Makar - Sign of Capricorn
Sankranti - The day that the sun moves from one Zodiac to another.
Uttarayan - Winter Solstice / Transition to the Northern Hemisphere
This festival is the celebration when the Sun enters the zodiac of Capricorn. According to Hindus this takes place on the 14th January. About 80 years ago it used to occur on the 13th January and in the future it will move forward to the 15th, 16th and so on. This is due to the movement of the Earth with regards to the Sun. This festival is based on the Sun and not on the Moon like all others and for this reason the dates are for the English Calendar.
The Sun's transition into other zodiacs occurs, however only this transition into Makar is considered auspicious because here the sun moves from South to North, form the tropic of Cancer to the tropic of Capricorn. The south is considered to Lord Yama's path whilst the north is considered to be the path to Mukti (salvation). Hence it signifies a fresh start, and it is believed that the Sun God rides his chariot, Drawn by seven horses, from the southern skies to the North during this time. In the Bhagwad Gita, Bhishma, who was wounded in battle, lay on the bed of arrows waiting for the northward journey of the sun before choosing to die.
On this day we offer dhan and thank Bhagwan for all that He has given us. We also pray to Suryanarayan for providing all that sustains life on our earth. We cleanse our homes and our lives of all ill will. In India many pilgrims bathe at the Triveni Sangam that is the confluence of the three holy Rivers, Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati to cleanse their souls. People in the North of India fly spectacular Kites to mark the coming of the new Era and the change of season from winter to, clearer skies and longer and warmer days.