MAKAR SANKRANTI is one of the most auspicious occasion for the Indians, which is celebrated in almost all parts of the country. Makar Sankranti marks the transition of the Sun into Makar (Capricorn) on its celestial path.
Scientifically, the shortest day of the year is around December 21st-22nd after which the days begin to get longer, hence actual Winter Solstice begins on December 21st or December 22nd when the tropical sun enters Makara rashi. Hence actual Uttarayana is December 21st. This was the actual date of Makar Sakranti too. But because of the earth’s tilt of 23.45 degrees and sliding of Equinoxes, Ayanamasha occurs. This has caused Makara Sankranti to slide further over the ages. A 1000 years ago, Makar Sankranti was on Dec 31st and is now on January 14th. 5000 years later, it shall be by the end of February, while in 9000 years it shall come in June. Traditionally, this has been one of many harvest days in India.
Millions of people take a dip in places like Ganga Sagar (point where the river Ganga meets the Bay of Bengal) and Prayag and pray to the Sun God . It is celebrated in southern parts of India as Pongal, and in Punjab as Lohri and Maghi.
In the western Indian state of Gujarat, the celebrations are even bigger. People offer thousands of their colorful oblations to the Sun in the form of beautiful kites. The act stands as a metaphor for reaching to their beloved God, the one who represents the best. Makar Sankranti also happens to be the day on which Bhishma, the grand sire of Pandavas and Kauravas from the epic Mahabharata voluntarily left his mortal coil. In the rural and coastal areas, cock fights are held and is a prominent event of the festival.
It is celebrated differently in different regions of India.