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Makar Sankranti is a harvest festival celebrated in the month of January. Find more about its significance, rituals, celebration and dates.

Makar Sankranti is a harvest festival celebrated in India, Nepal and parts of Bangladesh in various cultural forms. It is one of the most auspicious days for Hindus all over India and in other countries. It is celebrated with pomp and devotion in almost all the states of India in various forms. There are many other harvest festivals called by different names in different parts of India. Makar Sankranti is a festival of the harvest season when the Sun enters the Tropic of Capricorn or 'Makar'. It usually coincides with 14th or 15th of January every year corresponding to the month of 'Magh' according to the Hindu solar calendar.

The day signifies the beginning of the summer and the harvest season. It also signifies the northward journey of Sun which is called 'Uttarayan'. People discard old things for new ones, forget old enmities and pray to god and offer food to their ancestors with the start of the harvesting season and end of the winter months. People attend holy fairs like the 'Kumbh Mela' in Prayag and the 'Gangasagar Mela' at the junction of River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal and take a dip in the holy waters to wash off their sins.

Celebration & Rituals in Various Parts
'Makar Sankranti' celebrations take on different names and hues in different region of India.

- Goa and Maharastra - 'Makar Sankranti' is celebrated for three consecutive days -'Bhogi', 'Sankrant' and 'Kinkrant' in honor of 'Goddess Sankranti' who killed 'Sankrasur Rakhsasa' or Demon on this day. Married women celebrate 'Haldi-Kumkum' while the men and boys fly kites. People distribute 'til-gul laddoos' made from jaggery and sesame seeds among themselves.

- Odisha - According to the Puranas, 'Lord Surya' got over his anger with his son 'Shani', the master of 'Makar Rashi', and paid him a visit on this day. It is also believed that 'Lord Vishnu' killed all the 'Asuras' on this day and buried their heads under the 'Mandar Parvata' or mountain. All communities celebrate 'Makar Sankranti' by offering fresh fruits to 'Lord Surya'. 'Uttarayana Jatra' and 'Uttarayan Vandapana' of 'Lord Jagannath' are also celebrated at the 'Puri Temple'.

- Andhra Pradesh and Telangana - 'Makara Sankranti' is celebrated over four consecutive days in this region. The people light bonfires with old wooden furniture during the first day of 'Bhoghi' and distribute sweets. On 'Makara Sankranti' day people put on new clothes and offer prayers to the almighty and food to their ancestors. Women draw beautiful patterns on the ground with the help of colored powder. On 'Kanuma' day, food is shared with the livestock, birds and fish. Farmers pay their homage to nature's elements and offer gifts to gods and goddesses on 'Mukkanuma'. People participate in ox and bullock racing, cock fighting and kite flying.

- Bihar and Jharkhand - 'Makar Sankranti' is celebrated on the 14th and the 15th of January in this part. On 14th January, people have 'chura', 'gur', milk, curd, vegetables and sweets made from sesame seeds. Some people also enjoy flying kites. On15th January, people perform worship and enjoy a dish of 'dahi-chura' followed by 'laddoos' made from sesame seeds. A special 'khichdi' accompanied with 'ghee', 'papad', 'chokha' and 'achaar' is served to the people in the evening.

- Delhi and Haryana - The people in these places celebrate the 'Sakraat' or 'Sankranti' festival with 'halwa', 'kheer' and 'ghee' while men visit their sisters' homes with gifts. The women sing folk songs giving away gifts known as 'Manana' to their in-laws.

- Karnataka - The festival is called 'Suggi' here. Girls wear new clothes and exchange plates containing a mixture of white sesame seeds, dried coconut, groundnuts and jaggery with other families. Women also create beautiful designs with multi-colored powder on the ground. The cattle are decorated and taken out in processions called 'Kichchu Haayisuvudu'.

- Himachal Pradesh - During the festival known as 'Magha Saaji' in this region, people get up early in the morning, have a bath at the springs and visit their neighbors. They gather at temples to pray and enjoy 'khichdi' with 'chach' and 'ghee'. During the evening people participate in folk dance known as 'Naati' accompanied by singing.

