Makar Sankranti is an ancient Hindu festival or The burden of old tradition?

A Knowledge of History, even of the darkest past, can be quite useful, even for the future. (Anatoly Markusha, Miracles on wheels)

Makar Sankranti is a festival that is celebrated in different ways throughout India. Basically, it is a harvest festival. The variety found in food and drink across India, likewise, is also found in this festival. In another sense, it is a good example of unity in diversity.

This festival is known as Lohri in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, Khichdi in North India, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Makar Sankranti in West Bengal, Goa, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Orissa Sankranti, in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Sankranti Foods made with jaggery, lai (Food made by roasting paddy, millet, etc. Lava.) chuda (Flattened rice,) sesame, etc. are consumed in this festival. Currently, the tradition of flying kites is also a part of this festival.

The oldest form of Makar Sankranti: –

Makar Sankranti is a festival of happiness with the arrival of a new crop, with the end of winter, and the sun enters Capricorn. According to Hindu beliefs, Sun (Surya) is the only visible God, and this festival is dedicated to him. Taking a bath in holy rivers on Makar Sankranti is a tradition to pay reverence to the sun.

Banaras(Varanasi): – Because Varanasi is the city where the entire Indianess is seen. If a tableau of the whole of India is to be taken in a limited place, it is possible only in Varanasi, and perhaps this is why Hindus have so much attraction towards Varanasi. For more information about , Benares(Varanasi,Kashi) please visit:- http://nithinks.com/2020/12/01/dev-deepawali-festival-of-light-city-of-light/

This time, Makar Sankranti is also special. A full year has passed in the outbreak of coronavirus, the arrival of the New Year, two days later the corona vaccine will be available to the general public.

 Thousands of years of tradition and present:

 The struggle of a common man in the rapidly changing circumstances of the country and the world, the engagement of information technology with the general public, the apprehension of the people towards the future, the thinking of farmers towards the on-going farmer movement in the country, the thinking of farmers on the government’s attitude To answer all the questions, I found the festival of Makarsankranti in Banaras to be the most appropriate.

 Apart from this, one thing was bothering me for many days. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of the country wrote in his book Glimpses of World History about Makarsankranti —- 

THE BURDEN OF OLD TRADITION

“I sat reading; the calm of the early morning was broken by distant voices and rumblings, ever-growing stronger. I remember that it was the Sankranti day, the first big day of the Magh Mela, and the pilgrims were marching in their thousands for their morning dip at the Sangam, where the Ganga meets the Jumna and the invisible Saraswati is also supposed to join them. And as they marched they sang and sometimes cheered mother Ganga—- Ganga Mai ki Jai—- and their voices reached me over the walls of Naini Prison. As I listened to them I thought of the power of faith which drew these vast numbers to the river and made them forget for a while their poverty and misery. And I thought how year after year, for how many hundreds or thousands of years, the pilgrims had march to the Triveni. Men may come and men may go and governments and empires may lord it awhile and then disappear into the past, but the old tradition continues and generation after generation bows down to it. Tradition has much of good in it, but sometimes it becomes a terrible burden, which makes it difficult for us to move forward. It is fascinating to think of the unbroken chain which connects us with the dim and distant past, to read accounts of these melas written 1300 years ago—- and the mela was an old tradition even then. But this change has a way of clinging on to us when we want to move on, and of making us almost prisoners in the grip of this tradition. We shall have to keep many of the links with our past, but we shall also have to break through the prison of tradition wherever it prevents us from our onward march.”

Was Nehru’s statement a scientific thought? Did Communist, Marxist have a fancy attitude towards religion? Did Nehru have any faith in Gandhi’s Ramrajya? Could anyone who believed in Gandhi’s Ramrajya use such language for a Hindu festival? Was this Nehru’s vision?

