Sunday, January 9, 2011

Makar Sankranti

Often we wonder sitting in India, which is a land of festivals, what actually is the meaning of the numerous festivals that we celebrate. Some national, some regional and some universal; these festivals are actually the small elements that bind our country in a single cultural fabric. One of the many festivals that actually exist in this country is Makar Sankranti. I have heard a lot about this festival, and tried to find its meaning, however most of the times I only realize this festival either as a harvest festival and a festival to fly kites. Today as I went to the Jholi Parv of BAPS in Mumbai I had the chance to listen to the exact meaning of this festival and today I would like to present to you some very good words of HDH Shri Viveksagar Swami of BAPS.

Literal Meaning of the Festival:

Makar Sankranti in the literal meaning is the movement of the sun from the Sagittarius constellation (Dhanur) to the Capricorn Constellation. In other words it is the “Sankraman of Lord Surya from Dhanur to Makar” and that is the reason why we call it Makar Sankranti. The festival is also called as Uttarayan in many parts and this is because of the fact that from this day the Sun actually traverses from the Southern Hemisphere to the North. So it is a journey of the Sun towards Uttar and thus called as Uttarayan. Days start to become longer and nights become shorter from now on and this marks the beginning of a new year. Technically speaking Makar Sankranti is the actual beginning of the New Year for Hindus and all the auspicious works start from this day on.

Metaphorical Interpretation:

The rise of the sun from the southern hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere is actually a sign of progress or “Unnati” as we call it in Hindi. This is the reason why all the auspicious works are done after the onset of Makar Sankranti. The rise of the sun actually indicates the start of a new beginning, and inspires people to go ahead towards the rise of character and content. It is said that the rise of the sun towards the north indicates the rise of spiritualism in one’s life. It is very important to have a spiritual growth with the materialistic growth that one strives for. A person without a spiritual growth is somewhat like an envelope that is decorative in nature (with lots of embellishments) but then inside it has no content or no good news to bring in. The content of a human being depends on the spiritual growth and as long as this doesn’t happen we will not be able to traverse the knowledge era in full form. The message of Uttarayan is actually to usher in this spiritual growth in one’s self and to actually make people believe in the essence of inner growth.

Today the whole country is talking about inclusive growth but then to see it in its entirety where is it? India is moving from one decade to another and telling new stories of success. However, to think about it, only 22% of India is under this influence of economic development and is not totally sound. This is a fact that actually relates to the fact that there is a superficial growth and no growth in substance. The growth of a country is to be measured by the index of happiness and peace rather than actually how many people can actually go to McDonalds’ and have a burger or ride on a Mercedes. Unnati (progress), as we call it comes from Unnayan, or good sight, which cannot be developed until the soul is purified of its own inhibitions. After all if you have more money you can probably buy a good bed but then does it actually guarantee you sleep?

Talking about Money Vs Happiness is really cliché and today I really don’t want to rake up this topic, because me as a human being always needs money and happiness both. Today my point of contention is not about that, however it is about what is superficial and what is spiritual and full of content. We have many educational institutions in India, IIMs, IITs, AIIMS, but how many Dhirubhai Ambanis have come out of the IIMs; or how many Einsteins have actually emerged from IIT’s? How many Nobel laureates have actually emerged from these institutions? None, if I can count. So, these institutions, as they stand tall today with huge salary packages to talk about (embellished envelopes) don’t actually contribute towards the growth of the country as a whole. To talk the least, most of the alumni actually reside abroad, slaving it out for dollar dreams. Can this really be called development?

Makar Sankranti is actually a festival that indicates breaking the shackles of superficial development and rise towards development that is more stable and more contentious in nature. Today, the importance of this festival is even more important as everybody is having a world war inside their hearts.
Let us now see how different regions celebrate this festival.

My Gujarati fellow Indians go for flying kites. Flying of kites indicates the urge for progress, the urge to rise high in life.

In Maharastra, there is distribution of “Til Laddoos”, sweet dish made from sesame seeds to mark the start of the new festive season.

In Southern India, this festival is called as Pongal, and this marks the start of the new sowing season for the farmers hoping for a better crop.

In Bengal where this festival is called as Posh Parbon marks the beginning of every auspicious occasion by distributing Pithes or sweet-meat made of new rice.

In Punjab, the day before Makar Sankranti you have Lohri, where people actually make a bonfire indicating the burning of all old inhibitions in the fire and hence beginning the new year with a new hope.

Likewise is all parts of India this festival has its own meaning.

Today “Damn Common Man” wishes in advance all its readers a very happy Makar Sankranti and wishes lots of progress (real progress) in all of your lives.