Kirtan and simple explanation of the Festival of Utraan
Note the ‘kites’ mounted with the Lord’s pictures
The Sindhis refer to ‘Makar sankranti’ as “Utraan”. Though the dates of all Hindu Festivals always vary every year, ‘Utraan’ always falls upon the 14th of January. The Word ‘Makara’ corresponds with the Zodiac sign ‘Capricorn’, and during ‘Makar Sankranti’ the Sun enters the ‘Makara Raasi’ i.e. the Zodiac sign of Capricorn. ‘Uttar’ means ‘North’. during this time, the Northward Revolution of the Sun begins. Hence Sindhis call it ‘Uttraan’. Because the direction of the wind changes, it is traditional to fly kites on this day. Flying kites is symbolic of Spiritualism. You remain on the ground, while the kite in your hand soars towards the Heavens.
According to the Sanaatan Sanstha, Dubai Centre, the Sanskrut word ‘Sankrant’ is derived from the root ‘sam’, which means ‘coming together’ and the word ‘kranti’, which means a radical change. Thus, Sankrant stands for the coming together of radical change
During sankraanti, one uses ‘Til’ or Sesame seeds in a variety of ways, the most popular being the distribution of ‘Til laddus’, which Sindhis call ‘Bhorindas’. It is cold during this time,and sesame seeds have a warmth giving quality, According to Ayurveda, The intake of sesame seeds facilitate smooth Spiritual Practice. ‘Utraan’ is considered an auspicious time. Bhishma, the hero of the Mahabharata had the boon that he could choose the time of his death. Even though he lay on a bed of arrows, he chose to die after Utraan.
Most auspicious undertakings are performed after the Uttaraayan period. This period is also called ‘Devaayana’ and it is considered the ‘day’ of the ‘Celestial Beings’
It is believed that the South is the abode of Yama the Lord of death. This is the reason why people are urged to sleep facing the north.
The Celestial Beings are known as ‘Devtas’ in Hindu parlance.
On Makar Sankraanti Lord Vishnu defeated the ‘Asuras’ (The evil ones) and buried their heads under a mountain.
One could interpret the above incident as the advent of righteous living.
Lakhs of people take a dip in places like Ganga Sagar & Prayag on Makar Sankraanti day. They pray to the Sun. Makar Sankranti is the day when the Sun-God begins its entry into the NorthernHemisphere.
The Sun for the Hindus is the symbol of ‘The manifest God.’ The Gayatri Mantra is directed to Sun God with the invocation to bless humanity with intelligence & wisdom.
A very interesting story from the Puranas states that on Makar Sankraanti the Sun visits the house of his son Shani, who is the Lord of Makar Rashi, for a month long visit.
It is believed that generally, the above father and son do not entertain a cordial relationship, so the Makar Sankraant festival is important for such intimate ruptured relationships.
King Bhagirath had prayed for a Divine River to descend from heaven to redeem his sixty thousand ancestors.
It is believed that on Makar Sankraanti the Holy River Ganga dived into Ganga Sagar, in Bengal, into the nether regions to vitalize the ashes.
Therefore a very big ‘mela’ (gathering) is held at the above location every year, on this auspicious day, which many pilgrims attend. In Maharashtra, people exchange gifts of utensils, and sesame seed sweets called til laddus. People greet each other saying: ’til-gul ghya, god god bola’ meaning ‘accept these tilguls and speak sweet words’.
Married women have parties called ‘Haldi Kumkum’ These are auspicious get-togethers where they apply sandalwood and tikkas. In Punjab, Sankraant is celebrated as ‘Maghi’. Huge bonfires are lit on the eve of the festival and the Bhangra is danced with much gusto.
Lohri in Punjab is a thanksgiving festival for a good harvest. Huge community bonfires are fed with stalks of sugar cane, rice and sesame seeds. These keep the people warm as they sing songs around the bonfire.
In Tamil Nadu Sankrant is known by the name of ‘Pongal’. People cook rice and pulses in ghee and milk and offer it to the family deity. In Andhra Pradesh, Makar Sankraanti is also called Pongal. In Gujarat, besides following the regular customs, the elders give gifts to the younger family members and Gujarati Pandits grant scholarships to students in astrology and philosophy.
In Uttar Pradesh, Makar Sankraanti is called ‘Khichiri’ Taking a dip in the holy rivers on this day is considered auspicious. In Kerala, people pray to the Lord Ayyappa for 40 days. A very big festival is hosted at the end of the prayer on Makar Sankraanti day. In Bundelkhand and Madhya Pradesh this festival of Sankrant is known as ‘Sakarat’ Many tribals in Orissa start their New Year from the day of Sankranti by lighting bonfires, dancing and eating.
The Bhuya tribals of Orissa sell home made articles on this day. In Assam, the festival is celebrated as Bhogali Bihu. In the coastal regions, it is a harvest festival dedicated to Lord Indra.