The festival of kites and til chikkis is here! And while you’re busy cutting the manjha of your neighbour’s kite, depleting the world’s supply of sesame, or satiating your chikki desires, on Makar Sankranti, the sun enters the sun-sign of Capricorn or Makara (the Indian rashi); therefore the ‘Makar’ in the name. The word ‘Sankranti’ signifies the movement of the sun from one zodiac sign to another. Thus, the name of the festival literally means the movement of the sun into Capricorn.
Most Hindu festivals follow the position of the moon and are based on the lunar calendar. Thus, the dates of festivals change every year. But Makar Sankranti is a festival which falls on the same day every year as it follows the solar calendar. Preparations are made in advance as the dates do not vary much. In India, Maharastrians get together and pray and celebrate.
However, once in every eighty years, due to revolution, the day is postponed by one day. Makar Sankranti is celebrated on the 14th of January every year (sometimes on the 15th) for now. From 2050, it is predicted that the festival will fall on the 15th January (and occasionally on the 16th). There is a very interesting reason behind the kite-flying. Kite-flying in olden days was generally done in the early hours of the morning, when the sun’s rays were bright but not too harsh. Also, during kite-flying, the human body was exposed to the sun for long hours. The early morning sun is considered beneficial for the skin and body. Since winter is also the time of a lot of infections and sickness, by basking in the sun, Hindus believed that the bad bacteria on their bodies would be cleared to a certain extent with exposure to the sun! So the preparation for the mohalla or colony kite fights begin well before time. It’s war and all in good jest!
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