ONE of the few auspicious days celebrated according to the solar cycle, Makar Sankranti in January is dedicated to the Sun God, Surya, with blessings for a promising six months ahead. Here are the extraordinary ways in which the people express the joyous arrival of this opportune day in some regions of India.
What happens on Sankranti? In most regions, Sankranti festivities last for two to four days. People worship the Sun God during the festival. They also go for a holy dip in sacred water bodies, perform charity by giving alms to the needy, fly kites, prepare sweets made of sesame and jaggery, worship livestock and more.
According to some beliefs, people fly kites on Makar Sankranti in order to be exposed to the sun rays. This way people can get rid of skin infections and illnesses that are associated with winter. A long time before Makar Sankranti, people start to make kites at their homes or go out to buy them.
One of our UK volunteers, Jem King, made a visit to the Vijayawada dump on the occasion of Sankranti a few years ago and decided to stop on the way to buy a large number of kites from a roadside seller. Not only did the children living on the dump have fun with the kites, but even the adults, able to escape for a few happy minutes from the drudgery of their lives, joined in the kite-flying.
“Obviously we don’t celebrate Sankranti in the UK, but our children still enjoy the simple pleasure of flying kites in windy weather on the beach or in parks,” said Jem.
“Children should be allowed to be children, not spend their early years collecting scraps of plastic to recycle in horrendous, dangerous conditions on the dump. To see those kids just having fun with the kites we brought was a complete joy and even the grown-ups were able to forget their awful living conditions for just a few minutes.”