Makara Sakranti is the winter solstice in the Hindu solar calendar. It is marked by the passing of the sun into the sign (Sakranti, Samkranti) of Makara (Capricorn). There are festivals on the day itself and on the eve to celebrate the coming of spring.

Unfortunately, there are several ways of calculating the Hindu solar calendar, so its date may vary by up to one day in various parts of India depending whether local custom dictates the use of the old or new Hindu calendar or astronomical tables. This is further confused by the fact that the date reported as a holiday is sometimes the 1st of Makara and sometimes the eve. It always occurs around the 14th or 15th of January. Lohri, in Punjab and Harayana, commonly occurs one day earlier on the 13th or 14th.


Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh: This is the biggest festival in Tamil Nadu and streches over four days. The first, Bogi or Bhogi is dedicated to the rain God Bhogi or Indran. and is also sacred to Krishna. The day begins with a sesame oil bath and in the evening there is a bonfire made of old cloths, files, mats and rugs, perhaps symbolizing the end of winter.

The second day, Surya Pongal, is dedicated to the Sun (Surya). On this day, pongal (rice cooked in milk and jaggery) is bolied by women who offer it to the Sun. “Pongal” lit. = boiled over. It is traditional to ask “Is the rice boiled” and receive the reply “Yes, it’s boiling, symbolizing the fertile season to come.

The 3rd day, Mattu Pongal, is dedicated to the worship and veneration of cattle (mattu). The horns of the cattle are decorated with turmeric and kumkum, small bells and flowers are hung around their neck and they are paraded in the streets. The pongal that has been offered to the local deities is given to the cattle to eat.

On the 4th day, Kanya Pongal, coloured balls of the pongal are made and are offered to birds. A kind of bull-fight, called the ‘Jallikattu’ is held in Madhurai, Tiruchirapalli and Tanjore in Tamil Nadu and several places in Andhra Pradesh. Bundles containing money are tied to the horns of ferocious bulls, and unarmed villagers try to wrest the bundles from them. Bullock cart races and cock-fights are also held. In Andhra Pradesh, every household displays its collection of dolls for three days. Community meals are held at night with freshly harvested ingredients.


Punjab, Harayana: Bonfires are lit, 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 known as Lohri Prasad which have sesame seeds in them, which they are supposed to throw into the bonfires. Women and children get special attention at this time and the first Lohri of a bride or a baby child is considered especially important.

Til Sakranti

“Til” = Sesame seed, much used at this time. It is used in Maharashtra to make laddoos (round balls) and for massage, bathing and in the sacred fire ceremony of Havan. It is also used in oblations with water (Tarpan) and given as charity. In the Punjab it features in special sweets called Lohri Prasad. In 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).

Kichadi or Kichadi Sakranti

“Kichadi” = a dish of rice and lentils, ghee and spices, often eaten at this time.

Gangasagar Mela

“Gangasagar” = Bathing in the Ganges: People gather to bathe in sacred rivers all over India, especially the Ganges at its junction with the Jumna and where it flows into the sea. The river Hoogly near Calcutta is another favored spot. Girls who take the holy dip on this day are said to get fine husbands and boys are said to get beautiful brides.

Makar Sakranti
Contributed by Acharya Satyam Sharma Shastri
Montagne-Blanche Village, Mauritius

Sakranti means to go from one place to another place (to change direction). It also means one meets another. The time when the sun changes direction from one constellation (of the zodiac) to another is known as Sakranti.

Transition of the Sun from Sagittarius to Capricorn during the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere (Uttarayana) is known as Makar sakranti.

Solar Year – Importance of the Sun

There are 12 signs of the zodiac. There are 12 Sakrantis as well. They are given names according to the position of the sun in relation to the signs of the zodiac. Each of the 12 Sakrantis has its relevant importance but two of these are most prominent.

These two are Mesh Sakranti and Makar Sakranti (Aries and Capricorn).The solar year commences when the sun is in Aries (the first sign of the zodiac). From the point of view of mathematical calculations, the solar year is more scientific than the lunar year. One lunar year has 354 days only and lunar days (or nights) increase or decrease according to the phases of the moon. Compare this to the solar year which has 365 ¼ days and remains the same. Many astrological books are based upon solar calculations. The sun is the most important and the most prominent of our stars and the undisputed lord of our planetary system. The sun always comes first. First day of the week commences with Sunday (Ravi).

