Mrunal Manmay Dash

Auspicious Makar Sankranti is being observed across Odisha on Monday. It is that time of the year when people usually indulge in spiritual activities and donate articles, praying for the good health and prosperity of their family members.

People usually get up early and start their day by taking a dip in holy rivers and other water bodies near them. After taking a dip in holy rivers, devotees offer arpan (an act of seeking forgiveness) and donate sesame seeds, blankets and other articles during Makar Sankranti. It is said that sesame oil or Til ka tel reduces the ill effects of malignant planets like Rahu and gets the benefits of favourable planets.

Special ‘Makar Chaula’ is prepared on this day which is offered to the presiding deities first and then eaten by all in the family. People wear new dresses and bow down to their elderlies seeking blessings. Apart from Makar Chaula, various kinds of traditional ‘Pitha’ (Pan cakes & dumplings) are prepared and consumed in every Odia household.

Makar Sankranti is also known as Uttarayana, Maghi, or Sankranti. Also known as the harvest season, Makar Sankranti is celebrated on January 14. It also marks the sun's entry into the Makara zodiac sign (Capricorn). The day signals the start of the sun's trip toward the Northern Hemisphere (Uttarayanam).

The festival of Makar Sankranti also marks the end of winter and long days. It is celebrated in Odisha at par with the Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Lohri in Punjab, Bihu or Magh Bihu in Assam.

The Srimandir in Puri will conduct special rituals of Lord Jagannath and his sibling deities on this auspicious day. The deities will give darshan to the devotees in ‘Makar Chourashi Besha’.

Makar Sankranti is one of the 12 jatras of the Holy Trinity, when special betel (Nali Paan), in fact, world’s largest paan is offered to Lord Jagannath. The special rituals will begin after the Madhyanha Dhupa (mid-day offering) of the Trinity and the special prasad will be taken out on a procession around the Temple with the beatings of gongs.

Similarly, Makar Mela at Hatakeswar Mahadev temple at Atri hot spring near Khordha’s Baghamari drew a huge crowd on Monday. The Makar Mela which has begun today will continue for a month. A unique ritual is observed in this temple on Makar Sankranti where women seeking children search for betel nuts in the ‘Manasika Tank’. There is a belief that whoever gets to find betel nuts from the pond will receive the blessing of Lord Mahadev and get endowed with pregnancy.

Meanwhile, thousands of devotees took holy dip in river Ganga in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh and Gangasagar ghat in West Bengal to offer prayers to the Sun God on Makar Sankranti.