FRIDAY, JANUARY 14: Here comes the sun; it’s Makar Sankranti in India today, a harvest festival that celebrates the migration of the sun. Across India, citizens will be heading to the rivers to take early-morning bath, as this—the first day of the month of Magh—is considered auspicious and ideal for the eradication of sins. (Check out I Love India for quotes, customs and more.) The holy Ganges River is the most sought-after location for bathers today, but for all Hindus who honor the Sun God Lord Surya, today will mean eating rice in boiled milk, flying kites and feasting in joy.
Sankranti signifies the moving of the sun from one zodiac sign to another, and has ancient roots—but not just in India! Some archaeologists report evidence of the Mayans commemorating this same event thousands of years ago in Latin America. Don’t think that the date has stayed the same, though—because of the Earth’s tilt and the sliding of the Equinoxes, today’s solar event was marked on Dec. 31 just 1,000 years ago. In 2011, though, the sun moves from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn on Jan. 14, and the Indian harvest season begins.
The worship of the Sun God concentrates on divinity and wisdom, and although regions of India celebrate Makar Sankranti to suit specific climate, agricultural status and history—the most popular traditions remain similar throughout. (Wikipedia has details.) Certainly, too, an event as large as Makar Sankranti makes headlines across the country!
The Times of India assures Hindus they don’t have to worry about a milk shortage for the making of their rice in boiled milk this year: According to the Bihar State Co-operative Milk Producers’ Federation Limited, special arrangements have been made to ensure that they can meet growing demands. Kite flyers might have to cough up a bit more cash this year, though, as kite prices have increased 25 percent (Hindustan Times has details); and of those who do get kites, they are warned by Reliance Infrastructure Ltd to take care when flying kites near high tension overhead power transmission lines. (The full story is at Money Life Magazine.) Kite structure for Makar Sankranti is more complex than just ribbons and sticks: “Manja,” or the kite string, is gummed, coated and colored, making it a good conductor of electricity. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is taking the issue one step further, and asking kite-flyers to abandon manja for cotton string, as the powdered glass coating on manja harms hundreds of birds. (Read more here.)
We wish all of our Hindu friends a safe and happy Makar Sankranti!