Sankranti marks the commencement of the Sun's journey
to the Northern Hemisphere (Makara raasi ), signifying
the onset of Uttarayana Punyakalam, and is a day of
celebration all over the country. The day begins with
people taking holy dips in the waters and worshipping
the Sun. Traditionally, this period is considered
an auspicious time and the veteran Bhishma of Mahabharata
chose to die during this period. Bhishma fell to the
arrows of Arjun. With his boon to choose the time
of his death, he waited on a bed of arrows to depart
from this world only during this period. It is believed
that those who die in this period have no rebirth.
The Indo Gangetic plain begins this day with taking
dips in the Ganga and offering water to the Sun god.
The dip is said to purify the self and bestow punya.
Special puja is offered as a thanksgiving for good
harvest. According to folklore, girls who take the
holy dip get handsome husbands and boys get beautiful
brides. Til and rice are two important ingredients
of this festival. In the rice-eating belt of Bihar
and eastern Uttar Pradesh, people have a special rice-centric
meal on this day. 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
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).
In Gujarat, the pandits consider Sankranti as an auspicious
day to grant scholarships and certificates of merit
to students who have successfully completed their
studies in philosophy. In a Hindu household, new utensils
are purchased and used for the first time. Brightly
coloured kites dot the skies on this day.
In Karnataka, men, women and children attired in colourful
tunics visit friends and relatives and exchange pieces
of sugarcane, a mixture of fried til, molasses, pieces
of dry coconut, peanuts and fried gram. The significance
of this exchange is that sweetness should prevail
in all the dealings. As part of the festival, cows
and bulls are given a wash and the horns are painted
with bright colours and decorated with garland, and
are taken in a procession in the village to the accompaniment
of pipes and drums. In the night a bonfire is lit
and the animals are made to jump over the fire.
It is a big event for the Tamils and the people of
Andhra Pradesh. The Telugus like to call it 'Pedda
Panduga' meaning big festival. The whole event lasts
for four days, the first day Bhogi, the second day
Sankranti, the third day Kanuma and the fourth day,
One month preceeding Sankranti is called Dhanurmasam
and is also an auspicious period. People wake up early,
take bath and go around the streets singing devotional
songs. Houses are whitewashed and farmers clean their
warehouses. Colorful rangoli (muggulu)
are drawn in the front yards of every house during
this month. These artistic floral designs are drawn
on the floor with rice flour or fine powder from limestone.
These patterns are decorated with marigold placed
on cowdung balls. Colorfully dressed young girls go
round them singing songs.