Why was Nehru so deeply intolerant of Hinduism as deeply sympathetic to the Red Terrorists? (communists)

Nehru’s views towards Lenin in Glimpses of World History- “The year you were born in —-1917 —was one of the memorable years of history when a great leader, with a heart full of love and sympathy for the poor and suffering, made his people write a noble and never –to-be-forgotten chapter of history. In the very month in which you were born, Lenin started the great revolution which has changed the face of Russia and Siberia.” 

With the rise of nationalism in the present, the Nehru ideology being weak and meaningless, making an effort to understand the future, I also decided to participate in this festival.

Holy deep:-

I reached Rajghat at about 4 a.m in the morning before dawn. First of all, I went to a small tea shop, got my attention to the Stone plate near the shop.

The name of the great poet Rabindranath Thakur was written on this stone plate and the route connecting the main road to Rajghat is named after him. I was listening to people while sipping tea at the tea shop. The topic of their discussion was based on the drainage system built by James Prinsep in Varanasi. One of these people introduced himself as Ashutosh Kumar Yadav, after taking some valuable information on this subject and thanking him, I moved towards the ghat.

There were some small shops close to the ghat, which were selling toys for children, beauty articles for women, some girls were selling flowers, lamps (Diya) some poor, beggars were also seen, There is also the practice of charity after a holy bath in Makarsankranti festival, so after talking to the people there, it came to know that many beggars have gathered from the surrounding areas in the hope of donation there. There was not much crowd at the ghat, after looking carefully for a long time; I realized that the crowd that came to take a holy bath of Makarsankranti can be divided mainly into some category. The maximum number of people were from the nearby rural areas, these people mostly came by bus, then the people who lived near the river banks, the youngest boys, the girls showed the most enthusiasm, this enthusiasm was natural given their age .the challenge of bathing in cold, icy water had become an encouraging atmosphere. Some saints – monks also appeared, very calm, solemn, some aged for whom this festival was a chance to relive the old, pleasant days when they were children, and come with their guardians, Some of the police force also appeared ready to help with promptness, after a short walk, I decided to move towards the next ghat.

It was still dark, most of the ghats were still silent, the corona effect could not be ruled out, I slowly moved forward, on a ghat I suddenly heard my favorite song ringing in a low voice, It was great to hear this song on this special occasion. मानो तो मैं गंगा माँ हूँ ,न मानो , तो बहता पानी . if you have faith I am mother Ganga, without faith just flowing water.

This song is written by the famous poet of Varanasi, Anjaan . Going near, a young man was playing this song on his mobile phone in a slow voice and giving food to some street dogs, while sitting on a bench, I heard the whole song. Walking further, I saw many people feeding food to different animals in many places. In Hinduism, giving food to the needy is considered to be the most sacred duty, even if it is an animal. Later on, I saw many people, some feeding birds, some monkeys; some unclaimed dogs Due to the outbreak of Corona, when all the industries were closed down, free food grains and money were being given by the government to the people living below the poverty line.

 Then how much people must have been helped by these habits! It seems to me that even now people may not have needed personal help; such habits must have been of great importance in fighting famines and epidemics. Perhaps to fight the epidemics, famines, society must have gradually developed such a system with the participation of the people.

 Struggling with many thoughts, I reached the Gaay Ghat. After Rajghat, some crowd appeared here, a small temple was built on the banks of the river, after taking bath, and devotees were offering Ganga water to the idol of Lord Shiva in the temple. 

Some youngsters were taking mobile selfies while bathing in icy water, some were also doing some religious rituals in great calm. At one place some sadhus were chanting the Shanti Mantra while studying in school as a child; I had also memorized the Shanti mantra. I also started to hum from a distance. The Shanti Mantra is mentioned in the Upanishad’s, and Veda’s. Probably since then, people have been humming them on the banks of the Ganges.

 Hindu philosophy and the importance of peace.  

