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The Sun enters the Makara raasi (the zodiac sign of Capricorn – the goat), on Sankranti day, signifying the onset of Uttarayana Punyakalam. Many a traditional folk form add glory to the festive scenario.
The following has been translated from an article in Sadachara Vybhavam of the great Vaishnava devotee Sripad Madhvacharya.
Today is “Makara Sankranti” which is celebrated when the Sun begins the northward journey, marking the beginning of the “uttaraayana punyakaalam”. Sun enters the sign of “Makara”, (Capricorn) from Cancer at this time. (This is also called equinox, when the day and nights are exactly the same). Starting this day, the duration of day starts to increase until “dakshiNaayanam” comes. Makara Sankranti signifies two things. One is the changing path of Sun and other is the beginning of “Uttarayana Punyakaala” Makara literally means “Capricorn” and sankranti means “change” or ‘sankramaNa’ literally means ‘crossing’.