Maghe or Makar Sankranti is being observed throughout the country Tuesday. On the day, people of Hindu communities take holy dips into rivers and ponds, worship at various temples and relish delicacies like ghee, yam, Khichadi and sweets like Chaku and sweets made of sesame and molasses.
As per the astrological chart, this day is called as Makar Sankranti since the sun moves towards the northern hemisphere from this day onwards. On this day, the sun moves from the tropic of Capricorn to tropic of Cancer. Likewise, the days get longer from today onwards.
Maghe Sankranti is celebrated on the first day of Magh. Nepali people celebrate it as the beginning of the auspicious month of Magh. 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 weeklong 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.
The festival is a harbinger of longer and relatively warmer days in comparison to the cold month of Poush. On this day, the sun is believed to start moving toward the Northern Hemisphere. In that sense, Maghe Sankranti is similar to solstice festivals in other religious traditions.
A large number of devotees throng Devghat, Trishuli, Kaligandaki, Bagmati, Indrawati, Ridi, and other places on the river banks to take a holy bath and perform Shraddha.
Chairman of Nepal Calendar Determination Committee Prof Dr Ram Chandra Gautam told RSS that the time from Shrwan Sankranti to Maghe Sankranti is called Uttarayan since the sun moves towards the north.
"This period is considered the best one for holy bath, offerings, religious trips and fasting," he added.
On this day, a festival is organised at the Tilmadhav Narayan Temple at Taumadhi Tol, Bhaktapur and Puja of Deepakankar Buddha is performed. The Tharu Community observes this festival as the Maghi with much fanfare and gaiety for five consecutive days.
Likewise, the people in the Tarai belt mark this day as the festival of bath known as Nahan. It is also celebrated by the Tharus as Maghi or the New Year with much funfare.