INDIA, January 15, 2020 (Money Control, by J. Biswas): Makar Sankranti, essentially a harvest festival, is celebrated across India under different names. The ancient Hindu festival is both religious and seasonal in nature, as it marks the beginning of the northward journey of the Sun. Makar Sankranti directly translates to the beginning of the Sun's journey towards the North, ending the winter gloom and the consequent dry spell that sees little harvest. The Sun's journey northward ushers longer days and conducive weather conditions that ensure a good crop. Given that India was primarily an agricultural economy, it should not come as a surprise that the entire country celebrates this day.
Several aspects of the festival make it stand out from other Indian festivals, with some of the observances being specific to certain regions. However, what makes Makar Sankranti most unique is that unlike most Indian festivals, this follows a solar calendar and not the lunar calendar. Sankranti is usually observed on January 14, although sometimes it falls on January 15. The day is marked by the exchange of sweets, bathing in Ganga, and kite flying. Ritualistic dips in the holy water, accompanied by offering prayers to Surya --the Sun God -- is practiced across the country as it is believed to absolve one of his/ her sins. North Indian Hindus and Sikhs celebrate Makar Sankranti as Maghi and indulge in merrymaking, ritualistic bathing, and lighting of lamps. In West Bengal, the day is observed as Poush Shongkranti and preparing sweetmeats using jaggery, rice flour, and coconut is a must. In Gujarat, on the other hand, kite flying continues to be the primary attraction, while in Tamil Nadu the celebrations go on for four days.
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