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The Significance of Maghe Sankranti

The official Nepalese calendar, known as the Bikram Sambat Calendar, has Magh as its tenth month. Maghe Sankranti, also called Makar Sankranti is observed on the first day of the Nepali month Magh and holds a great significance. Different communities in Nepal celebrate this day in different ways and with distinct activities. Maghe Sankranti is also known by the names Makar Sankranti, Maaghi, Ghiu-Chaku Khane Din, Tiluwa Sankranti, etc.

We call the day “Makar Sankranti” because it commemorates the sun’s change from Sagittarius to Makar (Capricorn), signifying the conclusion of the winter equinox and the beginning of longer days. On this day, winter comes to an end and the planting season and spring begin.

The Customs

On this day, a large number of Hindus perform the “Makar Snan” bathing ritual, which involves taking holy baths in ponds and rivers, primarily near the confluences of the Triveni (3 rivers) and Dovan (2 rivers). Based on Nepali astrology, Poush, the ninth month in the Nepali calendar, is an unlucky month. Hindus in Nepal don’t celebrate Poush with any kind of religious ceremony. Therefore, people believe Makar Snan cleanses oneself of all unfavorable energy.

Most residents visit various temples after taking a bath in order to offer the Sankranti meals to the gods first. The reason we call this day “Ghiu-Chaku Khane Din” is that people gather to eat specialties such as molasses and refined ghee, or ghiu. The dinner tray also has root vegetables such as yam and sweet potatoes, spinach, khichadi (mung dal and rice porridge), and gahat (gram horse beans). People make a candy called Til Ko Laddu is by combining sesame and chaku seeds. People make these recipes specifically for this occasion. They believe eating ghiu-chaku with sesame seeds will aid in the body’s production of heat to fend off the terrible cold. Tilauri Sankranti is another name for this day, because of the intake of sesame seeds.

Til ko Laddu for Maghe Sankranti
Til ko Laddu

Tales about Maghe Sankranti

Folklore holds that a merchant from Bhadgaun, which is today the district of Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley, was successful in his sesame business because he never ran out of supplies. The perplexed merchant considered what might be causing it. After taking out the sesame sacks, he found Lord Vishnu’s idol beneath the final one. The god is currently revered as Til Madhav Narayan and is kept in a temple in Bhaktapur’s Toumadhi Square. “Til Madhav Narayan” comes from the fact that Madhav Narayan, another name for Visnu, was discovered among Til (sesame). People believe worshiping the deity will bring luck, food, and wealth to themselves and their family.

The well-known Epic Mahabharata tells the story of Bhismapitamaha, who was the son of Santanu, the king of the Kuru Kingdom, and the Ganga river. Because of his immense power, Bhismapitamaha was able to determine when to pass away (Mitru).  During the battle, Arjun, the main character of Mahabharat, discharges arrows all over his body, yet Bhismapitamaha survives. He decides to die on the day of Maghe Sankranti, which believers consider to be a day of heaven for people who pass away and release from the pain of life, death, and reincarnation, and he continues to lie on the bed of arrows.

Foods Consumed on This Day

Maghe Sankranti brings back memories of delicious meals. Maghe Shankranti’s signature dish is a curry of spinach, boiled or steamed root vegetables including yam and sweet potatoes, Til ko laddu (brown sesame seed fudge), Chakku (molasses), and Ghiu (clarified butter). During Maghe Sankranti, patne palungo, fried spinach grown only in Nepal, and yam, or tarul in Nepali, are two of the most important and distinctive delicacies. People massage their heads and bodies using oils infused with sesame and mustard. We believe applying sesame oil to the body and eating foods like yam, spinach, ghiu chaku, and Til ko Laddoo—a dessert made with molasses and sesame seeds—make us healthier, happier, and more resilient in the winter.

Foods consumed on Maghe Sankranti
Foods consumed on Maghe Sankranti

How do Different Communities Celebrate Maghi

Maghe Sankranti holds a great significance for different communities in Nepal. The celebration, known as “Maaghi” by the Tharus, is celebrated on their New Year’s Day in Southern Nepal. On this day, people across the nation participate in cultural parades and exhibits while clad in traditional Tharu costume. To atone for their conscious and unconscious transgressions, they bathe in rivers and lakes and worship the Sun god. In addition to ghiu, chaku, and tilko laddo, they prepare traditional dishes such bagiya, dhikri, bahruwa karela, pig, and fish for the Maaghi feast.

Newars, the natives of the Kathmandu valley call the day as ‘Ghyo Chaku Sanhu,’ the day to eat Ghiu-Chaku. They celebrate it to honor of the departed souls of their beloved family members. On this day, the head of the family, either mother or grandmother, applies lukewarm mustard oil to their children’s heads.

Magars celebrate this event by worshipping it and by asking their married daughters and their families to join in the fun. People consume foods that produce heat, including sweet potatoes, yam, sesame laddoos, and sel roti, on this particular day. During this event, the married daughters and their husbands go to their parents’ houses for three days in order to ask for blessings. Today, the Magar community plays the archery game. All around the nation, several parades and melas are planned.

The Significance of Maghe Sankranti

Maghe Sankranti is widely commemorated with great reverence across Nepalese culture. It is considered the start of a prosperous stage for harvest. Hindu customs state that numerous holy texts also uphold Maghe Sankranti’s devotion. Maghe Sankranti’s significance unites the community and the family.

Many ethnic groups celebrate Maghe Sankranti. The treats cooked on this day differ from community to community. Additionally, this restores traditional Nepali values like happy festivities and family ties. Family ties and social harmony are greatly enhanced by this celebration. People celebrate this day with great enthusiasm and passion.

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