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Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious of Hindu festivals, celebrated widely across India and Nepal on 14 January. The day marks the sun's transition into the northern hemisphere, and hence, the arrival of spring and the harvest season in India.
The auspicious day is known by different names in different parts of India, commonly being referred to as 'Pongal' in Tamil Nadu and 'Lohri' in Punjab, which is celebrated the day before. The festival is also celebrated through a variety of different traditions, the most popular one being the flying of kites.
The tradition of flying kites came about in order to take advantage of the health benefits of the first sunshine after the winter season. People were encouraged to go outside or fly kites from their rooftops in the early morning sun, allowing them to soak up Vitamin D, which helps in fighting infections and sicknesses that are caused by the chilly winter months.
Although there isn't as much sunshine in the UK, the British in London are gathering to celebrate Makar Sankranti in a number of ways – with some even participating in the traditional kite flying games.
Traditional drummers, dancers and oil lamps at Harrow's Tamil Harvest Fest
Harrow's annual Tamil Harvest Fest is organised by the Harrow Tamil Community Association and the Harrow Council. This year the event will be celebrated on 16 January (Saturday) from 6-9pm at the Hounslow Civic Centre, with festivities including traditional Indian performances and, of course, traditional Indian food.
Councilor Sasi Suresh told the Harrow Times: "We are pleased to be working with the Tamil community to hold the Thai Pongal celebration in the borough where people in the community can come and celebrate together."
Kite flying at the Swaminarayan Satsang temple in Stanmore
For those who are looking to celebrate Makar Sankranti in the way it would be done in India, the Swaminarayan Satsang temple are giving you the chance to do just that. Understanding that the day isn't a Bank Holiday, as it is in India, the temple is hosting their kite flying festivities over the weekend. Families are invited to fly kites in the temple's car park from 11am to 12noon on 16 January (Saturday).
Educational celebration at King's College London
The stress of upcoming exams and deadlines has prevented Indian students at King's College London (KCL) from hosting a fun kite-flying celebration, however, the University's Hindu Society were determined to mark the auspicious day in some way.
The society, therefore, hosted an event to educate fellow students about the significance behind Makar Sankranti or "the Hindu harvest". Offering students tea and refreshments, society leaders encouraged students to destress by attending their event to gain a "deeper understanding of Hinduism" and the festivals of Makar Sankranti, Pongal and Lohri.
"We want to give students a comprehensive understanding of the meaning and reasons behind these celebrations," said Hiten Mistry, president of the KCL Hindu Society. "Students can also expect an Aarti (prayer ritual) to round off the session. We aim to create a home away from home for international and British Hindu students at King's College London."