How to celebrate Makar Sankranti ?
The festival of Makar SankrÍnti falls on January 15. Pujya Bapuji’s satsang discourses mention the peculiarities of this festival, and the do’s and don’ts on this day:
On Makar SankrÍnti, the Sun god transits through the zodiac sign of Capricorn, it transits every month from one zodiac sign to another. Some people say that, ‘the sun is stationary while the earth is moving.’ However, the wise ones of Indian culture have said that, ‘There is no object with a form which remains stationary. Everything is subject to change, everything is moving.’
The earth moves and so do the nakshatras (constellations), etc. The only thing that is unmoving is the Absolute Truth; everything else that appears (with a form) cannot be steady or stationary.
Science may prove anything by virtue of its reasoning or logic, but I have more faith and trust in the words of great men who attained the Truth absolute, beyond intellect, than anyone or anything else. That which is moving keeps moving forever; however, the seer or witness of the movement is the immovable Self which is beyond movement. So, let us make a firm resolve to remain steadfast in our Immovable Self.
Meritorious acts like bathing, charity, japa, penance, etc., yield more merit on Makar SankrÍnti. Mother YashodÍ (who raised Lord Krishna) observed the vrata (fast) of UttarÍyaÔa (Makar SankrÍnti) to beget a bright child. It is better if one can skip the night’s meal on (the festival of) UttarÍyaÔa; however, fasting is prohibited for those who have children. But why is it so that one is not permitted to have meals on this day? Just so that one can set their mind on God. And why is it so that those with children aren’t supposed to fast, but instead have meals? – Just because it is ordained by the shÍstras.
What to ask from Surya-NÍrÍyaÔa, the Sun god?
Even great saint like TulsidÍs Ji reaped great benefit from worshipping Surya-NÍrÍyaÔa. Praise of the Sun god, as sung by Sant TulsidÍsji in Vinaya Patrika, is given below:
DÐna-dayÍlu divÍkara devÍ;
kara muni, manuja, surÍsura sevÍ.
‘Oh Lord Sun, who is merciful towards the distressed! Sages and hermits, men of all denominations, the gods, and the demons – all serve (worship, honour, and show respect to) you.’
beda-purÍna pragata jasa jÍgai;
TulasÐ rÍma-bhagati bara mÍngai.
‘Your grand fame and stupendous glories are sparkling with a brilliant dazzle in the Vedas and PurÍÔas. TulsidÍs asks you for a boon of devotion to Lord RÍma.’
My advice to you is: On Makar SankrÍnti, just ask Surya-NÍrÍyaÔa for the following, while offering mental-prayers to the latter in the morning: ‘Please bestow upon my intellect, thoughts, and actions, that very thing which Sant TulsidÍs Ji asked for from you.’ So let us revere and worship Surya-NÍrÍyaÔa on this festival. On this day of austerity, some people ask for money, while some ask for health; however, if we have to ask for anything, we should ask for that which won’t leave any desire, meaning we should ask for the Supreme state (Realization of God – the Self), nothing but God, the Supreme Self; and steadfast devotion to God. If we ask for this very thing, in essence, we have actually asked for everything.
What should you do, especially on this day?
Eating sesame seeds and bathing with an unguent of sesame seeds mixed with cow-dung is believed to be extremely beneficial and meritorious on this day. Those who do not do charity, meritorious acts bathing, etc., on this day remain sick and poor for the next seven successive births.
Pray and make a resolve, ‘O God! Just as Surya-NÍrÍyaÔa begins to move northwards and the period of sunlight keeps increasing after UttarÍyaÔa, please forgive me for whatever I have done in darkness, under the spell of ignorance. From now on, I will move towards the Light of wisdom.’
In some places in Bharat, there is a tradition that on the day of UttarÍyaÔa, daughters-in-law try hard to please their mothers-in-law and fathers-in-law. The latter would feign to be displeased, and the former would keep trying to please them. This would thus develop in the former the virtue of serving the latter, besides blossoming pure and sacred feelings between the parents-in-law and their son and daughter-in-law. What a nice practice of the UttarÍyaÔa festival this is! What a beautiful arrangement given by the seers and sages of Indian culture!
Connect your intellect with God
The festival of UttarÍyaÔa inspires one to improve and evolve one’s life by learning from the life of Grandsire Bhishma. Bhishma Ji disconnected his intellect from the sense of reality of his body and connected himself with Shri Krishna through love; as a result, Lord Krishna, in order to enable His beloved Bhishma to keep his vow, broke His own vow, thereby forging His relationship with Bhishma.
As much as you give yourself to ParamÍtmÍ (God), manifold He gives Himself to you. Bhishma said, “O Krishna! I want to marry off my daughter to you.”
Now, how can such an elderly celibate marry off his daughter? Where is he going to bring his daughter from? He clarified, “I offer my intellect, which is my daughter, to you.”
So, connect your intellect with God. Wake up early in the morning and be calm. And reflect, ‘My intellect is illuminated by Your Light (Consciousness); may I live in Your Light. This physical body is not mine, nor are relations mine. I belong to You; You belong to me…’
You should thus reap the benefits of the festival of Makar SankrÍnti.