ॐ सह नाववतु |

सह नौ भुनक्तु |

सह वीर्यं करवावहै |

तेजस्विनावधीतमस्तु मा विद्विषावहै॥

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः॥

Om! May God protect us both together; may God nourish us both together;

May we work conjointly with great energy,

May our study be vigorous and effective;

May we not mutually dispute (or may we not hate any).

Om! Let there be Peace in me!

Let there be Peace in my environment!

Let there be peace in the forces that act on me!

ॐ द्यौः शान्तिरन्तरिक्षं शान्तिः

पृथिवी शान्तिरापः शान्तिरोषधयः शान्तिः । वनस्पतयः शान्तिर्विश्वेदेवाः शान्तिर्ब्रह्म शान्तिः

सर्वं शान्तिः शान्तिरेव शान्तिः सा मा शान्तिरेधि ॥

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

— यजुर्वेद ३६:१७

Om. May peace radiate there in the whole sky as well as in the vast ethereal space everywhere.

May peace reign all over this earth, in water and in all herbs, trees, and creepers.

May peace flow over the whole universe.

May peace be in the Whole Universe. And may there always exist in all peace and peace alone.

Om peace, peace, and peace to us and all beings!

— (Translation by Swami Abhedananda, Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, India)

For More information about Hindu Philosophy, please visit :- http://nithinks.com/2020/12/03/hindu-philosophy-and-the-importance-of-peace-9-11-1893-9-112001/

 The darkness was still dense. But one could easily see the giant painting on the walls.

The huge painting of Lord Shiva on a wall was very attractive. In this painting, Lord Shiva is depicted as the protector of nature.

Walking slowly, I reached my destination Panch- Ganga Ghat. There is a hundred of thousands of years old tradition of bathing in the Ganges in Varanasi, all the Ghats have their own historical significance, and there are many festivals of bathing in the Ganges in Varanasi. Religiously, bathing at this place was of paramount importance.

Shadow of Islamic imperialism and the Makarsankranti:

A Knowledge of History, even of the darkest past, can be quite useful, even for the future. (Anatoly Markusha, Miracles on wheels)

Panch-Ganga is among the five major and oldest ghats of Varanasi. Its ancient name was Bindumadhav Ghat. This Ghat got its name from the ancient temple of Bindumadhav (Lord Vishnu). In the seventeenth century, this ancient temple was demolished by the Islamic ruler Aurangzeb, and a mosque was built from the rubble of that ancient temple. Since then the name of this place became Panch Ganga in place of Bindumadhav.

With the tradition of bathing in the holy river on special occasions, and with such small habits, did our ancestors manage to save their religion!

 Could we save our religion only with the help of our culture!

Who were those people who not only kept their traditions alive even after the destruction of their temples, idols of Gods but also defeated foreign invaders?

Schools should introduce one more, very important, subject- The History of labor, the brilliant and tragic history of man’s struggle with the natural world, the history of his discoveries and inventions, his victories and triumphs over the forces of nature.”

             Maxim Gorky the founder of soviet literature

And a little later he wrote: “I believe very strongly in miracles made by the intelligence and imagination of man; I know no other miracles.”

For more information about this topic please visit :- http://nithinks.com/2019/10/07/islamic-imperialism-breaking-of-idols-hindu-struggle-past-present/

Remembering my great ancestors, I also decided to take a holy dip on this holy day, the holy place of the holy city. Makrasankranti has been one of my favorite festivals since childhood, but before today Makarsankranti meant for me only the taste of many types of dishes, and flying kites throughout the day. Today’s experience was completely new to me and was like a cultural journey that I cannot forget in my lifetime.

Author: nitinsingh

Postgraduate in International relations. Experience writing in various journals,from BBC WORLD NEWS SERVICE to India's one of the oldest hindi daily. I like to write international relations, religion, religious conflict. Social media has bridged the distance between writing and reading. Now writing is not just the expression of one's own thought, but also knowing the expression of people on various subject.

2 thoughts on “Makar Sankranti is an ancient Hindu festival or The burden of old tradition?”

Leave a Reply