Thursday, January 14, 2010

उम्मीद है ठंड से राहत मिलेगी...!

आज मकर संक्रांति का त्यौहार है। उम्मीद है, आज के बाद ठंड से राहत मिलेगी। यहां फरीदाबाद में चमकीली धूप निकली हुई है। थोड़ी ठंड कम होगी तो बिजली आपूर्ति बढ़ सकती है। पिछले कुछ दिनों से बिजली कुछ ज्यादा ही परेशान कर रही है। लोग हीटर और वार्मर चला रहे हैं। रात तो आराम से कट जाती है लेकिन दिन में गर्म पानी मिलने में थोड़ी दिक्कत हो रही है। खैर, मकर संक्रांति है तो इसी की बात करते हैं। फ्रेंड्स ऑफ ह्यूमैनिटी फाउंडेशन के प्रबंधन ट्रस्टी आशुतोष शर्मा ने कुछ जानकारी भेजी है... कुछ संदर्भ उन्होंने दूसरी जगहों से लिए हैं। उनका उल्लेख अंत में करूंगा। ज्यादातर चीजें आप जानते ही हैं... कुछ नई जानकारियां भी हैं। शुभकामनाएं...
-- धर्मेंद्र कुमार
Makar Sankranti festival, unlike other Hindu festivals, is not dependent on the position of the moon, but on position of the sun. On this day, the sun enters the zodiac sign of Capricorn. To compensate for the difference that occurs due to the revolution around the sun, every 80 years the day of Sankrant is postponed by one day. In the present period Makar Sankranti falls on 14th January.

Sankranti is considered a Deity. According to a legend Sankranti killed a demon named Sankarasur. The day followed by Makar Sankrant is called Kinkrant or Karidin. On this day, the female deity (devi) slay the demon Kinkarasur.

Information on Sankranti is available in the Panchang: The Panchang (Hindu Almanac) provides information on the form, age, clothing, direction of movement etc. of Sankranti.

The northward movement of the sun begins on this day. The period from Karkasankrant (the passage of the sun into the zodiac sign of Cancer) to Makar Sankrant is called the Dakshinayan. A person who dies in the Dakshinayan period has a greater chance of going to Yamalok (southward region), than one who dies during Uttarayan (northward revolution).

Importance from the point of view of spiritual practice: On this day, from sunrise to sunset, the environment has more Chaitanya (Divine conscious-ness); hence those doing spiritual practice can benefit from this Chaitanya.

Benefit of highest merit acquired by a Holy dip on the day of Makar Sankrant. The time from sunrise to sunset on Makar Sankrant is auspicious. A Holy dip during this period carries special significance. Those who take a Holy dip in the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Krushna and Kaveri at the Holy places situated on the banks of these rivers acquire the highest merit.

The period from Makar Sankrant to Rathsaptami is an auspicious period. Any donation and meritorious
deeds in this period prove more fruitful.

An offering of new vessels, clothing, food, sesame seeds, pot of sesame seeds, jaggery, a cow, a horse, gold or land should be made depending on the capability. On this day, married women also make some offering. They take things from unmarried girls and give them sesame seeds and jaggery in return. Married women organize a ceremony of Haldi-Kumkum (applying vermilion and turmeric to the forehead) and gift articles to other married women.

Giving a gift to another woman amounts to surrendering to the Divinity in the other, through body, mind and wealth. Since the period of Sankrant is favorable for spiritual practice, a gift given during this period results in bestowal of Divine grace and the jiva (embodied soul) gets the desired fruit.

Nowadays a wrong trend of gifting inappropriate commodities like soaps and plastic items has started. Instead, substances that are complementary to spiritual practice and are indicators of a married life, for example, incense sticks, utane (fragrant powder used during bath), religious texts, Holy texts, pictures of Deities, CDs on spiritual topics etc. should be gifted.

The festival of Sankrant requires small mud pots called sugad (in the Marathi language). Vermilion and turmeric powder is applied to the pots and a thread is tied to them. They are filled with carrots, jujube fruits, sugarcane pieces, pods, cotton, chickpeas, sesame seeds with jaggery, vermilion, turmeric etc. Five pots are placed on a wooden seat, Rangoli is drawn around the seat and worshipped. Of these, three are gifted to married women, one is offered to the Tulsi plant and one is retained.

Maximum use of sesame seeds is made during Sankrant festival. For example, bathing with water containing sesame seeds and eating and distributing Tilgul (a sweet made from sesame seeds), offering sesame to Brahmans, lighting lamps of sesame oil in a temple of Lord Shiva and performing Pitrushraddh (rite for the departed ancestors) in which an offering of sesame seeds is made.

On this day those who apply sesame seed oil and utane to the body, bathe in water mixed with sesame seeds, drink water mixed with sesame seeds, perform a sacrificial fire, make an offering of sesame seeds and make similar use of sesame seeds, are liberated of all sins.

This festival is celebrated differently in different parts of the country.

