The festival of Makar Sankranti is being celebrated on January 14 this year.
This auspicious day of the Hindu calendar is a celebration of the beginning of the harvest season, when people worship the earth’s bounty and new crops. Farmers pray to Lord Surya or the Sun God and wish for a good harvest.
It also marks the sun’s transit northward into Makara Rashi or Capricorn, which signifies the end of the winter.
The celebration of a new harvest season is called by different names across the country, such as Magh Bihu (Assam), Maghi (Punjab), Sakraat (Haryana), Pongal (Tamil Nadu), Push Sankranti (West Bengal), Sankranthi (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana).
The period from Karka Sankranti to Makar Sankranti is known as the Dakshinayan. Before this day, the sun is in the Southern Hemisphere, leading to longer nights and shorter days. With the sun’s movement northwards, days become longer.
According to scriptures, this movement into Capricorn holds religious significance. To mark the occasion, people often take a holy dip in Ganga, Godavari, Krishna, Yamuna River, and chant mantras, perform charity, fly kites, worship livestock, prepare khichdi and sweets, and more.
This year, the Ayush Ministry organised a global Surya Namaskar demonstration. “On the auspicious day of Makar Sankranti and during the celebrations of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, the Ministry of AYUSH is hosting the first-ever global Surya Namaskar demonstration programme where about 10 million people will participate,” the ministry said in a statement Thursday.
On this day, Surya Namaskar is offered as a salutation to the Sun to exhibit one’s gratitude for each of its rays as it nurtures all living being, the ministry added.
Speaking of the benefits of the exercise, it said, “The Sun, as the primary source of energy, is critical not only for the continuation of the food-chain but it also energises the mind and body of human beings. Scientifically, the Surya Namaskar has been known to develop immunity and improve vitality, which is significant to our health during pandemic conditions. Exposure to the Sun further provides the human body with Vitamin D, which has been widely recommended in all medical branches around the world.”