It is a confluence of two words SAN + KRANTHI. SAN means plenty, good and come together. Kranthi means radical change. Sankranthi means plenty of good change.
Sankranthi is nothing but sacred change – occurs every month as the Sun moves from one house of the Zodiac to another. But special sacredness attaches to the movement of the Sun to Capricorn (Makara – Sankranthi). The trees, the plants, herbs and the nature are subjected to rough rainy season, the autumn and the freezing cool atmosphere that normally exists in Dakshinaayana.
There are 12 sankramanaas in a year. Makara Sankranthi has different names in different places: It is Makara Sankranthi in Karnataka, Andhra, Maharashtra, etc. It is called as Pongal in Tamilnadu, Makara Vilakku in Kerala, Maaghi in Haryana, Punjab, etc.
One year of the human year is one day for Gods. For Gods, it is night during Dakshinaayana and it is Day during Uttaraayana.
SIGNIFICANCE OF UTTARAYANA PUNYAKALA
It is said that Uttaraayana represents Devathas and Dakshinayana represents Pithrus and the significance is to seek the blessings of both at this transit time. Uttaraayana is the day time and Dakshinaayana is the night time for Devathas. In this Universe it is said that, Vaikunta the abode of the Supreme Lord Sri Maha Vishnu is in the Northern direction (Uttara) and the time of movement of Sun in the direction of Vaikunta is believed to be incredibly celestial and sacred.
Uttaraayana or Dakshinaayana comprising of six months each is the time taken by the Sun to travel from one house to the other during these periods. Starting from ಮಕರ ರಾಶಿ (Capricorn) up to ಮಿಥುನ (Gemini), the travel of Sun is called as Uttaraayana and starting from ಕರ್ಕಾಟಕ (Cancer) up to ಧನು, (Sagittarius) it is known as Dakshinaayana.
We all know that Dakshina means South direction and ಆಯನ means movement. The movement of Sun in the Southern direction is called as Dakshinaayana.
When the period of Uttaraayana ends, Dakshinaayana begins. Uttaraayana welcomes the spring season. The temperate weather, the balanced season, the harvest, the good health that man enjoys, the granary that is being filled with so many yields after hard work etc are all the characteristics of the Uttaraayana. That is why it is named as Punyakaala.
Ayana means Movement. (Path). The sun starts changing his path leaning towards Uttara. Gods will be having day and the daithyaas (demons) will be having night during the Uttaraayana.
Black is given special importance during Makara Sankranthi. Black colour Sesame – Ellu Bella is distributed among friends and relatives. Delicacies made of Ellu Bella are also eaten on the day. The main reason why Ellu Bella is used because it is widely believed that sesame contains prosperities that keeps the body healthy and warm during Sankranti period. Another reason is that Makara Sankramana swaroopa or the personified deity associated with Makara raashi is black in colour.
Ellu, Jaggery – Bella, sugar doll (sakkarey acchu), sweet pumpkin; sugar cane (kabbu), dakshiney, thaambula to be distributed during Makara Sankramana. Sakkare acchu will be of different shapes like various weapons, various vehicles, various animals like elephant, tiger, lion, ass, horse, dog, etc. Making of different types of sakkarey acchu is for getting peace in the families of friends and relatives.