Makara Sankranti is a day of celebration in India. According to ancient Indian tradition, Makara Sankranti is when the sun begins its six-month journey in the northern direction. This is known as uttarayan meaning "northerly direction."
On this day the sun is honored as the form of the Absolute, the embodiment of the supreme light that nourishes and sustains life. As Makara Sankranti heralds the return of light to the northern hemisphere, it is considered an auspicious time of change and transit.
In the Indian epic, the Mahabharata, the noble warrior Bhishma was mortally wounded in battle. Bhishma was the epitome of dharma, or righteousness, and he had been given the boon to choose the time of his death. He chose to lie waiting on his bed of arrows until the day the sun turned in the northern direction and his final journey would follow the path of light.
As he lay on the battle field, Bhishma taught his nephew, King Yudhisthira, how to rule the kingdom wisely and righteously. He also imparted to him the sacred text the Vishnu Sahasranam.
Makara Sankranti is observed as a time for renewal and giving joyfully. On this day, people give sesame seed laddus, saying “please accept this sweet laddu and let us speak sweetly with each other.” This exchange symbolizes the resolution to absolve past differences and to allow the spirit of friendship to guide one’s interactions.