MĀGHĪ, Makara Saṅkrānti, the first day of the month of Māgh when, according to the Zodiac, the sun enters the house of Capricorn. It is observed in India as a winter solstice festival. The eve of Māghī is the common Indian festival of Lohṛī when bonfires are lit in Hindu homes to greet the birth of sons in the families and alms are distributed. In the morning, people go out for an early hour dip in nearby tanks. For Sikhs, Māghī means primarily the festival at Muktsar, a district town of the Punjab, in commemoration of the heroic fight of the Chālī Mukte, lit. the Forty Liberated Ones, who laid down their lives warding off an attack by an imperial army marching in pursuit of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh. The action took place near a pool of water, Khidrāṇe dī ḍhāb, on 29 December 1705 which corresponded to the last day of the solar month of Poh of the Bikramī year 1762 (although some chroniclers ascribe a later date i.e. Vaisākh 21, 1 762 Bk to it). The bodies were cremated the following day, the first of Māgh (hence the name of the festival), which now falls usually on the 13th of January.

         Following the custom of the Sikhs to observe their anniversaries of happy and tragic events alike, Māghī is celebrated with end-to-end recital of the Gurū Granth Sāhib and religious dīvāns in almost all gurdwārās. The largest assembly, however, takes place at Muktsar in the form of a big fair during which pilgrims take a dip in the sacred sarovar and visit several shrines connected with the historic battle. A mahallā or big march of pilgrims from the main shrine to Gurdwārā Ṭibbī Sāhib, sacred to Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, marks the conclusion of the three-day celebration.

S. S. Vañjārā Bedī