The sun enters the zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn) on the day of Makara Sankranti. This day which usually falls on the 14th of January every year is considered the beginning of Uttarayana, when the Sun begins moving northward having reached the southernmost point in the sky (although Winter Solstice for the Northern Hemisphere is calculated from December 21).
Although there is a spiritual or scientific explanation for Hindu festivals, local customs and traditions have more influence on the way these festivals are celebrated. We, therefore, come across many interesting variations and differences in the way festivals are celebrated in each region.
Makara Sankranti celebrated at the Service Centre of the Trust on January 15, 2014, was marked with gaiety and colour. The villagers thronged the centre with their gaily decorated cows and calves. The cows were welcomed with garlands and kumkum, and offered fruits. After a special pooja and arati, prasad (sweet pongal and curd rice) was distributed to all those who had gathered – children too among the enthusiastic participants.
The cows were then taken in a procession to the village temple, where the cows along with the herdsmen, jumped across a fire wall, in keeping with the local tradition. This practice, it is said, is observed to ward off the evil eye as well as to rid the cattle of all infestations.
Swamiji’s discourse on the occasion of Makara Sankranti 2015