Makar Sankranti is the first Hindu festival of the solar calendar and is celebrated with great devotion, zeal and fervor on 14 January each year. It falls on the day when the sun enters the zodiac sign of Makar (Capricorn) and when day and night are of equal duration. Offerings of rice and milk are made to Surya Dev, God Sun.
Makar Sankranti is a day of great significance and marks the beginning of auspicious times. The beginning of the period, when the sun travels northwards, is considered highly favorable for auspicious activities. It is celebrated as Pongal in the South, but in the North it is observed as Makar Sankranti. On this day, thousands of devotees take a holy dip in the Ganges and other holy streams. At Ganga Sagar, where the river Ganga enters the sea, a grand fair and festival is held on this day. Devotees in large numbers reach the Sagar Island in boats, and bathe there at a point where Ganga meets the sea. There, the pilgrims also visit the Ashram of sage Kapil, who according to our Puranas had burnt to ashes the sixty thousand sons of the King Sagar of Ayodhya. These sixty thousand dead princes were subsequently revived and made to ascend to heaven by the sacred waters of Divine Ganga, as She flowed over their ashes.
Makar Sankranti day (14th Jan) is also called 'Jagadguru Divas' and is extremely special and important, especially to the followers of Shree Kripaluji Maharaj. On this day in 1957, our beloved spiritual master was conferred in Varsanasi with the highest title 'Jagadguru' by the Kashi Vidvat Parishat, an apex body of all the supreme scholars and masters of India of the time. He was only 35 years old at the time.
In many cities in India and arond the world, the celebrations are huge. 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. Last year, Swami Nikhilanand of Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat was invited by Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (World Hindu Council), Gujarati Samaj of Greater Houston and Hindus of Greater Houston to be the "chief guest" at the National Makar Sankranti day festivities at George Bush Park in Houston and to inaugurate the Mass Surya Namaskara Yagya at the park, give a speech on the meaning of Makar Sankranti and participate in the kite flying festival (See press clippings above).
Swami Nikhilanand ji, disciple of Jagadguru Kripaluji Maharaj, will attend the festivities this year. If you are in the area, come and have a fun day of kite flying, yoga, music & games. Kite festival will take place on Sun, Jan 16th from 10am - 4pm at George Bush Park. In case of rain, the event will be held on Jan 23rd. Bring your own vegetarian picnic lunch. Event is being hosted by VHP America, Hindus of Houston & other organizations.
After the kite flying festival, you are welcome to attend two special programs in Houston, which will include kirtan and speech by Swami Nikhilanandji. The first one is a one day program from 12:30pm at Durga Bari temple (see event details), and the other is 7-day program from 7pm at Shirdi Sai Jalaram Mandir (see event details). Radhey Radhey
(Above: Swami Nikhilanand of JKP participating in the Makar Sankranti day kite flying festivities at George Bush Park in Houston. Click for larger size)
(Above: Swami Nikhilanand of JKP inaugurating the Surya Namaskara Yagya (Sun Salutation) at George Bush Park. The event was organized by Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (World Hindu Council), Gujarati Samaj of Greater Houston and Hindus of Greater Houston. Click for larger size)
Holy dip in the Ganges