Here is your paragraph on Makara Sankranti:
On the fourteenth of January, either in the month of Pausha or Magha, falls the winter solstice in the Indian calendrical reckoning.
This is the day when the sun begins its northern course (Uttarayana), thus marking the beginning of what one might call the “waxing” half of the year.
This half is auspicious for all passages of the life cycle, including the final passage of death. The day is called Makara Sankranti’, which refers to the sun’s passage into the sign of the zodiac called Makara or Capricorn.
The primary religious requirement of Makar Sankranti is bathing in the Ganges. The popular customs of the day include making sweets with sesame seeds; eating khichari, a staple food of rice cooked with lentils; and above all, flying kites. In Kashi, appearance of these bright tissue kites in the markets and before long, in the sky is a sure sign that Makara Sankranti is at hand.
This is a major harvest festival and in the eastern region millions take a holy dip in the Ganga. To the early Aryans, living in a cold region, the approach of spring wax,, an occasion of the greatest joy and the commencement of the sun’s northward progress could not pass unmarked, for them opened the auspicious half of the year. The sun especially is worshipped at this festival. Bathing in the sea is prescribed whenever it is possible. Rejoicing a bound a public and in private. Great gathering take place, as at Allahabad, where the Ganges-Jamuna mingle; and at Ganga-Sagar, where the Ganges meets the ocean.
On Makar Sankranti, a bath in the Ganga with the offer of radishes prevails in Bengal. In the South, bathing in the Krishna, the Kaveri and the Godavari is accompanied by the offering of coconuts. In Bengal a variety of Sweetmeats are prepared with pasted rice and sesame seed and the generic term of this items is ‘Pitha’.
It’s that time of the year when slender stocks of freshly harvested sugarcane are seen in the market place. They are a reminder that Makara Sankranthi or Pongal is round the corner. Making the traditional sugar sweets was delightful ritual.
It’s made from sugar syrup. In Karnataka, women would be found dicing Jaggery and desiccated coconut to be mixed later with roasted til (sesame) and groundnuts. This delicious mixture was called yellu bella. Neat packets of Yellu and acchu, sugarcane, bananas and small gifts are exchanged with friends and relatives. The transaction itself is charming and in Kannada is called yellu, acchu beeroddhu.
This agricultural festival is celebrated in almost all states of South India and Maharashtra, in the month of January every year. This is the month when most rural households have replenished their granaries of paddy and pulses after harvest and threshing.
The festival is a form of thanks giving and recognises the invaluable role of both nature and cattle in contributing towards a successful harvest. There is also a mythological interpretation to this festival. Bheeshma is believed to have waited for Uttarayana (a day on which Surya changes his orbit and enters Makara-Rashi) for permission to directly enter heaven.
It is customary in rural Andhra Pradesh to buy new clothes for the entire year during this festival.
On Makara Sankranti, the Maharashtrian people make goodies with sweetened sesame on this occasion and symbolically exchange these, uttering the wish that people may speak to one another in pleasant and gentle tones. They also massage their bodies with sesame oil, much as South Indians do during Deepawali.
As said in Maharashtra, it is customary for the lady of the house to make a sweet with til and jaggery.
This is offered to the rest of her family. Along with this offering, she recites a verse which goes as follows:
“Til gud ghya bola, khale sandu nakha,
khale sandu nakha, maja bandhu nakha”
The verse translates as: “Eat this preparation of til and jaggery and speak good words. Don’t spill this sweet and don’t fight”.
In this age of unrest and violence, this message is a good augury for a happy future!