According to the Hindus, the Sun enters the sign of Makara (Capricorn) in the middle of January. It then moves northwards after completing its six-monthly southern course. The beginning of the Sun's northern course, called Uttarayana, is hailed as an auspicious period. Makara Sankranti, which falls sometime in the middle of January, is therefore considered very sacred.
In Maharashtra, a special kind of sweet called til-gud is prepared. This is exchanged with friends with the greeting:
'Til-gud ghya, god god bola'
('Accept sugared til and speak sweet words.')
The people of Assam celebrates Makara Sankranti as Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu. The word bhoga means eating or enjoyment. Harvesting is nearly over and the Assamese look forward to a period of plenty. On the eve of Makara Sankranti, the Assamese raise temple-like structures of fire-wood (majis) and the whole night is spent in feasting, merry-making, singing and dancing. Rice cakes and fish form the main items of the feast. Next morning people bathe before sun-rise, and the majis is lit ceremonially. Half-burnt pieces of firewood are picked up from it and taken home.
In the Punjab, where December and January are the coldest months of the year, huge bonfires are lit on the eve of Makara Sankranti and celebrated as Lohri. The family members and friends gather round the bonfire, throw rice and sweets into the flames and sing joyful songs.