Maghe Sankranti marks the sun travelling northwards to Makar Rashi (Capricorn) and is celebrated on the first day in the month of Magh as per the Bikram Sambat calendar. It is the end of Poush and winter solstice and people all over Nepal celebrate the transition of seasons, marking the ending cold winter days with the beginning of this festival. Street vendors are seen stationed besides busy roads and silent alley with something more than the routine vegetables they sell. Their baskets and trays are filled with Tarul (Yam), packets of Chaku (Molasses), Til ko laddu (black sesame seed fudge), Ghee (Clarified Butter) and spinach.
This festival is celebrated in different parts of Nepal and has a variety of names based on different cultures in Nepal. Maghi, Makar Sankranti, Maghe Sankranti, Ghya Chaku Salun, and many more names indicates this festival. For the Tharu community ‘Maghi’ is their biggest festival. Tharus of Kailali, Kanchanpur, Banke, Bardia and Dang also celebrate this day as the New year. In Newari culture, ‘Ghya Chaku Salun’ is observed by massaging one’s head and body with sesame oil, and eating the foods with sesame seeds, which is believed to make the body warmer and healthier in cold weather. They also remember the departed souls while sitting for the puja. Generally, Makar Sankranti, is celebrated by taking a dip in a holy water. There is also a tradition to worship Ajima and Rato Machindranath after holy bath. Feasting on the meals made of Ghee, Chaku and Tarul is common in all communities of Nepal.
Maghe Sakranti has different stories and legends of its origin. One story is about a merchant of Bhadgaon (now Bhaktapur) who was doing a good business in the sales of sesame. But, as his stock of sesame never ran out, he was shocked himself and started seeking why it was happening. While he was cleaning his stockpile, he found an idol of Lord Vishnu underneath the seeds. Since then, the idol is worshipped in the name of Til Mahadev. People believe that worshipping Til Mahadev would bring a good supply of food, wealth and prosperity in the lives of people in Bhaktapur.
Another legend behind celebrating this festival is written in the Mahabharata. According to the legend, Bhismapitama, the son of River Ganga and King Santanu had Iccha Mrityu, which means he could control his death. It is said that the festival falls on the day when he discovered the words of wisdom about life and death while lying in the bed of arrows hit by Arjuna.