Maghe Sankranti & the Winter Farewell Feast of Nepali People

11 Jan

Nepal is a melting pot of cultures where festivals are celebrated with frenetic street processions, every nook devouring festive food, and cacophony of music. In the chilling month of Magh (January) Nepal celebrates the auspicious Maghe Sankranti with warmth across the country. The festival denotes its significance as it welcomes the longer days after cold winters and the start of the propitious phase in Nepal’s culture. According to astrological beliefs, on this day the sun develops from one zodiac sign into another which is called Sankranti and the sun settles into the Capricorn zodiacal sign known as Makar, hence being known as Makar (Maghe in other terms) Sankranti. People begin the celebration of this day by taking bath in the morning (Makar snan) in the rivers, generally performed in Triveni in the southern part of central Nepal. On this day people believe the sun is the symbol of power and purity. The Kankai River which is in Jhapa is acclaimed for holy Makar Snan.

On this vibrant occasion at Nuwakot district, the day begins with grand events like bullfighting. The festival even though is honored by all people of Nepal, for the Tharu community it is one of the biggest festivals. Tharu community, call the first of Magh as “Maaghi”. The first of Magh is also considered as the beginning of Tharu New Year. Maghi is also the Harvest Festival of Tharus and the people of Terai. They celebrate Maaghi as a joyful time after the heavy fieldwork. People from Tharu and Magar communities wear traditional outfits marking the celebration of Maghe Sankranti. On this day people follow the customary tradition to eat Ghyeu (clarified butter), Chaaku (molasses), Til ko Laddu (sesame seed candy) , and tarul (yam), among other food items.

The Newar community observes this festival as ‘Ghyeu Chaaku Sanhu’ by having Ghyeu (clarified butter), Chaaku (molasses) with Samay Baji (Newar delicacy with beaten rice and other varieties), and remembering the departed souls. According to the old wives tales these dishes provide warmth in winter and are beneficial to the body. Nepal showcases diverse ethnic communities celebrating the Maghe Sankranti in their own way. The delicacies differ from community to community. This tradition features the cultural attributes of Nepali people, encompassing the family bonds and joyous celebration.

The death anniversary of Bhishma Pitamah is observed during Magha Shukla Ashtami. The day is also known as Bhishma Ashtami and indisputably the death anniversary of Bhishma Pitamah. According to the legendary epic of Mahabharata, on this day, Bhishma waited for 58 days before leaving his body. Bhishma Pitamah left his body on the day when the Lord Surya started moving northwards after completing six month period of Dakshina. It is believed that people who die on this day go to heaven and get to be free from the suffering of life and death and rebirth ultimately achieving Moksha.

Source: Nepal Now