Makar Sankranti, also known as Sankranti or Makara Sankrant, is one of the highly auspicious days in a Hindu calendar and the day is dedicated to the worship of Lord Surya (Sun God). Sankranti means to go from one place to another place (transition of places). It also means confluence and Makar means Capricorn. So, the time when the sun changes direction from one constellation (of the zodiac) to another, the occasion is known as Sankranti. On this occasion, Sun transits from Sagittarius and goes to Capricorn during the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere (Uttarayana). This day is considered auspicious and marks the beginning of a phase in Hindu culture when all kinds of auspicious rituals can be performed. It commemorates the beginning of the harvest season and cessation of the north-east monsoon in South India.
Lord Surya is worshipped on the Makar Sankranti day and it is a form of Nature Worship. To Hindus, the Sun stands for knowledge, spiritual light and wisdom. A major event on the day is the bathing ritual at Sangam (confluence of Yamuna, Saraswati and Ganga) in Allahabad, known as Magh Mela and also in the famous bathing ghats on River Ganga. The famous Ganga Sagar Mela takes place on this day. Kite flying is very popular on the day of Makar Sankranti.
Ganga Sagar Mela, also known as Ganga Snan, is the annual gathering of Hindu pilgrims during Makar Sankranti at Sagar Island or Sagardwip in West Bengal, India. Hindu pilgrims from India and around the world arrive at Sagar Island to take a dip in sacred waters of Ganga River before she merges in the Bay of Bengal.
Hindu pilgrims in large numbers take holy dip at the auspicious time on Makar Sankranti day and offer prayers to Lord Surya (Sun God). The holy dip is believed to wash the sins away and lead to the attainment of Moksha. After Ganga Snan, pilgrims visit the Kapil Muni Temple situated nearby. Pilgrims start to arrive in the first week of January and the venue attracts maximum pilgrims on the Makar Sankranti day.
This occasion is celebrated all over the country with great fanfare in various forms; however the spirit of the festival remains the same everywhere. People exchange gifts, greeting, sweets and good wishes on this occasion.
Makar Sankranti always falls on the same day every year on, January 14, with some exception, when the festival is celebrated on January 13 or January 15. This year, it falls on January 15, 2012. Wish you all a Happy Makar Sankranti!