Makar Sankranti falls on January 14 or January 15 in certain years. Makar Sankranti is the very first major festival to be celebrated in India and is one of the universally celebrated Hindu festivals. Unlike other Hindu festivals — which follow the lunar calendar — Makar Sankranti follows the solar calendar and thus falls on the same day each year. This festival signals the end of winter and the beginning of the harvest, and is even observed outside India — in Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar — to name a few countries.
History of Makar Sankranti
This festival has been celebrated by Hindus since ancient times. Details of this festival are also mentioned in Hindu religious texts and documents.
According to one popular legend, this festival originated because people were celebrating a demon’s downfall. As the story goes, a particularly murderous demon named Sankarasur would torture and kill humans for no particular reason. Hearing this, a goddess named Sankranti came down to Earth and vanquished him. Ever since then, Hindus have held this festival in her name.
People also worship the Sun god, Surya, on this day since the sun has a lot to do with the changing season. From this day on, the sun starts moving northwards.
The festivities themselves have multiple traditions and legends attached to them. One main tradition centers around kite-flying under the sun. People believe this practice cleanses bodies of infections and germs after a long winter.
Traditional sweet dishes are consumed on this day, a tradition that also has a legend attached to it. Apparently, the Sun god Surya never quite got along with his son, Shani. On this day, however, they decide to let bygones be bygones, and Surya visits Shani’s home, carrying sweets as a mark of forgiveness. And so, Hindus eat and distribute sweets with loved ones.
Another tradition this festival is famous for — the spiritual element. People believe that holy waters — and a cleansing dip in them — are essential to Makar Sankranti celebrations. They visit holy rivers like the Ganga and Yamuna in India, on mass pilgrimages.
Across many parts of India, this season means the early stages of the agricultural cycle, when crops have been sown and the hard work in the fields is almost complete. Therefore, this time signifies a period of socializing and families enjoying each other’s company.
Makar Sankranti timeline
This crop — which is used across India to prepare Sankranti sweets even today — starts being cultivated; it is planted around mid-November and harvested in April.
The Aryans celebrate this day as an auspicious day for festivities, probably because it marks the onset of the harvest season.
The festival first starts being celebrated.
The date is calculated, possibly using astronomy, mathematics, and astrology, and the festival is celebrated in January.
Makar Sankranti FAQs
When was Makar Sankranti celebrated in 2021?
Makar Sankranti was celebrated on January 14 in 2021 but it can be celebrated on January 14 or January 15, depending on the year.
What is the importance of Makar Sankranti?
This ancient Indian festival is considered holy, auspicious, and important for spiritual practices. It signifies a period when people socialize, enjoy loved ones’ company, and celebrate the changing season.
Do people wear black clothes on Makar Sankranti?
Black is indeed worn during this event. It is believed that this color absorbs warmth from the sun, thereby increasing body heat and protecting people from the cold.
How To Observe Makar Sankranti
Eat a sweet
Enjoy an Indian sweet if you can source one. Or go ahead and look up recipes for traditional Indian sweets like ‘tilgul’ and ‘pongal,’ or simply try out an Indian sweetener called jaggery.
Fly a kite
Grab a kite, grab your kids and family, and head out for a day in the sun. You can even hold a fun-spirited kite-flying competition to see who can fly kites the highest.
Have a fun time
Makar Sankranti is all about celebration. Celebration of the harvest, a celebration of life, a celebration of various religious deities. Have your own celebration — of life, friends, family, and good health. Get together with loved ones, dance, sing, and have a fun time.
5 Fun Facts About Makar Sankranti
What does the name mean?
Makar means 'Capricorn' and Sankranti is the movement of the sun from one zodiac sign to another; basically, this day marks the transition of the sun from Capricorn to another zodiac sign.
A gateway to paradise
Ancient tradition says people that die on this day go straight to paradise.
Major pilgrimage on this day
Every 12 years, the world’s biggest Hindu pilgrimage — the Maha Kumbh — starts on this day.
A new name for each region
Every state in India, and other countries, have their own name for this celebration — Makara Sankranti (Maharashtra, India), Pongal (Tamil Nadu, India), Bhogali Bihu and Magh Bihu (Assam, India), Songkran (Thailand), and Maghe Sankranti (Nepal).
Makar Sankranti is celebrated like Thanksgiving
Food, family, and giving thanks — this festival is another version of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Why Makar Sankranti is Important
We learn more about another culture
Learn about the food, customs, history, significance, and even how you can celebrate the holiday. While you explore, your mind and experiences become more diverse and open.
We get to spend time with family
Like many festivals around the globe, Makar Sankranti, too, is about loved ones, good food, and enjoyment. Who doesn't love that?
Diverse cultures with similar traditions
While the legends, stories, and even customs might seem very different at first glance, look closer to see the similarities with your own festivals and holidays. It brings a sense of wonder and unity at the same time.
Makar Sankranti dates