Makar Sankranti is a festival celebrated as per the Sun’s rotation. It is said that the Sun transits every month into a specific Rashi (Zodiac sign) and this transit is called Sankraman. The transition of the Sun into the Makar Rashi (Capricorn) is called Makar Sankranti. From this day, the sun starts transitioning towards the north-east; that’s why from this day it’s called Uttarayan. It is during this period, the farmers harvest their crops and they enjoy the fruits of their hard work; thereby, making Makar Sankranti, the festival of farmers.
In Skanda Purana, there is a story related to this festival. As per this Purana, Lord Surya married Sandhya, the daughter of Vishwakarma. She was a loyal and loving wife who bore him three children named Vaivasvata Manu, Yama and Yamuna but with a lot of difficulties as she could not bear the heat of the Lord Sun.
Over time, Sandhya was determined to obtain the power to face her lord without any trouble. Sandhya’s urge to strengthen herself made her create a lady from her shadow who resembled her totally and she named her Chaya. Requesting Chaya to take care of her children and husband until she comes back with her new energy, Sandhya goes to her father and tells him her desire. Her father asks her not to pursue it as he feared Lord Surya’s (Sun) wrath and anger. Giving a deaf ear to her father, Sandhya goes to a jungle and takes the form of a mare before starting her penance of Lord Shiva.
Meanwhile, Chaya takes care of Sandhya’s family and not knowing the truth, Lord Surya leads a family life with Chaya. In due course, Chaya bore three children named Savarni Manu, Bhadra and Shani.
When Chaya was pregnant with Shani Dev, she did penance to Lord Shiva to make her child equally powerful to Lord Surya. As a result of her severe penance and Surya’s heat, Shani was born with a dark complexion. Seeing the child being so dark in colour, Lord Surya rejects the child as one of his children and betrays Chaya by throwing them out.
This action infuriated Shani so much that he cursed his father to suffer from leprosy. As cursed, Lord Surya suffered gravely until he was treated by Yama, his elder son. After recovering from his leprosy, Lord Surya burnt Shani’s house which is called Kumbha Rashi into ashes.
The next time when Lord Surya intends to burn down another house of Shani, Yama intervenes and asks his father to calm down and accept Shani as his son. At this time, Shani was in his second house called Makar Rashi. Listening to his son, Lord Surya visited Shani, who, feeling overwhelmed offered his father black sesame seeds and jaggery as they were the food he had at his home.
Pleased, Lord Surya gives a boon to Shani that whosoever offers him sesame seed on this day will be relieved from their forefathers’ debt. That’s why on Makar Sankranti people offer sesame seeds to Lord Surya and even distribute them to their near and dear ones. Following this incident, the relation between the father and the son had become so strong and beautiful that their anger and hate didn’t live much longer.