It’s that time of the year when we devour crispy gajaks and til ladoos to our heart’s content. It’s Makar Sankranti, one of India’s most beloved festivals. January 14 is an important day in the Indian calendar. While some states observe it as Uttarayan and Makar Sankranti, others observe Pongal and Bhogali Bihu on this day. By Karan Kaushik
Makar Sankranti marks the entry of the sun into the Northern Hemisphere and also signals the end of winter. People across the country not only pray for a good harvest on this day but also take holy baths, fly kites, eat jaggery and sesame-based sweets and savouries, and enjoy with their loved ones. One of the reasons to celebrate Makar Sankranti is also the fact that spending a few hours under the sun is healthy for everyone.
Here are 7 cities that are famous for their Makar Sankranti celebrations
Jaipur’s sky is dotted with thousands of colourful paper kites as families gather on rooftops playing loud music and watching kite fights. Jaipur has an incredible history of kite flying. It was started during the reign of Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II. During those days, a special kite called tukkal used to be made from fine cloth. Even today, the royal family of Jaipur gathers on the terrace of the city palace to enjoy the age-old tradition of kite flying. The tourism department of the Rajasthan government also organises a Kite festival near Jal Mahal every year, which is attended by tourists from all corners of the world. The site of colourful kites against the backdrop of Jaipur’s iconic monuments is truly one to behold.
Gujarat celebrates Makar Sankranti in the form of Uttarayan. Known as the kite capital of Gujarat, Ahmedabad welcomes tourists for the International Kite Festival every year. The festival is held on a large ground by the banks of the river Sabarmati. Prominent old localities of Ahmedabad like Raipur Patang Bazaar and Jamalpur bustle with kite flyers for weeks before Uttarayan as thousands flock to their streets to buy the best kites in the city. The sky is dotted with unusual kites in different shapes and sizes, which makes a visit to Ahmedabad during this time of the year, worth it. Other cities in Gujarat like Vadodara and Surat are also famous for their vibrant kite-flying festivals.
Hyderabad is another city famous for its kite flying tradition. In earlier times, the noble families of Hyderabad would invite each other for friendly kite flying competitions as a way to strengthen their relations. Hyderabad also hosts a three-day long International Kite and Sweet festival every year, but the event has not taken place since the pandemic. Organised by Telangana Tourism, the festival invites kite flyers from across the country. Kite fights and kite flying workshops are also held as part of the festival. Cultural programs are also held. The show-stealer, however, is the night kite flying, when the Hyderabad sky glows with beautifully lit lantern kites.
Taking a dip in the sacred waters of the river Ganges on Makar Sankranti is considered auspicious by Indians. Every year, lakhs of devotees flock to the Har Ki Pauri ghat in Haridwar to enjoy a refreshing bath in the Ganges. At dusk, a grand Ganga aarti is held on Makar Sankranti, which is attended by visitors in the droves. With the aroma of incense sticks in the air, Haridwar gets drenched in religious and festive fervour, offering unparalleled vibes. Cities like Prayagraj and Varanasi are also known for their Makar Sankranti celebrations as people gather at their age-old ghats to take the mandatory holy bath.
One of the most popular festivals of Assam, Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu is celebrated on January 14 as a harvest festival. The festival marks the end of the harvesting season in the Hindu calendar month of magh. The festival also signals the end of the winter solstice. Magh Bihu celebrations last for two days. While the first day is celebrated as Uruka, the second day is celebrated as Bhogali Bihu. Locals enjoy feasts called Bhuj and enjoy the fresh harvest. Vibrant fairs are held across the city and people dress in their traditional best. Bonfires and social gatherings are also a part of Bhogali Bihu celebrations.
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People of Mysore eagerly wait for Makar Sankranti, so they could get elu bella from their friends and neighbours. Elu Bella is a mixture prepared with sesame, peanut, and jaggery. Every household prepares their own version of the mixture and shares it with its near and dear ones. The mixture is usually savoured with sakkare achhu, a giveaway sugar model, which is used to exchange elu bella with one’s friends and family. During the evenings, the people of Karnataka worship cows and bulls. Married women visit their relatives and distribute fruits, bangles, and other goodies.
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Kolkata is famous for hosting the grand Ganga Sagar Fair on Makar Sankranti every year. Thousands of devotees come here to take a holy dip in the Ganges and pray for a prosperous year. Held in the South 24 Parganas district, the fair is the biggest pilgrimage fair of eastern India. It is held on Sagar island’s southern tip and matches the Kumbha Fair of Prayagraj in its grandeur and scale. Celebrated with great vigour and festive pomp, the fair must be visited by every Indian, at least once in their lifetime.