- Kerala - People attend the 'Makaravilakku' celebrations at the pilgrimage spot of 'Sabarimala' and see the star of 'Makara Jyoti' and get the blessings of 'Lord Ayyappan'.

- Uttarakhand - During 'Makar Sankranti' people have a bath in holy rivers, attend fairs, and distribute 'khichdi'. Children wear necklaces of beads of various forms which have been designed out of 'ghee' and flour' sweetened with 'gur' and sing songs early in the morning to welcome back the migratory birds during 'Kale Kauva' or 'Ghunghutia' celebrations.

- Punjab - In this region the festival is known as 'Maghi Sangrand' in which the people have an early bath and light sesame oil lamps to drive away evil, wash away sins and bring prosperity. They participate in their famous 'bhangra' dances and enjoy having 'khichdi' jiggery and 'kheer. The people light big bonfires in the evenings and sing and dance around it.

- Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh - The people of these states celebrate 'Makar Sanranti' by having local delicacies like 'pheerni' 'kheer', 'pakodi', 'laddoo' and other such stuff. Married women exchange gifts while others give gifts, fruits, 'khichdi' and such things in charity. People fill the skies with kites and try to bring down the kites of others.

- West Bengal - The people of this state celebrate 'Makar Sankranti' as 'Poush Sankranti' with sweets known as 'pitha' and worship 'Godess Lakshmi' on this day. People living in the hills of Darjeeling call this festival 'Magey Sanrati' and worship 'Lord Shiva'. People from all parts of the country gather at the 'Ganga Sagar Mela' to take a dip and pray.

Other Similar Festivals in India
The harvest season is the time when many other similar festivals are held in India. They are:

- Thai Pongal - 'Thai Pongal' is the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu. It is celebrated for four days. On 'Bhogi Mantalu' day, homage is paid to 'Lord Indra' for bountiful rains. Fresh rice boiled in milk in earthen pots is offered to the 'Lord Surya' on the second day while on the third day of 'Mattu Pongal' the cattle are adorned with small bells, beads and garlands in honor of 'Basava' the bull of 'Lord Shiva'. On the fourth day of 'Kannum Pongal' all the women of the family gather in the courtyard to perform various rituals.

- Uttarayan - In Gujrat the harvest festival is called 'Uttarayan' and is celebrated on 14th of January and 'Vasi Uttarayan' on the 15th of January. Kite flying is the main source of entertainment during these two days while people enjoy having 'chikkis' made from jaggery, sesame seeds and peanuts and 'undhiyu' made from a mixture of spices and roasted vegetables.

- Lohri - 'Lohri' is celebrated in the Punjab on 13th of January, a day before the 'Maghi Sangrand' festival. The winter solstice and the harvest season is commemorated with bonfires and children go from door to door collecting 'lohri' which consists of 'til' or sesame seeds, 'gur' or jaggery, 'moongphali' or peanuts and 'phuliya' or popcorn and other food items which are distributed among the participants and thrown into the bonfire.

- Magh or Bhogali Bihu - 'Bihu' harvest festival in Assam is confined to one week starting from the 29th day of the 'Pooh' month which is the same as 13th of January. The festival features bonfires and people feast on rice cakes called 'Shunga Pitha'. 'Til Pitha' and coconut sweets called 'Laru'. Games such as 'tekeli bhonga' or pot breaking and buffalo fighting can also be seen during the festivities.

- Vaishakhi - Also known as 'Baisakhi' this is the harvest festival celebrated in Punjab on either the 13th or 14th of April as the start of the New Year and corresponds to the spring equinox. The farmers in Punjab spend the day in thanksgiving ceremonies and pay their tributes to the gods for giving them a bountiful harvest.

- Onam - This festival is celebrated in honor of the annual visit of Asura Mahavali from 'Patala Loka' who is revered by all Malayalees as the greatest king. Each of the ten days has a different significance. Processions depicting the culture of Kerala are taken out and Traditional dance are staged for the people to see. Boat racing is one of the most spectacular sports that occur during this festival.