Makara Sakaranti falls on Sunday this year. The date is always January 14, as it is September 17 for Viswa Karma Puja. We have been celebrating the day in a particular manner for many years. After taking bath early in the morning, we touch by our fingers a bowl of rice, sesame seeds and some amount of pulses of gram that is given as a charity to some deserving person. During lunch, we take flattened rice with milk and curd. We also take sweet of different types- gajjak, tilkoot, rewari, all prepared with sesame seeds as constituent especially on this day. In dinner we take ‘khichari’-rice cooked with pulses and now with many vegetables and spices too to make it real tasty. This is the practice that we have been following for years.
This is the day when many Hindus go to take bath in river Ganga. And one famous place for this day’s bath is Ganga Sagar in West Bengal. We have been there many years ago. Sagar is an island at the mouth of river Hooghly (Ganga) in Bay of Bengal. There is a temple there that is dedicated to Kapilmuni. As the story goes, the 60,000 sons of King Sagara got burnt into ashes because of a curse from the hermit, Kapilmuni. Their souls didn’t get salvation. Muni had said that it would be possible only if some one can bring Ganga to immerse their bones and ashes. Many of the descendents of Sagar tried that, but it was Bhagirath whose penance induced the Ganga to descend from heaven. Ganga on descending on earth through the hair lock of Lord Shiva followed Bhagirath up to the Sagar Island and washed the bones and ashes of the ancestors. They got salvation. As per Hindu beliefs the descendants are responsible to clear the sins of all their ancestors too. I don’t know if Ganga’s water has retained its virtue to clear the sins after the greed and laziness of the Indians have totally polluted it. For the first time, the Hindu saints have come out to protest against its pollution. I wish they also tell publicly that their disciples must not pollute it by throwing all the wastes and remnants from rituals in the rivers.
On the day the sun goes from Kumbha (Aquarius) to Makara (Pisces). The earth, farthest from the sun at this time, starts its journey ‘north’ (Uttarayana) towards the sun, ending the coldest month, Paush, kicking off the merry month of Magh. The auspicious period of Uttarayan is from January 14 to July 14. According to Gita Shri Krishna manifests himself in his full splendour during this period. Bhishma, the grandsire of Mahabharat chose to die at this time. Falling to Arjuna’s arrows at Kurukshetra, he didn’t die, as his father had blessed him with the power to choose the time of his death. He waited for this auspicious time to come to die. At the deathbed he revealed the ‘Vishnu Sahasranaamam‘ to Yudhishtra. The recitation of ‘Vishnu Sahasranaamam’ can provide salvation to even ordinary person.
Makar Sanskranti is supposed to be a very important day in Hindu cultural tradition. Unfortunately, the social leaders of our region have not been able to make it as colourful and enjoyable as ‘lohdi’ of Punjab.