Significance and Meaning of Makar Sankranti
Makar Sankranti marks the ingress (entering) of Sun in the sidereal zodiac constellation of Makar i.e. Capricorn. Makar Sankranti is one of the few festivals which follows solar calendar instead of the usual lunar calendar.
Makar Sankranti is a very important festival since it marks the sidereal winter solstice and the start of uttarayana (i.e. northward movement of earth on the celestial plane); because of which days become distinctly longer in the northern hemisphere. Please note that the difference in sidereal and tropical celestial plane (giving rise to the zodiac) arises because of how these calculations are performed.
The period of uttarayana which has longer days is considered as being ruled by the devas- or divine beings. Because of this, Makar Sankranti marks the beginning of a time of goodness and auspiciousness.
Pausha lunar month is considered appropriate for mainly spiritual activities and so is considered inauspicious for all worldly material activities. Makar Sankranti marks the end of lunar month of Pausha and the start of lunar month of Magha.
Please note that actual lunar month end/start day can and does vary by couple of days on either side of the solar ingress of Makar Sankranti.
It is but appropriate that the first festival in the month of Magha, which initiates all kinds of worldly activities, begins by Ganesh Jayanti- celebrated on the fourth day (shukla chaturthi) of Magha.
Makar Sankranti is celebrated with much joy and festive fanfare in India. It is called differently in various regions- but is markedly celebrated with zeal and enthusiasm.
People usually give special sweets made of sesame and jaggery to each other with an intention that the giver and receiver will both start out this auspicious phase of time with sweet words (and actions). Ayurvedically (ancient science of healing) sesame and jaggery generate heat in the body, which helps with maintaining well-being during the cold winter months.
Happy Makar Sankranti everyone!!