Makar Sankranti - Traditions and Cultures

Makar Sankranti - Traditions and Cultures

Sankranti is a popular Indian festival that happens around January 14th according to the Hindu Solar Calendar. This is, perhaps, one of the few festivals that follows the solar calendar versus the lunar calendar, probably since it is considered as the festival of Sun God. 

Diversity in Names

The festival has various names in different regions across the country. Irrespective of the names, it marks the beginning of the harvesting season. The table below shows the different names used for the festival in different parts of India:

 Region Name
Uttar Pradesh Kichadi
Punjab Lohri
Gujarat Uttarayana
Maharastra Haldi Kunku
Assam Magh Bihu/ Bhogali Bihu
Bihar-Jharkand Sakraat/ Kichdi
West Bengal Poush Sankranti
Tamil Nadu Surya Pongal
Andhra Pradesh/ Telangana Bhogi, Makar Sankranti, Kanuma, Mukkanuma


Diversity of Traditions

While each region has a wide variety of traditions tied to the festival, there are several common threads the unify the diversity of those traditions to the common theme. Since the festival marks the beginning of harvest season, a lot of the food is connected to common ingredients such as Rice, Sugar Cane and Sesame seeds. Items such as Ariselu (made with Rice, Jaggery and Ghee), Kheer (Made with Rice, Sugar and Milk), Sesame Laddu (made with til or sesame seeds and jaggery), Kichadi (made with rice and pulses) and Sunundalu (made with urad flour and jaggery), all have common items that have evolved to different sweets over the years.

Some of the interesting traditions of Makar Sankranti are:

Holy Bath

Makar Sankranti marks the beginning of Magh Mela (a 54-day period during the year that consists of 6 baths starting with the bath during Makar Sankranti and ends with the bath during Sivaratri). The 3 regions along the Ganges river where it is considered auspicious are Prayagraj, where the river Ganges confluences with river Yamuna and Saraswati, Varanasi and Ganga Sagar, where river Ganges flows into the Bay of Bengal. 


 Kites are flown in different part of the country. While the tradition is predominant in Gujarat with competitions, it is prevalent across the entire nation including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Telangana and Tamil Nadu among others. Kids and adults alike hang out on the roofs of their homes flying kites and competing to cut others kites using abrasive threads dipped in starched powdered glass called 'manja'. The tradition brings families and friends together on terraces competing with neighboring buildings, playing music and savoring snacks.


Bonfires are lit in various parts of India early in the mornings. In regions like Andhra Pradesh, old furniture and wood is used to create the bonfire. In some other regions like Assam, a makeshift huts called Meji are created to camp overnight near rivers and then they are burnt as bonfire as a prayer to God of Fire/ Sun God. People sing and dance around these bon fires and offer rice and sweet cakes as offerings. The Bonfires are also symbolic of getting away with the old and starting anew.


Beautiful Rangolis called Kolams and Muggus are prepared in the south in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. These are created using Rice flour and Cow paddy is used to as a pesticide. 

Other Traditions

There are several other traditions that happen during Makar Sankranti. While it is hard to cover all those traditions in this single blog, we are listing a few here:

  • Pranams in Rajasthan
  • Chandrakala in Maharastra
  • Tekeli Bhonga in Assam
  • Dahi-Chuda in Bihar-Jhaarkand
  • Patali in West Bengal
  • Jellikattu in Tamil Nadu
  • Haridas and Gangireddu in Andhra Pradesh-Telangana
  • Regi Pandlu in Andhra Pradesh-Telangana

Please feel free to add a memory or tradition that you remember from this all too important Indian festival. 


  1. Festivals of India website:
  2. Hindustan Times article on Magh Mela:,Shivaratri%20bathing%20on%20March%208.
  3. Wikipedia link on Manja:




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