Makar Sankrati: An Indian Celebration of the Harvest and Sun God

A celebration with many names, Makar Sankrati, known variously as Lohri, Pongal, Khichdi, Shishur Saenkraat, Uttarayan, Poush Sangkranti, and others, in different parts of India, is widely celebrated on January 14th. Read how and why one of our readers in the U.K., Poonam Paranjpe, celebrates this day. 

Every year on Makar Sankrati, I fondly recollect my lovely childhood memories of waking up at the crack of dawn filled with excitement and anticipation of what the day ahead would bring with it. This day is celebrated with great fervour in many states of India, marked with special sweets exchanged with friends and family, and above all, flying kites. I especially remember my mom getting excited making all of us equally, if not more excited and all the planning and organising things we had to do to make this day special. My older sister and I would eagerly wait to start the day…. clean the house, make a special trip to buy kites, and of course the most special ritual of helping our mom make those traditional and tasty authentic Maharashtrian [Editor’s note: Someone from the Indian state of Maharashtra] dishes, made especially for the day’s celebration. 

I have been living in UK for nearly 15 years and I absolutely support the thought of passing on these traditions of various festivals onto our kids. It’s important that they know what rich culture they come from and start to associate with it. My 4-year-old boy absolutely loves celebrating all Indian festivals.

Shrikhand. Photo Courtesy of the author

Why Makar Sankrati is Celebrated

Here is some information curated from two external sources:

“Unlike other Hindu festivals which follow the lunar motion, Makar Sankranti follows the movement of the sun. It marks the beginning of the sun’s transition into the zodiac of Capricorn (Makar— Capricorn, Sankranti— transition). This makes it the only festival to fall on a fixed date every year – January 14th. It is a festive day all over India. Each region celebrates its own local form of this festival. In the western parts of India it is called “Makar Sankranti”. This is the day winter officially ends and spring begins – a transition symbolic of discarding the previous season’s bad and the beginning of a fresh new season.”- Click here to read more. 

It is an “auspicious occasion for the Hindus because they believe that the Sun stands for knowledge and wisdom, spiritual light and insight. Sun is considered a God who dispels darkness and brings radiant light into life and earth.” – Click here to read more.

Makar Sankrat Khichadi
Khichadi. Photo courtesy of the author

How my Family Celebrates Makar Sankrati

Our day begins with bathing in water filled with sesame seeds. I have a large community of Indian friends living here in UK, and so we invite or simply call on at each other’s houses by anointing with scented waters, exchanging turmeric and vermillion and enjoying the ‘haldi kunku.’ (red kumkum powder and turmeric). “This is one of those festivals where the colour black is worn without disapproval as it signifies the end of the black period and the welcoming of a happy, new time. Another reason for wearing black is because Sankranti comes at the peak of the winter and wearing black helps to absorb heat and keep the body warm”. (Content in quotes cited from FestivalsofIndia.In)

After bath, and getting dressed (clothes for which I carefully select and put out the night before), I perform special pooja (prayers) during which I offer rice and lentils and some dakshina (token gift) to God followed by the pooja we do every day. The look on my son’s face as he participates in the rituals is absolutely the best thing to see. He has a pride on his face when he performs all the rituals. I think this kind of pride and joy in celebrating one’s culture is important for them to feel and know and understand about India as they become more confident and diverse.

Kheer. Photo courtesy of the author

Sweet Treats

In Maharashtra, the Indian state where I come from, people exchange til guls or tilache ladoo (sesame and jaggery desserts) and greet each other saying ’til-gul ghya, god god bola’ which means ‘accept these sweets, and speak sweet words.’ The underlying thought is to let go off any harsh feelings towards each other and resolve to speak lovingly and remain friends. It is a sign of goodwill and friendship.

I make all the sweet delicacies at home and we visit our close friends to exchange these sweets. “The offering of tilguls on this day symbolizes one’s soul should be as tender as the sesame seed and one’s voice should like sweet like jaggery. It stands for love for each other, respect for one’s elders and affection for one’s neighbours. One of the health benefits of applying the sesame oil is warmth to the body. This also signifies warmth and affection in expressing one’s thoughts, words and deeds” (FestivalsofIndia.In).

On the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankrati, I make various traditional food items like –Vangyacha bharit, Bhogichi bhaji, Til vadi, Kheer, Srikhand or Amrakhand (see pictures above). Here’s a recipe you may like: 

To all our readers, “til gul ghya, goad goad bola”.


Poonam Paranjpe was born in Mumbai, India, and moved to the UK for post-graduation studies. She is a Special Education Needs Practitioner who currently teaches and supports children with PMLD (Profound and Multiple Learning Disability). She is married and has an adorable 4-year-old. She loves to cook, dance, swim, read, organize, and watch movies. She does catering as a hobby and loves posting pictures of food she cooks up. Follow her culinary creations on Facebook.


Also read:  Celebrating Black-ness, African-ness during Kwanzaa


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