The auspicious day of Makar Sankranti which falls in the Krishna paksha of Magha maas, in the month of January, is considered a very auspicious day, and marks the entering of the sun into the sign of Capricorn or ‘Makar’. Although in ancient times all Sankrantis were observed and celebrated, Makar sankranti is of special importance, as it also marks the beginning of the auspicious six month period of Uttarayan, the Sannyasa thithi of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and also the descent of the river Ganges on this earthly planet.
After the war on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, when Bhishma dev was lying on a bed of arrows and was about to leave his body, at that time he was waiting for the sun to enter into Uttarayan, as it is considered to be an auspicious time, and therefore it may be understood that he left his body on the auspicious day of Makar Sankranti while beholding the beautiful face of Lord Krishna in the holy place of Kurukshetra which is also known as Dharmakshetra.
This glorious day also marks the descent of mother Ganges on this earthly planet, after the austere penances performed by King Bhageerath with the aspiration to free his ancestors from the curse of Kapila rishi, who, at being falsely accused by the sixty thousand sons of King Sagar for stealing the sacrificial horse actually stolen by indra, cursed them to go to the Nether regions. After being pacified by their prayers, he proclaimed that the only way for their salvation would be if the river Ganges would descend from the heavenly planets and come down to the earth and upto the nether regions, then by being purified by her they shall be freed from the curse. After the austere penances of King Bhageerath, the most purifying Mother Ganges came down to the earth on the day of Maker Sankranti, and this descent of hers is celebrated till today in the form of Ganga Sagar Mela, when numerous pilgrims go to the Sagar islands in West Bengal and bathe in the holy confluence of the Ganga with the ocean.
Another significant event that took place on this day was the acceptance of the Sannyas order of life by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu for the purpose of preaching and propagating the path of devotional service and delivering all the fallen conditioned souls in this age of Kali. It was on this day that he left behind his widowed mother and young wife in Mayapur, and in the village of Katwa he renounced his Grhast ashram and accepted Sannyas from Shri Keshava Bharati, shaving his beautiful locks of hair and donning saffron cloths. Although, being the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one of his opulence is that he is the most renounced and therefore there was no need for him to accept the renounced order of Sannyas, yet seeing the faultfinding nature of the people and understanding that if he would accept the life of a renunciant then the general populace would be able give him the proper respect and refrain from committing offences at his lotus feet, he decided to take sannyas. Thereafter he inundated the entire universe with Krishna Bhakti and it is due to his causeless mercy alone that we are able to today tread the path of devotion under the guidance and following in the footsteps of his followers.
anarpita-carīṁ cirāt karuṇayāvatīrṇaḥ kalau
samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasāṁ sva-bhakti-śrīyam
sadā hṛdaya-kandare sphuratu vaḥ śacī-nandanaḥ
May that Lord who is known as the son of Śrīmatī Śacīdevī be transcendentally situated in the innermost core of your heart. Resplendent with the radiance of molten gold, He has descended in the Age of Kaliby His causeless mercy to bestow what no incarnation has ever offered before: the most elevated mellow of devotional service, the mellow of conjugal love.