Monday, January 17, 2011


INDIA ( - Last Saturday, thousands of devotees took a holy dip in the River Ganges on the concluding day of the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. According to Hindu beliefs, taking a dip in the river purifies the soul, fulfills wishes of the devotees, and enables them to escape the cycle of rebirth. Around 10 million pilgrims have come this year alone for the holy dip at the Gangasagar in West Bengal, the site where the Ganges River flows into the Bay of Bengal. “By bathing in Gangasagar waters all wishes get granted, and that is why all take a dip in the waters,” said Shikha Sharma, a pilgrim from Madhya Pradesh.

Most of the devotees take the holy dip when the sun changed its position. On this occasion, devotees donate to cleanse one from his sins,” said Satyanarayan Pandey, a priest. On the occasion of Makar Sakranti, the Ganges is prayed. A preparation of ‘Khichdi’, made of sesame seeds, jaggery, rice, pulses and turmeric, is eaten and also offered to the poor. Makar Sankranti is one of the major festivals celebrated in various parts of India under different names, custom and rituals. The sad news is a tragedy which happened on Friday evening in the Indian state of Kerala. A tragic accident took place barely two hours after lakhs of devotees attending the festival, when an autorickshaw ran over some people, this was followed by a stampede of lakhs of devotees due to which 109 pilgrims were dead.

Over 80,000 pilgrims, including hundreds of sadhus from across the country, took a dip in the Parshuram Kund in Arunachal Pradesh’s Lohit district on the occasion of Makar Sankranti. The essence of this festival is the beginning of an auspicious phase, victory of good over the evil and forgiving the past ill feelings and enmity and starting new relationships. Thus, Makar Sankranti has been the festival that signifies the unity of the country in midst of its diversity. In the great epic Mahabharata it is said that the great warrior-hero, Bhishma despite being mortally wounded and even lying on a bed of arrows, waited until the auspicious day of Sankranti to give his last breath.

Regional festivals are many in the Hindu culture. Onam, Pongal, Makar Sankrati, and Baisakhi are regional festivals, mainly associated with their respective harvest season, and are marked as New Year’s Day, which may vary from one place to another. The regional New Year’s Day is informal and has no official sanction. Onam is the most important festival of Kerala. It is celebrated every year to honor the mythological god Mahabali. Homes are decorated with floral designs, boat races are organized, and family gatherings are held with festive dinners. Pongal is celebrated with much fanfare in Tamil Nadu. It is held in the month of January or February to coincide with the harvest of rice. Baisakhi in the northern state of Punjab is its equivalent. Makar Sankrati, Gudi Padva, and Cheti Chand are the New Year’s days in some other regions. All of these New Year’s regional festivals are observed with great enthusiasm and gusto.

Dr. Hiro Badlani :
‘Hinduism - Path of the Ancient Wisdom’
Chapter 54: ‘Hindu Festivals’

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