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India gears up for winter solstice festivals
The festival of Makar Sankranti that marks the first day of Sun's transit into the Makar or Capricorn and heralds the start of longer days will be celebrated on January 14. In Rajasthan and Gujarat, the kite festival is also celebrated on this day.

Many will be celebrating the festival by flying kites to enjoy and get some winter sun. The enthusiasts will get outdoors or go to rooftops in early hours to feel the warmth of the morning sun and make their kites soar high. I follow the tradition of making the kites with my own hands. I have made a red and a blue kite and had a small trial of flying. Now, I will fly it on the morning of January 14.

However, it is the solar festival, known by different names such as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Pedda Panduga in Andhra Pradesh, Bihu in Assam, Magha Mela in parts of central and north India, and Makar Sankranti in the western India. In north India, the sweets from sesame or 'til' and jaggery or 'gur' are eaten to get warm.

The festival is associated with religious and spiritual practices. People worship the Sun God and take a holy dip in rivers, especially Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery. Where rivers are not around, believers take a dip in sacred tanks and lakes to absolve themselves of past sins and make a fresh pious beginning for peace, progress and prosperity. They also pray to the Sun God to express gratitude for their successes and prosperity.

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