Makar Sankranti  is a festival dedicated to the Sun. It is observed each year in the month of January. It marks the first day of the sun’s transit into Makara rashi (Capricorn), marking the end of the month with the winter solstice and the start of longer days.

Sankranti is celebrated across the country and is known by various names such as Bihu, Maghi, Lohri, Pongal, Bhogi, Uttarayan, Makar Sankranti…

On this day, devotees also take holy dips in rivers like Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Krishna etc. The day is celebrated as the harvest festival and people celebrate abundance and joy through family get togethers which is marked by bonfires, kite – flying and feasts.


In many parts of India, an important part of the celebrations is erecting huts made of bamboo and thatch and then burning these in the wee hours of the morning. The construction of these huts usually takes a few days and the young boys go about collecting bamboos, straw, dried leaves etc. prior to setting these huts up. The structures range from simple huts to double storied ones as well.

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In Assam, young people erect makeshift huts, known as  Bhelaghar, from bamboo, leaves and thatch and burn the huts in the morning. These huts are usually built in open spaces to accommodate a few people who spend the night there enjoying the delicacies prepared for the festival.

Burning the Mera- Merir ghor (burning the ram and ewe’s home) is a popular custom in certain parts of the North East where bamboo huts are burnt on the morning of Sankranti. There is usually a sort of competition among groups and neighbors as to whose hut would be the first to be burnt before dawn. Snacks prepared for Sankranti are offered to this fire, prayers offered, and people enjoy the heat in the cold January morning.

Bhogi is celebrated a day preceding Sankranti in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and also Maharashtra. People discard old things and burn logs of wood, and other items which are no longer useful This festival focuses on transformation from the old to the new.

Lohri is also celebrated with a bonfire. Lohri is celebrated in Punjab, Haryana and the northern belt.  Sesame seeds, gur etc. are tossed on to the bonfire and people sit around it, sing and dance till the fire dies out.

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Kite Flying During Makar Sankranti

Kite flying is an important aspect of the Sankranti celebrations in several parts of the country, mostly in Gujarat and Rajasthan.  Colorful kites adorn the sky on Sankranti. The significance here is that the people get exposed to the sun rays after the harsh winters.

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Makar Sankranti Delicacies

No festival is complete without its special food. From Til ladoos, gajjaks to Peethas, the flavours of Sankranti are many.

Peethas form an important delicacy during Sankranti in Assam, Bengal, Bihar, Odisha. Made with rice powder, lentils, sesame etc. Peethas come in several varieties and shapes and come fried, stuffed or steamed.

Image: Rice and Til peetha of Assam

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From a friend’s kitchen…

The Benefits of Til/Sesame

Makar Sankranti is also known as Til Sankranti. Til has has also been a part of rituals since ancient times as it is considered to be one of the purest forms of grains. Til and gur(jaggery) according to Ayurveda are two of the most winter-perfect foods that helps to keep the body warm and increase the immunity. Hence til is considered most significant for Sankranti.

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The benefits of Til/Sesame are manifold and this is why they have been part of our traditional food since ages.

  • Til/Sesame is a rich source of vitamins, minerals and healthy oils
  • Consuming sesame during winter on a daily basis is recommended because it contains calcium, iron, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, copper, zinc, fiber, vitamin B6 and folate that helps protect the body
  • During winters, sesame seeds keep the digestive system healthy and it also helps in healthy functioning of the intestines
  • The copper and anti-oxidants content help relieves pain and swelling associated with arthritis
  • Sesame seeds also strengthen bones, boost hair quality, control blood sugar and keep skin healthy
  • It is often suggested that asthma patients and people with respiratory problems should consume sesame because the magnesium found in it gives relief against all sorts of respiratory diseases

Makar Sankranti is both a religious as well as seasonal observance, and though modern lifestyle is taking us away from these festivities, it is high time we come back to our traditions for the sake of our physical and mental well being.

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