This harvest festival is celebrated under different names and traditions across India. North India celebrates it as Maghi, a day before which Lohri is celebrated. In Maharashtra, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and West Bengal, it is called Paush Sankranti. While in Assam, it is known as Bihu and Thai Pongal or Pongal in Tamil Nadu.
The shubh muhurat and auspicious timings for Makar Sankranti are as follows: Makar Sankranti Punya Kala: 07:15 AM to 05:46 PM, Makar Sankranti Maha Punya Kala: 07:15 AM to 09:00 AM and Makar Sankranti Moment: 02:22 AM.
Taking holy dip in rivers like Ganga, Yamuna, Krishna, Cauvery and Godavari is marked by this day, believing that their sins will be washed away. This festival is considered a time of joy, peace, prosperity and happiness. Sweets made of gud such as chikkis and sesame ladoos are distributed in the hope of peace, harmony and togetherness among the people. Makar Sankranti also marks the beginning of Kumbh Mela every 12 years.
Pongal in Tamil Nadu is believed to be a time of good fortune when it is believed that all kinds of familial and social harmony is restored. The saying in Tamil ‘Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum’ implies that this festival calls for joy, happiness and new opportunities celebrated in the Thai month of Tamil Calendar. The reason why it is also called Thai Pongal in Tamil.
Legend and Beliefs
It is believed that dying on Makar Sankranti provides Moksha to the Aatman. This festival is believed to be important for spiritual practices. In Tamil Nadu, the legend of Shiva and his bull Nandi is known to be the belief behind celebrating this festival as the one relating to rearing cattles and harvest of crops for a newer cycle. According to the legend, bull Nandi is cursed to live on earth and help humans in ploughing the field and producing more yield. It is because Nandi is believed to have misinterpreted Lord Shiva’s order and conveying it wrongfully to people. This is why Nandi is supposed to help humans in crop production, making it an important festival for enthusiastic farmers.