8. Makara Shankranti-7.
On the same day, young girls prepare various special dishes—sweet rice, sour rice, rice with coconut—and take them to the bank of a river or tank.
They lay some leaves on the ground and place on them balls of the various preparations for the fish, birds, and other creatures.
It is an extremely colourful ceremony.
The crows come down in large numbers and partake of the food.
All the time a valuable lesson is driven into our minds—“Share what you have with all”.
The crow will call others before beginning to eat.
Both these days, which are family re-union days, are regarded as being inauspicious for travel.
This is to prevent us from going away from home on those days.
When you celebrate the Shankranti or Pongal in this manner, your sense of value changes.
You begin to understand that your real wealth is the goodwill and friendship of your relatives, friends, neighbours and servants; that your wealth is the land on which your food grows, the cattle which help you in agriculture, and the cow which gives you milk.
You begin to have greater love and respect for them and for all living beings—the crows, the fish and all other creatures.
In Maharashtra and in North India, spiritual aspirants attach much importance to Makara Shankranti.
It is the season chosen by the Guru for bestowing his Grace on the disciple.
In the South, too, it should be noted that it was about this time that Mahadeva favoured several of the Rishis by blessing them with His beatific vision.
Next : 9. Raksha Bandhan
To be continued ...