Makar Sakranti is the only festival celebrated according to the solar calendar and falls on January 14th. Literally Sakranti means to move from one place to another – to change direction. It is the time when the sun changes its direction and starts moving northward. The Winter Solstice came to an end and days become longer and brighter. This period of 6 months in which the sun travels northward is important for spiritual aspirants since it represents moving towards the spiritual goal – the Atam Gyana. That is also why Bhishma, the legendary hero from Mahabharata, and the grandfather of Pandavas, who was lying wounded on his "Bed of Arches", waited that day to finally depart from this world.
The sun means knowledge, spirituality and wisdom, and for those aspiring to develop spiritually Makar Sakranti is a reminder to gradually start moving from darkness into light and wisdom. To turn away from bad habits and move towards light, to grow in purity, wisdom and spirituality.
The day preceding Makar Sakranti is called the festival of Bhogi. On that day all old, useless, dirty and destroyed items are burned. All houses and yards are cleaned, which has a positive impact on health, since from that point the warmer part of the year begins, and the spreading of diseases is thus prevented. Symbolically, it is the cleaning of our minds from all old and impure habits, thinking and emotions. When we observe Makar Sakranti it means we want to bring change into our lives and we are ready to head towards the light. On this day Sannyas Dikshas are traditionally performed.