Mesha Sankranti is celebrated as New Year as per the solar calendar. The sun transits from meena rashi to mesha rashi. It is celebrated in different forms and by different names across India. Pana Sankranti is the day of New Year in Odisha. In Tamil Nadu, it is celebrated as Puthandu. It falls on the same day; if Sankranti occurs before sunset, otherwise it is observed on the next day. In Bengal, Solar New Year is celebrated as Poila Baisakh on the next day of Sankranti. Mesha Sankranti is also celebrated as Vaisakh in Punjab and Bihu in Assam. There are 12 Sankranti in a year. Sun God is worshiped o the occasion of Sankranti and people perform charity as per status and economic capacity. It is believed that serving of the needful is praying to the God. The ten ghatis before as well as after the Sankranti time is considered auspicious for all sacred pujas and prayers.
Significance of Mesha Sankranti:
Mesha Sankranti is observed to mark the solar new year irrespective of when the regional new year is observed. Mesha Sankranti is a very important festival for Hindus. Devotees bathe in the river and make a pilgrimage to holy places. In Bihar, it is celebrated as Satuan which involves bathing and eating Sattu as well as Jaggery. The Sun god is also worshiped on this day. It is also known as Vaisakha Sankranti. In some regions also begin the regional new year on Mesha Sankranti.
In Uttrakhand, it is observed as Bikhoti Festival. People take a dip in the holy river. A popular custom involves beating symbolic stones representing demons with a stick is performed. The fair is celebrated in Sealdah, Bageshwar, and Dwarahat which involves singing and dancing. It is accompanied by local drums and other instruments.
Vishu of Kerala is considered a festival of light and fireworks. Other elements of Vishu include buying new clothes for the occasion, and Vishukkaineetam, the Vishu feast consisting of salty, sweet, sour and bitter food items in equal proportion. Feast items include Veppampoorasam, Mampazhappulissery, Vishu kanji and Vishu Katta’. People also observe Vishukkani which is “the first thing seen on the day of Vishu after waking up”. It consists of rice, fruits, and vegetables, betel leaves, yellow flowers - ‘konna’, holy texts, metal mirror, and coins.
Bohag Bihu marks the beginning of the Assamese New Year. It is celebrated seven days after Vishuva Sankranti of the month of Vaisakh or ‘Bohag’. The three types of Bihu, Rongali Bihu, Kongali Bihu, and Bhogali Bihu. Each festival recognizes a different agricultural cycle of the paddy crops.
Vaisakhi is celebrated in Punjab region. The fairs are held and Bhangra and Giddha folk dances take center stage on this day.
Pana Sankranti marks the new year in Odisha. Celebrations include filling a small pot with pana or a sweet drink of Mishri and water. People consume flour of horse gram, banana, and curd. Danda Nacha or Danda Nata of Odisha is a tribal dance which is performed to mark the new year.
The Bengali new year is celebrated a day after Mesha Sankranti which is known as Boishakh Sankrant. Pohela Boishakh is also known as Nobo Barsho. It is the first day of the Bengali month of Bongabdo. Fairs are organized to celebrate the event including the presentation of folk songs.
On this day, worshipping Lord Shiva, Hanuman, Vishnu and Maa Kali are considered auspicious. Devotees take a sacred bath in holy waters of Ganga, Jamuna, and Godavari. Several communities believe in preparing a special drink, which is called Pana. It is important for devotees to perform all the activities in the Punya Kaal mahurat to receive the benefits. Devotees spend the day eating satvik (clean freshly prepared vegetarian) food. Devotees chant strotas and hymns along with all other rituals.