The exact origin of the festival is unknown. However, it can be traced back to the times of the Aryans who worshiped the Gods to save and protect them from the harsh and cold winters.
Most of the legends that surround Makar Sankranti involve the movement of the Sun from the Southern to the Northern hemisphere, from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn. It is also known as the harvest festival.
The Lord Krishna Legend
Makar Sankranti or ‘Bhogi’ as it is called in Andhra Pradesh also has a tale from the antics of Lord Krishna. Apparently, on the Bhogi day, Lord Krishna asked his cow herd friends to worship the Govardhan Mountain instead of Lord Indra.
Lord Indra felt deeply insulted and in a fit of rage sent heavy clouds to cause thunder, lightning, rain and floods. In order to protect the farmers and their cattle, Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhan Mountain on his last finger and stopped the havoc.
The vane Indra, realizing his mistake begged for Lord Krishna’s forgiveness and Lord Krishna in turn granted the worship of Indra on Bhogi day.
The Lord Shiva Legend
There is one legend associated with the worship of animals during Makar Sankranti.
One day, Lord Shiva asked his bull Nandi to go to the earth and deliver a message to the disciples. The message was to “have an oil bath every day and food once a month.”
However, poor Nandi got confused with the message and told the worshippers that Lord Shiva had asked them to “have an oil bath once a month, and food every day.”
When Shiva learnt of this, he was enraged and ordered Nandi to stay back on earth and help the poor farmers to plough the fields, since they would now need to produce more grains in order to be able to eat every day.
The Legend According to the Puranas
In the Puranas, there is a mention of the Sun God visiting the house of his son, Shani who is the ruler of the Makar Rashi. The father – son duo do not really get along very well but the Sun God still makes it a point to visit his beloved Shani at least once a year and stays with him for a month.
Therefore, there is a special emphasis placed on the father- son relationship during this period and it is the son who is expected to shoulder the responsibilities of carrying forward the family name and legacy and his father’s dreams.
The Lord Vishnu Legend
It is also believed that on this day Lord Vishnu ended the rising terrorism of the Asuras by killing them and burying their heads under the Mandar Parvat.
Thus, it symbolizes the end of negativity and evil in life and the beginning of an era of righteous living.
According to folklore, any boy or girl who takes a bath at any of the holy places will be blessed with a charming and beautiful partner. Another belief associated with the holy dip is that Lord Vishnu himself comes down to take a dip in the Triveni Sangam and therefore anyone who bathes there is blessed with his grace.
Thus, though the exact origins may be unknown but people in different parts of the country celebrate this wonderful festival with a lot of gusto believing in a legend that has the highest meaning and significance to them.
http://www.festivalsofindia.in/makarsankranti/Legends.aspx (please do visit it if you wish to know 4 more reasons for celebrating Diwali)