January 14th or 15th every year is celebrated as Makar Sankranti in India. ‘Makar’ means Capricorn and ‘Sankranti’ means transition. The day is a highly auspicious day as it is on this day, the transition takes place in the form of Solar Energy on Earth which brings with it joy, warmth and hope. It is about the transition to auspiciousness. It is believed that on this day, the Sun moves towards the Tropic of Cancer from the Tropic of Capricorn, which is said to be a Journey towards the North and hence this day is also known as ‘Uttarayan’ in India. Makar Sankranti is celebrated all over India on 14th or 15th of January every year with great enthusiasm. People usually wake up early in the morning and take bath. Many pious and devoted people believe in taking a dip in the holy ganges river. The day is dedicated in the worship of Sun God. The Day is to Worship Sun, the only visible God on Earth. The day has special significance in India as it is considered to be a harvest festival. People celebrate Nature’s bounty. It can also be called as the Indian Thanks-giving day. The day to thank Almighty God in the form of Sun for all the blessings in the form of light, energy and warmth. People pray for a better and brighter future. It is a major festival in Indian states of Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal and Assam. In Punjab, the previous day of Makar Sankranti is known as Lohri. On the evening of Lohri, a huge bonfire is arranged and people make various offerings to ignite the fire. It is believed that the fire will burn all that is evil. People gather, sing and dance around the bonfire with enthusiasm, zeal and happiness. In Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, it is 3 days festival. In Tamil Nadu, a special dish is prepared which is known as ‘Pongal’ and is offered to Sun. Makar Sankranti is also known as ‘Pongal’ in Tamil Nadu. The dish which is made with freshly harvested rice, signifies nature’s bounty, prosperity and abundance. In Andhra Pradesh, the courtyards of every house is decorated with beautiful designs and patterns known as ‘Muggu’. People prepare several special dishes made with freshly harvested rice. In West Bengal, the day is known as ‘Paush Sankranti’. Every month, there is one Sankranti when the transit of the Sun takes place from one zodiac to another. Hindus of some states of India follow a Solar Calender where as some follow a Lunar Calender. ‘Paush’ is the month from mid-December to mid-January and is considered to be highly inauspicious for starting any new work. It is on ‘Paush Sankranti’ that the inauspicious phase comes to an end and a phase of auspicious, prosperity and enlightenment begins. On this day, the month of ‘Magh’ begins which is looked forward to for starting any kind of new venture. The two months of ‘Magh’ and ‘Phalgun’ are considered to be highly auspicious for wedding ceremonies. On this day, many kind of sweet dishes are made with jaggery, coconut, rice/wheat flour, milk and ghee. The date-palm jaggery is mostly preferred. There is a tradition of kite-flying in many places, specially in Gujarat. Many Kite-flying competitions are held on this day. It is good to embrace the warm sunlight on this day for good health and overall well-being.People enjoy the warmth of Sunlight and welcome the transition from Winter Season to Spring Season. People celebrate this day with special home-made sweets with Jaggery, sesame, rice flour,coconut, milk and many other ingredients. Sesame seeds have special significance on this day. People share sweets with friends and neighbours and spread the message of positive thoughts, love and cooperation. Image: By Saloni Desai [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Today is Vaikuntha Ekadashi.
Ekadashi means the eleventh day. In Hindu Calender, the eleventh day from the either the full moon or the no moon night, is known as Ekadashi. This eleventh day is considered to be an auspicious day in Hinduism.
The day has special significance for the Vaishnavas or the devotees of Lord Vishnu. It is believed to be very auspicious to observe fast on an Ekadashi day. Many devotees eat fruits and drink milk and spend the entire day in worshiping Lord Vishnu.
Of all the Ekadashi days, some has special significance.
Vaikuntha Ekadashi is one such special day. ‘Vaikuntha’ is a sanskrit word which means’ the abode of Lord Vishnu’ or where the Lord dwells. It is believed that on this day, the gates of ‘Vaikuntha’ opens for the pious devotees.
Special arrangements are made in famous temples like Balaji Temple at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh, India and in ISKCON Temple located in Bangalore, Karnataka, India. People queue up in huge numbers to have a glimpse of the Lord during the mid-night and wait until the main door of sanctum sanatorium is opened during dawn which can be anywhere between 3.30 am to 4.30 am.
Pious devotees fast on this day and chant the holy name of God. It is considered to be highly beneficial to read or chant sacred texts like the Bhagwad Gita and the Vishnu Sahasranama.
A sincere prayer and remembrance of the holy name of God is all that the Lord wants from us, Human Beings.
Glory to Lord Venkateshwara. Glory to Lord Vishnu.