Maghe Sankranti - festival - Nepal
Maghe Sankranti (or Magh Sakrati or Uttarayana) is observed at the beginning of the holy month of Magh, around January 15. It brings an end to the ill-omened month of Poush (mid-december) when all religious ceremonies are forbidden. Even if it is considered the coldest day of the year, it marks the coming of warmer weather and better days of health and fortune.
This day is said to be the most significant day for holy bathing despite the weather. It is customary to take holy dips at river confluence, perform worship at various shrines and take yam and 'chaku' as special food items on this occasion. Chaku is a sweet prepared from boiled and hardened molasses.
Hindus in Nepal, India and Sikkim also observe this day as 'Makar Sankranti' as it marks the sun's journey northwards. From today, the day becomes longer than the night.
Newars' of Kathmandu valley also call it 'Ghyo-Chaku Sanun' as the day is celebrated by eating ghee and chaku.
The belief goes that eating such items as ghee and Chaku, sesame seed candy, vegetables and yam, and giving them away in charity on this day after taking a holy dip helps one become healthier.
Devotees take holy dips at Devghat, Dolalghat, Baraha Kshetra, Ridi, The Sachi Tirtha at Trivenighat (Panauti) and other rivers across the country. Big religious fairs are held today especially at the confluence of the Kali Gandaki and Trishuli rivers at Dev ghat (near Narayangath) in Tanahu. The Kankai River in Jhapa is also a famous pilgrimage site. Devotees from various parts of the country and even from India throng Devghat and the Kankai.
Sankhamole (Sankhamul Ghat), on the banks of the holy Bagmati river, near Patan, is thought to be amongst the most sacred sites for this purpose, though there has been a decline in the fulfillment of this ritual in the recent years due to water pollution in the river. But people still go in the wee hours of dawn just to sprinkle themselves with the water.
People pay homage to various deities specially the temple of Rato Machhendranath and Agima Ta.
In addition to holy bathing and worship of shrines, certain auspicious foods like till laddoos (seasame seeds ball cakes), chaku(molasys), ghee (clarified butter), sweet potatoes, khichari (mixture of rice and lentils) and green leaf spinach are taken on this day. Families come together and share these delights. Married daughters and families are invited to parental homes for festivities and blessings. Yet another occasion to renew family ties. Many homes have religious ceremonies (pujas) conducted by priests with chanting from holy books, for which they receive alms.
Like other holy celebrations Maghi Sankranti also has a legend of its own. It recalls that once a merchant from the town of Bhadgoan despite of his thriving business noticed that his supply of seasame seeds hadn't diminished. When looking into the matter he found an idol of the Lrod Vishnu hidden deep beneath the seeds. Since, then on this day the Til Madhav idol is worshipped with the belief that god will continue to be generous in the supply of food and wealth on the Bhadgoan community. It's also the day commemorating the death of Viswapitamaha, the elderly grandfather of two families of Pandavas and Kauravas, between whom the famous battle of Mahabharat took place. He was determined not to die until the way to the region of gods opened. While lying on the bed of arrows he discovered words of wisdom on life and death. Eventually, through his free will he succumbed to death. Hence it's believed that those who die on this day go to heaven, released from the burden of rebirth.
Maghi Sankranti, is yet another occasion which renews the faith of Nepalese people in the heavenly powers.
Once in twelve years Makar Mela is being observed. Last time was in 2010. So the next will be in 2022.
Movie of Maghe Sankranti Festival (माघे संक्रान्ति) in Hong Kong
Sources: The Rising Nepal, Youtube, Nepal Homepage, Darjeelingnews
Note: Sachi Tirtha at Triveni ghat in Panauti is believed to be the location of the confluence of the three holy rivers, Padmavati, Leelavati and the unseen Rudravati (believed to flow underground).
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Maghi Maghe Sankranti
Maghe Sankranti is celebrated on the first day of Magh. Nepali people celebrate it as the beginning of the auspicious month of Magh.
The festival is a harbinger of longer and relatively warmer days in comparison to the cold month of Poush. On this day, the sun is believed to start moving toward the Northern Hemisphere. In that sense, Maghe Sankranti is similar to solstice festivals in other religious traditions.
Hindus celebrate this festival by taking ritual dip in holy river confluences, most notably in Devghat, Chitwan. Families get together during the day and eat meals together. Sesame seed laddus, molasses, ghee, sweet potatoes and yam are included in the menu. People worship Lord Vishnu during the month by offering him pujas and reading the sacred Bhagwad Gita, also known as The Song of the Gods.
The first day of Magh is also celebrated in the Terai by the Tharu community as Maghi or New Year. It is a weeklong festival celebrated by getting together as a family and friends, attending community get together or mela, dressing up in the traditional Tharu wear, eating, drinking and making merry.