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6 curious customs of Makar Sankranti followed throughout India

By Tania Bagwan,

Makar Sankranti is celebrated with unique, diverse customs all over India. Read on to learn about them.

Makar Sankranti celebrations in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh involve thrilling kite-flying contests.

The auspicious festival of Makar Sankranti commemorates the northward journey of the sun and celebrates the beginning of longer days that spring brings along with it. This harvest festival is celebrated as a time of prosperity, peace and happiness as it marks the end of winter. Worshippers all around the country honour and pay tribute to Lord Surya, the Sun God on this occasion. With a country as diverse as India, Makar Sankranti is celebrated with immense pomp, joy and unique customs which vary from region to region. Read on to learn about the unique traditions and customs observed on this day around the nation. 

Flying kites in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat 
Kite-flying is an integral part of Makar Sankranti celebrations across Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. In fact, it is taken quite seriously in these two states with competitions being organised around this activity.  Participants and spectators gather on their terraces or open grounds to witness these thrilling contests. Leading up to the festival, shops around these states are adorned with brightly-coloured kites as they prepare well in advance to sell the finest ones.  

Dressing in black in Maharashtra 
Usually, people tend to gravitate towards vibrant outfits for festive occasions. However, Maharashtrian women wear beautiful black sarees known as “Chandrakala” on Makar Sankranti. Since the festival marks the end of winter, it is usually the coldest day of the season. In order to stay warm, black clothes are the best options as it is a heat-absorbent colour.  

Taking a dip in the holy waters in West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh 
Devotees from West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh take a dip in the holy waters of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri. It is believed that performing this sacred act absolves one of the sins that he has committed.  

Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu 
Jallikattu is a bull taming sport which has been practised in Tamil Nadu for thousands of years. Participating in it is a tradition observed in villages during Surya Pongal, the second day of Pongal, a four-day harvest festival in the south. It is the equivalent of Makar Sankranti in other parts of the country. The practice of this custom was a test of a man’s virility before he could court a woman for marriage. Gold coins wrapped in a piece of cloth would be tied to the horns of the bull. In a show of might, young men attempted to grapple with the bull to untie the knot and claim the prize. If successfully done, they were declared as winners. The modern version of this custom is practised by farming communities and helps them narrow down the strongest bulls as studs for their cows. Doing so ensures the breeding of high-quality calves. Around 5000 bulls were registered to participate in the sport this year alone! 

Cock-fighting in Andhra Pradesh 
An amusing custom during the festival of Makar Sankranti celebrations in Andhra Pradesh includes fights amongst birds like roosters and cocks. Primarily seen as entertainment for spectators, sharp knives are tied to the feet of specially-bred cocks. They are left to fight and defend themselves in circular enclosure. However, as of now, they have been banned by the government.