Makar Sankranti, the Festival of Kites, is popularly known as Uttarayan. Uttarayan is a combination of two Sanskrit words, ‘uttar’ meaning north and ‘ayan’ meaning movement towards. Uttarayan occurs on Posh Vad Pancham and celebrates the sun’s northward movement. Since the northern direction is considered sacred, the time span in which the sun moves from one zodiac to another is considered auspicious. Dan, or the act of donating, is given great importance on this day. Hindus go to mandir and donate grains, other food items, money, and even vehicles and homes for punya. In the Swaminarayan Sampraday, devotees gather to where Pramukh Swami Maharaj is and offer their donations for the benefit of the local community. Pramukh Swami Maharaj asks for zoli as sadhus have for centuries, saying, “Vasudev hare, Sachidanand prabhu!” Many BAPS mandirs around the world celebrate the kite festival as well. Watching families flying colorful kites together and rekindling the spirit of Indian culture is a heartwarming image.
- During Makar Sankranti, devotees go on a pilgrimage and bathe in Prayag, where the three sacred rivers, Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati, meet.
- In south India, this festival is called Pongal, and in north India, the festival is called Lohri.
- In south India, on the night before Makar Sankranti, people clean their homes, after which they burn the waste collected.
- Pongal means to overflow. Thus, people cook rice in milk until the milk begins to overflow, signifying abundance and prosperity.
- People make sweets out of sesame seed and jaggery and offer them to one another as a form of good luck.