Significance: The Sun enters the Makara raasi (the zodiac sign of Capricorn - the goat), on Sankranti day, signifying the onset of Uttarayana Punyakalam. Makara Sankranti signifies two things. One is the changing path of Sun and other is the beginning of "Uttarayana Punyakaala" Makara literally means "Capricorn" and sankranti means "change" or 'sankramaNa' literally means 'crossing'. On this day, it is said that Sun passes from one Zodiac sign to another.
Sankranti is celebrated as Makar, or Uttarayana, Sankranti, or Lohri, in the North, and as Pongal in the South. The festival is also called Til Sankranti or Kichri Sankranti, after its main ingredient or preparation.
This end of the winter solstice also coincides with the harvest season and cessation of the northeast monsoon in South India
Punjab celebrates Lohri by feasting on sweets made of jaggery, peanuts and sesame seeds, and making a symbolic bonfire of the departing winter.
In Maharashtra, people dress in new clothes and distribute sesame sweets. New brides are welcomed into the family with sugar ornaments and a turmeric-and-vermilion ceremony. In rural Maharashtra, feasts of the new harvest mark the festival. This is a special day for the women in Maharashtra when married women are invited for a get-together called "Haldi-Kumkoo" and given gifts of any utensil, which the woman of the house purchases on that day.
In Gujarat and other western states, people observe Uttarayana, when the winds change, by flying kites. The winter sky bursts into colour with thousands of paper kites. The festivities conclude with a winter feast. In Gujarat Sankrant is observed more or less in the same manner as in Maharashtra but with a difference that in Gujarat there is a custom of giving gifts to relatives. The elders in the family give gifts to the younger members of the family.
Assam celebrates the paddy harvest in winter with Magha or Bhogali Bihu. Pavilions with thatched roofs come up in the villages and there is feasting in the night. The pavilions are set afire in the morning. The festivities continue for a week.
The festival is also called Til Sankranti or Kichri Sankranti, after its main ingredient or preparation.
In Thanjavur, Madurai, and Thiruchirapalli, in Tamil Nadu, Pongal is marked by jallikattu, or bull fights. A money bag is tied to the horns of a bull, and the man who succeeds in tethering the beast to the tree gets the money and a prize.