Maghe Sankranti is the first day of the holy month Magh, January 15th as Gregorian calendar. Sankranti is a Sanskrit word, which in translation defines the transmigration of one Rashi (Zodiac Sign) to another. According to the Hindu Lunar calendar, the Sun travels to Makar Rashi (Capricorn) on this day. Devotees believe at the end of this day, the heart-wrenching winter shall come to end and warm weather will breeze prosperity and good health.
Maghe Sankranti is a day when people volunteer for holy bath (Makar Snan) in holy rivers. Bathing is normally performed in Triveni (where three rivers intersect). Even though this day, yet, suffers from freezing temperature, devotees do not hesitate to bathe and, later they pay homage to various deities like, Rato Machendranath and Agnimata.
On this day, Nepalese feast themselves with auspicious foods to keep their body warm. Food items like Til laddoos (sesame cakes), Chaku (molasses), Ghee (clarified butter), Sweet Potatoes, Khichari (mixture of rice and lentils) and green leaf spinach are favorites. People believe if they massage their body with Sesame oil or at least eating these auspicious food items will make their body healthier and warmer during the cold weather. Matter of fact, Maghe Sankranti is also known as Ghee Chaku day, named after the food items. Family members, neighbours and married daughters are invited and called upon to their parental house for blessings, feast, and moreover as a big reunion.
Maghe Sankranti is a biggest festival among Tharu community, one of the native tribes of Nepal. Rather Maghe Sankranti, they prefer to call it just Maghi. However, the joy and celebration is very much identical. On this day – head of the house assigns duties and responsibilities to family member and, alongside, mistakes are discussed and solved during the festival.
Maghe Sankranti has its own legend. According to the myth, successful sesame (Til) merchant of Bhadgaun (now Baktapur) – whose stock never ran out – discovers the idol of Lord Vishnu while cleaning the stock pile of seeds. He, then, started worshipping the idol as Til Mahadev in this belief that worshipping the idol would bring eternal supply of food, prosperity and wealth to Bhakatapur.
Maghe Sankranti is also the precise day when Bhismapitamaha, grandfather of two families Kauravas and Pandavs, and also the son of Ganga (Ganges River) and king Santanu, dies in the famous battle of Epic Mahabharata. This is the day when Bhisma was lying on the bed of arrows, on the verge of life and death, all shoot by his grandson Arjuna. Maghe Sankranti is the day when Bhismapitamaha discovered the words of wisdom of life and death.
It is believed that if person dies on Maghe Sankranti, deceased shall achieve heaven; soul will procure peace and blessed by rebirth.