Hindu Festivals are an exuberant celebration of peace and harmony and Makar Sankranti is no exception. It is an amalgamation of spirituality and science with great pageantry. Makar Sankranti is a major harvest festival celebrated in various parts of India. According to science, the winter solstice comes to an end where the transition of sun from the Tropic of Capricorn to the Tropic of Cancer or from Dakshinayana to Uttarayana commemorates the beginning of the harvest season.
Makar Sankranti identifies a period of enlightenment, peace, prosperity and happiness followed by a period of darkness, ignorance and viciousness with immense sorrow. The significance of sugarcane is also marked by a fact that life is a mixture of both good and bad, agony and ecstasy, bitter and sweet so on, which epitomises that life is an assortment of balances and the great balancing act is what makes an individual attain self-actualisation.
Makar Sankranti or Pongal in Tamil Nadu is celebrated in myriad ways. Since Sankranti marks the harvest season, the crops and grains that are grown signify prosperity and happiness. Sugarcane is usually distributed on this day along with sweets made of Til (sesame seeds), jaggery and groundnut. Til is said to be a nourishing agent for the body, while jaggery which is rich in minerals helps in digestion.
On Makar Sankranti or Pongal, there is an exchange of gifts with relatives and friends. This harvest festival reminds us to thank all who have contributed to our well being and of the world around us. Prayers of thanks and gratitude are offered to the Sun for a good harvest.
Sugarcane is considered spiritual on harvest festival at any part of the country. You can find sugarcane in Tamil Nadu (Pongal), Northern states (Sankranti), Punjab (Lodhi) to name a few. Sugarcane being the most important harvest of the season signifies prosperity and well being.
Sugarcane has many medical properties which is known to prevent cancer and strengthen the stomach, kidneys, liver and the reproductive organs.
Significance of sugarcane:
On a spiritual note, it is seen in the hands of Goddess Lalitha Tripura Sundari, who holds a goad, a noose, an arrow of flowers, a sugarcane and a bow, which represents the mind and the five sense objects, that controls the kama - lust, krodha - anger, lobh - greed, moha - emotional attachment, mada or ahankara -pride, matsarya - envy, jealousy.
The sugarcane which is firm and straight symbolises a stern and a balanced mind that is controlling the five senses and fostering positive thought in one's being.
It is also aimed at developing and nurturing a cordial relationship with family and friends. Underlying it all is the human instinct of joy, happiness and remembrance of the principle of the victory of good over evil in the constant struggle between them.
These are the various aspects of the spiritual significance of sugarcane in celebrating Makar Sankranti or Pongal, the Indian harvest festival. That is why, Pongal decorations and celebrations are incomplete without sticks of sugarcane.