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Makar Sankranti is a harvest festival observed annually in different parts of India, sweeping the nation in a sea of festive joy. The uniqueness of this festival lies in the fact that so many different Indian cultures celebrate it differently and have their own traditions and activities for the festival. Makar Sankranti is truly an ode to the unity in diversity that India is renowned for.
In 2024, Makar Sankranti falls on 15 January. Read on as Wego takes you on a journey through the varied celebrations of the festival.
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What is Makar Sankranti?
Traditionally signifying the conclusion of winter and the onset of lengthening days, Makar Sankranti is a festival dedicated to Surya, the Sun god. A prevalent tradition during this celebration is the art of kite flying, symbolizing the essence of joy and freedom.
The significance of Makar Sankranti extends beyond its religious connotations. In reality, the festival marks the commencement of the harvest season, where newfound crops are revered and joyously shared.
For more details on the festival and its various iterations across the country, we recommend checking our dedicated article on the topic.
Best places to celebrate Makar Sankranti 2024
Many varied cultures in India celebrate Makar Sankranti in their unique manners and with their own traditions. Here are some of the best places where Makar Sankranti is celebrated in grand fashion.
Uttarayan, as Makar Sankranti is known in Gujarat, is magnificently celebrated in Gujarat, with Ahmedabad standing out as the host of one of the world’s most extensive kite festivals during Makar Sankranti.
The sky becomes a canvas adorned with a myriad of colourful kites in diverse shapes and sizes as participants engage in amicable kite-flying competitions. Ahmedabad also hosts the renowned International Kite Festival during this period, drawing kite enthusiasts from around the world to partake in the festivities.
Ganga Sagar, West Bengal
Located at the convergence of the River Ganges and the Bay of Bengal, Ganga Sagar becomes a focal point for a vast assembly of pilgrims during Makar Sankranti.
Annually, hundreds of thousands of devotees congregate at this sacred confluence to partake in a holy dip. In addition to religious rituals, the festivities also include vibrant traditional folk dances and music performances.
Makar Sankranti draws a substantial number of pilgrims to the sacred city of Haridwar. Devotees flock to partake in the ritualistic act of taking a dip in the holy Ganges River, seeking blessings and purification. It is during this period that the ghats of Haridwar burst into a vibrant life with ceremonies, prayers, and cultural performances, making it an opportune time to witness the spiritual fervour of the city.
The famous Kumbh Mela is also held during the period of Makar Sankranti, albeit only once every 12 years.
In this region, Makar Sankranti is celebrated with exuberance as Pongal, a vibrant harvest festival. The town of Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu stands out for its distinctive Pongal celebrations, featuring traditional bull-taming events, cultural performances, and the preparation of delectable Pongal dishes.
Temples and cultural centres play a central role, organizing the ceremonial cooking of the Pongal dish and hosting lively fairs (Pongal mela). These fairs offer an array of handicrafts, crafts, pottery, sarees, and ethnic jewellery for purchase. Additionally, these venues showcase traditional community sports such as Uri Adithal, Pallanguḻi, and Kabbadi.
Across major cities and towns, the festive spirit is further elevated with group dance and music performances, creating a captivating and joyous atmosphere.
In Assam, the festival of Makar Sankranti is known as Magh Bihu or Maghar Domahi. The festival is characterized by lavish feasts and bonfires. Young people construct temporary huts, known as Meji and Bhelaghar, using bamboo, leaves, and thatch.
In Bhelaghar, they indulge in the feast’s prepared food and subsequently burn the huts the following morning. Festivities also include traditional Assamese games like tekeli bhonga (pot-breaking) and buffalo fighting.
Magh Bihu celebrations commence on the last day of the preceding month, “Pooh,” typically on the 29th of Pooh, which usually falls on 14 January according to the Gregorian calendar. In contemporary times, Magh Bihu is observed on a single day (earlier, the festival extended throughout the entire month of Magh).
The night before, known as “Uruka” (28th of Pooh), sees people gathering around bonfires, cooking dinner, and revelling in merriment. During Magh Bihu in Assam, people craft rice cakes with names like Shunga Pitha, Til Pitha, and various coconut-based sweets called Laru or Laskara.
Each January, the Magh Mela bathes India in spiritual fervour. This annual pilgrimage and fair unfolds near sacred rivers and tanks, drawing millions to its vibrant embrace. The Ganges’ confluence at Prayagraj is the star, pulsating with devotees taking ritual dips for purification and moksha.
Haridwar, Nashik, and Mahamaham’s Mahamaham tank also host vibrant iterations, each pulsating with its own unique energy. Magh Mela commemorates the cosmic ocean’s churning, celebrates with discourses, yoga, and cultural explosions, and ultimately, binds together a nation in a kaleidoscope of faith and festivity.
The fair is also seen as a lower-key iteration of the much grander Kumbh Mela, with which it coincides every 12 years.