Makar Sankrati is a Hindu holiday celebrating the sun god's ascendancy into the northern hemisphere. Unlike other holidays, Makar Sankrati is celebrated on the same day every year because it follows the solar calendar. Another name for the holiday is Uttarayan, which refers specifically to the day the sun begins its journey. Although it is celebrated throughout the country, specific traditions and rituals vary based on region.
The name "Makar Sankrati" refers to the sun's transition from Sagittarius to Capricorn. Uttarayan can also refer to the six-month journey of the sun's passage, which is a period that is also considered auspicious for anyone seeking to transcend the physical world. After Makar Sankrati, the days start becoming longer and warmer, marking the end of winter.
Makar Sankrati is also known as the festival of thanksgiving and is somewhat comparable to the western New Year's Day, when people resolve to start anew and move on from past failures. People appreciate each other and pay homage to the sun god, who generously gives life without accepting reward.
Makar Sankrati holds significant religious importance. In Indian mythology, the hero Maharaj Bhagirath managed to liberate and redeem the 60,000 sons of Maharaj Sagar on this day.