Sankranti or Pongal is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly in India and in some other countries. Makar Sankranti is celebrated as festival of harvest. Sankranti or Sankramana means ‘movement’. It is the inflection point of movement of Sun into the zodiac house of Makara or Capricorn. So Sun at 0 degree in Capricorn is the mark of a big change and Sun starts moving northwards. This is also start of the period Uttarayana. Uttarayana is the period where Sun travels from Makara rashi till Kataka rashi (Cancer), which is for the period of 6 months. And Dakshinayana is the period where Sun travels through Cancer sign till Saggitarius sign. Uttarayana is very auspicious time in Hindu tradition.
It is believed that, Uttarayana is the best period to do any auspicious and sacred rituals. Uttarayana is related to Devathas and Dakshinayana is related to Pitrus. Both these times are suitable to seek blessings respectively. It is said that Uttarayana period is day time for Devathas and Dakshinayana is the night time for them. In Dakshinayana, last month is coinciding with devatas brahmi muhurta. This month is called as Dhanurmasa, very significant month to perform spiritual activities. The movement of Sun into Makara rasi which is the start of Uttarayana period is celebrated as Makara Sankranti.
Read More on Dhanurmasa
Makar Sankranti is referred to as harvest festival. In olden days, our people and economy as a whole were dependent on agriculture and harvest. Sankranti is the time when harvesting is completed and it is the time for big celebration. This is the day to acknowledge and thank everyone. Generally in olden days, this festival was celebrated for three days: first day is to thank the mother earth. The second day is to celebrate the day with family members, friends and relatives. Finally third day is to thank animals. Remember animals played a big role in man’s life, especially cow. So this day is kept for animals.
Scientifically, this day marks the beginning of warmer and longer days compared to the nights. It will mark the end of winter season. On this day, day and night will almost in the same duration.
In astrology, this day has very big significance. Shani is the lord of Makara rashi. Sun is father to Saturn, but Sun is bitter enemy to Saturn. It gives a big lesson for all of us. It is the time to forget the past bitterness and start a new beginning.
Traditions and Rituals
The importance of this festival is not only on ritualistic part. This festival emphasizes on sharing, giving and thanking everyone and everything which matters. First we thank this mother earth and nature. Nature is not separated from our existence. This is the day in which we remind ourselves that everything with us is actually belongs to the planet earth. Also importance is given in giving and sharing and celebrating with family and friends. The festival aims at keeping aside all the differences and to come together with family and friends.
During Makara sankramana, sacred bath, prayer, chanting mantra, Japa, Pooja, offering tarpana, charity etc are prescribed.
Tila Karmas – Shat tila karma is prescribed on this day. Shat means six and Tila means sesame and Karma means action or deed. So Shat Tila Karma means six ways of using tila. They are:
Tila Snana (sacred bath using some crushed sesame seeds dissolved in water or using sesame oil)
Tila Tarpana (offering sesame mixed holy water to ancestors)
Tila Deepa (Lighting lamp from tila oil)
Tila Homa (the Homa conducted with sesame seeds)
Tila Dana (Donating sesame to poor)
Tila Bhakshana (Consuming sesame)
This is the reason, sometimes it is also known as ‘Tila Sankranti’. It is believed that sesame seeds have the ability to absorb satwik energy and prevents negative energies.