Makar Sankranti

  1. When is Makar Sankranti celebrated?
  2. Why is it celebrated?
  3. How was it celebrated by the Maharanas?
  4. How is it celebrated by Udaipurites now?
  5. What games are played?

In a happening place like Udaipur the people are always celebrating one festival or the other. The new year begins with a bang when in the middle of January due to Makar Sankranti, Lohadi and Makarvillu, they are in a joyous mood. While rotating the sun enters different ‘rashi’s’ and it enters ‘Makar rashi’ in mid-January. This is how the festival gets its name Makar Sankranti.  As the winter begins to become less severe and the inauspicious period of Malmas comes to an end, people feel relaxed. There are some other reasons also for this celebration. During Mahabharat, Bhishma Pitamah had decided to leave his body on this auspicious lay. This was the day on which river Ganga came down on the earth. It is believed that on this day, Lord Surya himself went to his son Shani’s home. To escape the ill effects of the tension between the two, people are advised to bathe in holy waterbodies, perform religious rites and give alms. It is believed that ’til’ oil is the favorite food of Shani and ‘gur’ that of Surya. So, eating of ’til’ and ‘gur’ and giving them in alm lessens the enmity between the father and the son.

A big festival, Makar Sankranti is celebrated with great enthusiasm in Lake City. The festival has a long tradition in Mewar. The Maharanas used to be generous in charity. They distributed blankets and other things among the poor. After this, they would go to some garden to play ‘gaind’, ball. Those days balls were made of cloth and they were also sent to homes of important persons. The public played ball at the Chougan outside Hathipole. The Sota Dari, bat-ball, game was very popular in Mewar. There used to be Ghasgaj Tamasha in the Chowk of the palace. An artificial elephant and Mahawat made of grass were placed there. An elephant used to hit and destroy them. The Maharana, the ‘umraos’ and the public enjoyed the event immensely.

A month-long period of Malamas that is considered to be inauspicious for religious ceremonies like marriages and house warming, ends on Makar Sakranti. Devout persons in Udaipur begin their day with an early morning holy dip in waterbodies like Picchola and Fatehsagar lake. Lord Surya is worshipped with water, flowers, rice grains and incense and recitation of ‘mantras invoking his grace.

People go to various temples in the town to have ‘darshan’. Ladies offer ’til’ preparation and to Pandits they give religious books. There are big crowds at the highly revered Shrinath Haveli Temple in the heart of the city. The child form of the lord is clad in gorgeous clothes on the occasion. The devotees sing soulful ‘bhajans’, take part in the ‘Kirtan’ and have ‘rajbhog darshan’. In Jagdish Mandir that is thronged by devotees, Panchamrit Snan is performed and the idol is dressed in velvet clothes. To him are offered Kichda, Halwa, Kesar Bati etc. At Ashthal Mandir, Surajpole, there is a special puja and dishes made with ’til’ are offered. Bhajans are also sung at other temples in and around the town.  In Mahakaleshwar Mandir, Mitharam Mandir, Baiji Raj Kund, Hajareshwar Mandir and Gupteshwar Mandir near Titardi special programmes are organized.

People visit friends and relations and share special dishes like Khichda, porridge, made with the grain of new crop and milk. The mood is one of merriment. As part of charity, cattle are fed with green grass. Alms are given to beggars who not only gather in large numbers outside temples but also move about begging, in different parts of the town.

The whole town seems to be in a joyous mood and people are seen playing games in open spaces and streets. Sitolia is still a popular game. Traditional games like ‘mardari’, ‘gilli-danda’ etc. are not so popular these days, but in parts of the old city, young and old can still be seen participating in them. Playing with Lattu, tops, made of wood was also popular but now most of them are made of plastic. Gradually cricket is replacing other games on such festivals.

Kite flying in Udaipur used to be limited to Nirjala Ekadashi, but now it has become very popular also on Makar Sankranti. May be it is so due to the influence of the large number of Gujaratis who have settled in the town. The kites liked most by children are about the tv serials that are their favorite. Kites of big film stars and politicians are also popular.

A big festival, Makar Sankranti is celebrated with great enthusiasm in Lake City.