Maghe Sankranti is the beginning of the holy month of Magh, usually the mid of January. It brings an end to the ill-omened month of Poush (mid-december) when all religious ceremonies are forbidden. Even if it is considered the coldest day of the year, it marks the coming of warmer weather and better days of health and fortune.
This day is said to be the most significant day for holy bathing despite the weather. This ritual usually takes place at the union of sacred rivers and streams. Sankhamole, on the banks of the holy Bagmati river, below Patan, is thought to be amongst the most sacred sites for this purpose, though there has been a decline in the fulfillment of this ritual in the recent years due to water pollution in the river. But people still go in the wee hours of dawn just to sprinkle themselves with the water. They pay homage to various deities specially the temple of Red Machindranath and Agima Ta.
In addition to holy bathing and worship of shrines, certain auspicious foods like till laddoos (seasame seeds ball cakes), chaku(molasys), ghee (clarified butter), sweet potatoes, khichari (mixture of rice and lentils) and green leaf spinach are taken on this day. Families come together and share these delights. Married daughters and families are invited to parental homes for festivities and blessings. Yet another occasion to renew family ties. Many homes have pujas (religious ceremonies) conducted by priests with chanting from holy books, for which they receive alms.
Like any other holy celebration Maghi Sankranti also has a legend of its own. It recalls that once a merchant from the town of Bhadgoan despite of his thriving business noticed that his supply of seasame seeds hadn't diminished. When looking into the matter he found an idol of the Lrod Vishnu hidden deep beneath the seeds. Since, then on this day the Til Madhav idol is worshipped with the belief that god will continue to be generous in the supply of food and wealth on the Bhadgoan community. It's also the day commemorating the death of Viswapitamaha, the elderly grandfather of two families of Pandavas and Kauravas, between whom the famous battle of Mahabharat took place. He was determined not to die until the way to the region of gods opened. While lying on the bed of arrows he discovered words of wisdom on life and death. Eventually, through his free will he succumbed to death. Hence it's believed that those who die on this day go to heaven, released from the burden of rebirth.
Maghi Sankranti, is yet another occasion which renews the faith of Nepalese people in the heavenly powers.
Article by Padmakshi Rana
Photograph collected from Min Bajracharya.