Maghe Sankranti festival is one of the major festivals celebrated in the month of Magh (According to the Bikram Sambat calendar or about 14th January). The festival is also known as Makar Sankranti as well. It is celebrated in Nepal as the beginning of the auspicious month of Magh. The festival is considered to be the beginning of warmer days in comparison to the cold month of Poush (December). It is believed that from this day the sun starts to move toward the Northern hemisphere. It is a solstice festival celebrated in Nepal.
Hindu followers take holy baths during this festival in the auspicious and religious rivers in Nepal. Some of the major holy river locations of Nepal are Shankamul on the Bagmati River, Gandaki/Narayani River in the Triveni, Devghat in Chitwan, Ridi on Kaligandaki, and in the Koshi River basin at Dolalghat on the Sunkoshi. People worship Lord Vishnu and organize Pujas, and read Hindu holy epic Bhagavad Gita.
Families get together on the first of Magh and eat meals together. They do share Til Laddoo, Ghee, Sweet potatoes during this festive occasion. The priest wishes good health and a better future for all family members. The Brahmins and Chhetris community of Nepal celebrate the month of Magh by inviting their married daughters and close relatives to their home and offer them special meals and best wishes.
Maghi Festival for the Tharu Communities
The special ethnic community of Nepal, Tharu community, celebrates this festival with huge importance. They call the first of Magh as “Maghi”. The first of Magh is also considered as the beginning of Tharu New Year. Maghi is also the Harvest festival of Tharus and people of Terai. They celebrate Maghi as a joyful time after the heavy fieldwork. They prepare varieties of meals, beverages and meats and celebrate it by gathering their family members and community. The Maghi is the weeklong festival of Tharus. During the festival, they perform their cultural dances, dress up in the traditional Tharu wear, eat and drink with their near ones.
The people from Magar community also celebrate Makar Sankranti with high importance. They invite their married daughters to home for the festivities and even worship. Some delicacies and sweet potatoes are eaten on this auspicious occasion.
Bullfighting festival in Nuwakot
In Nuwakot, during the month of Magh, a bullfighting festival is organized. Tamed bulls are prepared for fighting and many spectators participate to observe the popular festival of this region in Nuwakot. In this festival, no people are involved in the ground. This is only a bull-and-bull fight. However, provocation out of the field can be seen.
Photo by Neesha Bhandari
Maghe Sankranti festival is celebrated all over the country with great importance. The importance of this day is also described in Hindu epics like Mahabharata. On this day people worship the Sun god, regarded as the symbol of divinity and wisdom. This festival holds a huge religious and historical significance in Nepal.
Maghe Sankranti – As the transition phase
Cited as the ‘holy phase of transition’ accompanied by some cultural and religious values, Makar Sankranti is highly revered in some parts, mainly the plains, of Nepal. The major festival of Tharus, Maghi, also falls on the same date. It is also valued as the time of harvest when Tharu people finish all the fieldwork and get back to their normal lifestyle, celebrating the hard work and enjoying this festival along with some festivities. It also embarks the auspicious time when the severe cold gets dragged down and onwards warmer days begin. In the Mountainous region of Nepal, the Maghe Sankranti festival is celebrated with some delicacies and enjoyment accompanied by dances and folklore. Also, In the Terai region, Tharus and Madhesi communities celebrate it as the celebration after the harvest.
On the occasion of Maghe Sankranti, devotees gather around the holy rivers and take bath there. The feasts with special meals such as Yam, Khichadi, Butter, Chaku etc. are prepared to share the joy and happiness around. The Newar community, inhabitants of Kathmandu valley, celebrate Makar Sankranti as Gheu Chaku Sallhu. The relishing delicacies make it a more interesting and mind-blowing celebration in this community.
Importance of Maghe Sankranti festival
The importance of Maghe Sankranti is basically a bond development among the family members and community. The joyous celebration on this particular day is highly venerated in Nepal. Some religious books also inscribe the importance of Maghe Sankranti as per the Hindu traditions. The greatest Mahabharata states that Bhisma Pitamaha, who has immense power and also got the blessings to have control over his own death, chose to die on this day. So, it is believed that those people who die on this day attain Moksha, liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth.
The Huge religious merits among the diverse ethnic communities celebrate the Maghe Sankranti in their own way. The delicacies differ from community to community. This also features the cultural attributes of Nepalese, encompassing family bonds and joyous celebration.