In Uttar Pradesh, Sankrant is called ‘Khichiri’. Taking a dip in the holy rivers on this day is regarded as most auspicious. A big one-month long ‘Magha-Mela’ fair begins at Prayag (Allahabad) on this occasion. Apart from Triveni, ritual bathing also takes place at many places like Haridvar and Garh Mukteshwar in Uttar Pradesh, and Patna in Bihar.

In Bengal, every year a very big Mela is held at Ganga Sagar where the river Ganga is believed to have dived into the nether region and vivified the ashes of the sixty thousand ancestors of King Bhagirath. Mela is attended by a large number of pilgrims from all over the country.

In Tamil Nadu, Sankrant is known by the name of ‘Pongal’, which takes its name from the surging of rice boiled in a pot of milk, and this festival has more significance than even Diwali. It is very popular particularly amongst farmers. Rice and pulses cooked together in ghee and milk is offered to the family deity after the ritual worship. In essence in the South this Sankranti is a ‘Puja’ (worship) for the Sun God.

In Andhra Pradesh, it is celebrated as a three-day harvest festival Pongal. It is a big event for the people of Andhra Pradesh. The Telugus like to call it 'Pedda Panduga' meaning big festival. The whole event lasts for four days, the first day Bhogi, the second day Sankranti, the third day Kanuma and the fourth day, Mukkanuma.

In Karnataka, the festival is marked by visiting one's friends and relatives to exchange greetings, and by the preparation of a dish called Ellu (made with sesame seeds, coconuts, sugar blocks, etc.). A common custom found across Karnataka is the exchange of sugarcane pieces and Ellu with one's neighbors, friends and relatives. In Karnataka, Pongal is known as 'Sankranti', and cows and bullocks are gaily decorated and fed 'Pongal'- a sweet preparation of rice. Special prayers are offered. In the evening, the cattle are led out in procession to the beat of drums and music. In the night a bonfire is lit and the animals are made to jump over the fire.

Makar Sankranti is marked by men, women and children wearing colorful clothing; visiting near and dear ones; and exchanging pieces of sugarcane, a mixture of fried Til (Sesame seeds), molasses, pieces of dry coconut, peanuts and fried gram. On this auspicious day, people in Karnataka distribute Yellu and Bella (Sesame seeds and Jaggery) and greet with the words " “Ellu bella thindu, Olle Maathu Aadu” (Eat sesame seeds and speak only good). The significance of this exchange is that sweetness should prevail in all the dealings.

In Maharashtra, on the Sankranti day people exchange multi-colored Tilguds made from Til (sesame seeds) and sugar and Til-laddus made from Til and jaggery. Til-polis are offered for lunch. While exchanging Tilguls as tokens of goodwill people greet each other saying – ‘Til-gul ghya, god god bola’ meaning ‘accept these Tilguls and speak sweet words’. The under-lying thought in the exchange of Tilguls is to forget the past ill-feelings and hostilities and resolve to speak sweetly and remain friends. This is a special day for the women in Maharashtra when married women are invited for a get-together called ‘Haldi-Kumkum’ and given gifts of any utensil, which the woman of the house purchases on that day. Hindus wear ornaments made of 'Halwa' on this day.

In Gujarat, Sankranti is observed more or less in the same manner as in Maharashtra but with a difference that in Gujarat there is a custom of giving gifts to relatives. The elders in the family give gifts to the younger members of the family. The Gujarati Pundits on this auspicious day grant scholarships to students for higher studies in astrology and philosophy. This festival thus helps the maintenance of social relationships within the family, caste and community. Kite flying has been associated with this festival in a big way. It has become an internationally well-known event.

In Punjab, where December and January are the coldest months of the year, huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Sankranti and which is celebrated as "LOHARI". Sweets, sugarcane and rice are thrown in the bonfires, around which friends and relatives gather together. The following day, which is Sankranti, is celebrated as MAGHI. The Punjabi's dance their famous Bhangra dance till they get exhausted. Then they sit down and eat the sumptuous food that is specially prepared for the occasion.

In Kerala, 40 days Anushthana by the devotees of Ayyappa ends on this day in Sabarimala with a big festival.

In Bundelkhand and Madhya Pradesh, this festival of Sankranti is known by the name ‘Sakarat’ and is celebrated with great pomp and merriment accompanied by lot of sweets.

Many tribal in India start their New Year from the day of Sankranti by lighting bonfires, dancing and eating their particular dishes sitting together. The Bhuya tribals of Orissa have their Maghyatra in which small home-made articles are put for sale.

In Assam, the festival is celebrated as Bhogali Bihu.

In the coastal regions, it is a harvest festival dedicated to Lord Indra.

(Reference: Vmission.org, Holy Festivals, Religious Festivals and Vowed Religious Observances, compiled by Dr. Jayant B. Athavale and Dr. Kunda Athavale, published by the Sanatan Sanstha)
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