed which is offered to the Sun God as a thanksgiving for good harvest. During evening ‘árati’ worshippers offer leaf baskets filled with flowers and ‘deep’ (diya or clay disks) holding camphor. The camphor is lit and these flickering baskets are let adrift on the waters of the sacred Ganga river.
There is a common belief among the locals that the girls who take the holy dip get handsome grooms and the boys get beautful brides. When they are done with the ritual obligations, they head towards the Kapilmuni Temple situated nearby, to worship the deity as a mark of respect. A block of stone, which is anointed and worshipped, represents the great sage, Kapila Muni referred to in the legend. The original site of the temple has been washed away by the sea. But an attractive new temple has replaced the previous temple. There are the emblems of the Sea Ganga Devi and Bhagiratha besides that of Kapila Muni referred to.