Makara Sankranthi or Pongal is one of the many festivals associated with seasons. Makara Sankranti marks beginning of spring season in India, hence it is a harvest festival. It is celebrated for three days. The first day is called Bhogi, the second day is Sannkrathi which is dedicated to worshipping Surya, the Sun god. The third day is Kanuma.
During this entire festive season women decorate the entrance of the house (Vakili or Front Porch) with rangoli (muggu or kolam) of varied hues and sizes and place small balls made from cow dung and decorated with pumpkin flowers (Gobbemmalu) in the center.
Makara Sankranthi marks the transition of the Sun into Makara Rashi (Capricorn) on its celestial path (towards the northern hemisphere, hence is known as uttarayan) and from this day begins the six-month long Uttarayana, considered very auspicious for attaining higher worlds hereafter. The traditional Indian calendar is based on lunar positions, Sankranti is a solar event, so while dates of all festivals keep changing, the English calendar date of Makar Sankranti is always same, 14th January.
There is another significance of this day, it is the shortest day and longest night of the year. After this day the days start becoming longer & warmer, and thus the chill of winter in on the decline.
Sankranti is celebrated all over South Asia with some regional variations. It is known by different names and celebrated with different customs in different parts of the country.
- Sankranthi: Andhra Pradesh, Telangana
- Pongal: Tamil Nadu
- Uttarayan: Gujarat
- Maghi: Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab
- Lohri: Punjab
- Bhogali Bihu: Assam
- Shishur Saenkraat: Kashmir
- Khichdi: Uttar Pradesh and western Bihar
- Makara Sankramana: Karnataka
- Shishur Saenkraat: Kashmir Valley
In other countries too the day is celebrated but under different names and in different ways.
- Nepal: Maghe Sankranti, Maghi, Maghe Sankranti, Maghe Sakrati
- Thailand: Songkran
- Laos: Pi Ma Lao
- Myanmar: Thingyan
- Cambodia: Moha Sangkran
- Sri Lanka: Pongal, Uzhavar Thirunal