Science attaches great importance to the sun. The sun is the inexhaustible storehouse and the source of light and energy. Without sunlight creatures and vegetation would cease to exist. People will lose their life sustaining vitality. Lack of nourishing substances would lead to the end of creation. This is why the sun’s existence, movements and positions in the cosmos are so important and that is why the sun earns our respect, admiration and reverence.

Mesh Sakranti
The solar year commences when the sun is in Aries (the first sign of the zodiac).
During this auspicious period, great deal of merits are acquired by performing Havan (Yajna or Sacred Fire ceremony), Japa (repetition of Mantra or God’s name), Shraddha, Charity etc. Householders top up their grain jars and families start wedding preparations for their sons and daughters of marriageable age.

Makar Sakranti
The second Sakranti of great importance is Makar. Transition of the Sun from Sagittarius to Capricorn during the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere (Uttarayana) is known as Makar sakranti. The sun and journeys northward. The days are gradually lengthening in the northern hemisphere.

Khichadi Sakranti
Makar Sakranti is also known as KHICHADI (Indian dish made from rice and lentils) Sakranti because on this day the injunction to eat Khichadi , is generally observed by people. Seasonal crops become available. Ghee, and spices are used for making tasty nourishing Khichadi. Winter loosens its grip on shiver producing cold, admitting springtime that brings with it the chance for all round health improvement.

Til Sakranti
In addition to Khichadi, great importance is attached to the use of TIL (Sesame seeds) during Makar Sakranti. Therefore, this Sakranti is also called TIL Sakranti. People make Laddoos (round balls) from Til. Til oil is used for massaging.

Six types of usage of Til are described. Til is used for Bathing, for Massaging, for Havan (sacred fire ceremony), Tarpan with Til (oblations of water with Til), Til used as food, and Til is donated in charity.

It is said that Til emanates from Vishnu’s body and that the above described usage wash away all kinds of sins. Sakranti period is held to be very auspicious and any good deeds during this time will produce merits. Gifts of clothing, blankets etc., on this day are productive of merits in both this life and in the next life.

Kite Flying Day
Makar Sakranti is also celebrated with great enthusiasm as the Kite flying day.

Gangasagar and Surya Puja
At Sakranti time great importance is attached to Ganga snaan (bathing with waters of the river Ganges) and Surya Puja (worshipping the sun). Bathing, worshipping gods, Havan, Japa, Fasting and Charity; each of these are extremely holy deeds.

From Makar Sakranti onwards when the sun is travelling northwards, innumerable auspicious things start happening. Climate and atmosphere improve. Children born during this period are naturally progressive, well mannered, pleasant and of noble disposition. 

The Bhagavad Gita mentions the importance of the northern path of the sun at the time of death. This was the reason why Grandsire Bhishma, who was wounded in battle and in semi conscious state, while lying on the bed of arrows, chose to wait it out, awaiting the northward path of the sun, before choosing to die.

All such special reasons make the northward journey of the sun sacred and auspicious at Makar Sakranti.

The festival is known in Assam as Bihu or Bohali Bihu. A variation on the theme of fire, practiced in Assam, is the erection of pavillions, which are put up on the night before the festival and then burnt as a sign that the festival has begun.

It is also known as Pedda Panduga (= big festival) by the Telugus and as Maghi by the Sikhs.

As well as the above, the festival venerates Jagaddhatri, Goddess of spring, and Kama or Kandarp, Godess of love.Rati, the wife of Kama, and Lakshmi, the Godess of wealth, are also venerated. The time of Makara Sakranti and the period following are considered very auspicious.

In general, boiled rice or lentils and sesame seed and oil are a particular feature of the ceremonies. Food is colored saffron and yellow clothes are often worn. Cattle are decorated and their horns painted. Bonfires are often lit and ritual bathing takes place to wash away old sins. Old clothes and bedding are burnt on the bonfires and new utensils are often purchased and first used on this day. Kites are flown all over India but especially in Gujarat.


Dates : 14 January every year.

Practice : Makar Sankranti marks the commencement of the sun's journey to the Northern Hemisphere and is a day of celebration all over the country. Wherever there is a body of water, people take a dip in the waters on this day and worship the sun. Also known as Gangasagar Mela, on this day, people come from all over India for a ceremonial cleansing in the River Hooghly, near Calcutta. In Gujarat, brightly coloured kites dot the skies, in celebration of Makar Sankranti