Makar Sankranti - Saturday 14th January
Sankranti is the term used when the Sun moves from one Rashi - Zodiac to another. Makar corresponds to Capricorn in English. Makar Sankranti represents the movement of the Sun into zodiac Capricorn. The earth revolves around sun with a tilt of 23.45 degrees. When the tilt is facing the sun we get summer and when the tilt is away from the sun we get winter. Because of this tilt. it appears that the sun travels North and South of the equator. This motion of the sun going from south to north is called start of Uttarayana, when the days start getting longer and nights getting shorter in northern hemisphere. Though all Sankrantis are holy, Hindus consider Makar Sankranti the most auspicious.
The scriptures consider this day as most auspicious for charity. The holy period of Dhanumas (when the Sun is in Sagittarius Zodiac) ends on this days. Shree Swaminarayan Bhagwan has decreed His disciple to make donations, particularly to Brahmins on this day. This is the only Hindu festival decided on a fixed date by Gregorian calendar because it is based on the movement of the Sun. Kites are flied on this day in Gujarat. This again signifies the movement of the Sun when everybody's eyes are watching its transition northwards. The period of six months of Uttarayan is considered a day of the Devtas while the period of Dakshinayan, when the Sun starts moving South, is their night. There are several legends associated with this day.
1. Surya (the Sun) visits his son Shani (Saturn), who is the ruling deity of Makar Rashi, on this day and stays for one month. Though father and son did not get along, Surya made an effort to mend the situation by visiting his son; thus initiating the process of reconciliation. This day, thus symbolises the importance for relationship between father and son.
2. Bhagwan ended the terror of demons for good by burying their heads under Mountain Mandrachal. Thus, this day symbolises the start of religiosity.
3. King Sagar's sixty thousand sons were burnt to ashes and only way to redeem them was to sprinkle their ashes into River Ganga. His grandson, King Bhagirath finally managed to bring River Ganga on earth and led her to Kapil Muni's Ashram at Gangasagar, where the ashes of his ancestors lay. It was on this day that he completed Tarpan of his ancestors to redeem them. A very big fair is organised at Gangasagar, confluence of River Ganga and Bay of Bengal, even today to commemorate this event and millions of devotees perform Tarpan of their ancestors by taking a holy dip in River Ganga
4. Grandsire Bhishma had a boon to choose the moment to die. He was mortally wounded by Arjun in the battle of Kurukshetra during Dakshinayan. He lay on a bed of arrows prepared by Arjun and waited for the start of Uttrayan to die. It is said that he left his mortal body on this day of Makar Sankranti.