Maghe Sankranti (Nepali:माघे सङ्क्रान्ति, Mathili:माघि, Nepal Bhasa:घ्यःचाकु संल्हु) is a Nepalese festival observed on the first of Magh in the Vikram Sambat (B.S) calendar (about 14 January) bringing an end to the winter solstice containing month of Poush. Maghe Sankranti is similar to solstice festivals in other religious traditions.
“Sankranti” is the Sanskrit word in Eastern Astrology which refers to the transmigration of the Sun from one Rashi (sign of the zodiac) to another. In very simple word sangranti is the first day of Nepali calendar. Then obviously, there are 12 such sankrantis in a year. Makar Sankranti is the transition of the Sun from Dhanu rashi (Sagittarius) to Makara rashi (Capricorn). In hindu Astrology the sun position during the year is divided into 12 rashis (zodiac signs). It is however, very difficult to reconcile amonst Bikram Sambat months, Zodiac months and lunar calendar’s months. While the traditional Calendar is based on lunar positions, Sankranti is a solar event.
Hindus celebrate this festival by taking ritual dip in holy river confluences, most notably in Devghat, Chitwan. Families get together during the day and eat meals together. Sesame seed laddus, molasses, ghee, sweet potatoes and yam are included in the menu. People worship Lord Vishnu during the month by offering him pujas and reading the sacred Bhagwad Gita, also known as The Song of the Gods.
The first day of Magh is also celebrated in the Terai by the Tharu community as Maghi or New Year. It is a week long festival celebrated by getting together as a family and friends, attending community get together or mela, dressing up in the traditional Tharu wear, eating, drinking and making merry.
Bull fighting at Taruka Village
On the occasion of Maghe Sankranti, every year Taruka village of Nuwakot organizes Bull fight (Ox fight). It also believes that people dying this day will directly go to the heaven without suffering and get a rebirth.
Stories behind Maghe Sankranti
Maghe Shankranti has its legend. A Merchant of Bhadgaun (now Baktapur) was doing a good business. He had good sale of sesame, but the stock never ran out. He searched for the clue. Cleaning the stock pile he found the Idol of Lord Vishnu down beneath the seeds. Then after the Idol is being worshipped as Til Madhav Idol. It is believed worshipping the idol would bring supply of food, prosperity and wealth to Bhakatapur.
It is believed that Bhismapitamaha. He was the son of river Ganga and king Santanu in the Epic Mahabharata. He had control (Ikcha Mitru) in his death. (Mahabharat is the Hindu great epic, and world’s biggest epic ever written). This is the day when Bhisma was lying in the bed of arrows all hit by Arjun and discovered the words of wisdom of life and death. It is believed people dying this day go to heaven and get to be free from the suffering of life and death and rebirth.