It is celebrated differently across regions of India.
The festival, Sankranti (మకర సంక్రాంతి), is celebrated for four days in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana:
The day preceding Makara Sankranti is called Bhoghi (భోగి). This is when people discard old and derelict things and concentrate on new things causing change or transformation. At dawn, people light a bonfire with logs of wood, other solid fuels and wooden furniture that are no longer useful. The disposal of derelict things is where all old habits, vices, attachment to relations and material things are sacrificed in the fire of the knowledge of Rudra, known as the "Rudra Gita Gyana Yagna". It represents realization, transformation and purification of the soul by imbibing and inculcating divine virtues.
In many families, infants and children (usually less than three years old) are showered with the Indian jujube fruit Ziziphus mauritiana, called "Regi Pandlu" in Telugu. It is believed that doing this protects the children from the evil eye. Sweets in generous quantities are prepared and distributed. It is a time for families to congregate. Landlords give gifts of food, clothes and money to their workforce.
The second day is Makara Sankranti. People wear new clothes, pray to God, and make offerings of traditional food to ancestors who have died. They also make beautiful and ornate drawings and patterns on the ground with chalk or flour, called "muggu" or "Rangoli" in Telugu, in front of their homes. These drawings are decorated with flowers, colours and small, hand-pressed piles of cow dung, called "gobbemma" (గొబ్బెమ్మ).
For this festival all families prepare Chakinalu, Nuvvula Appalu, Gare Appalu or Katte Appalu or karam appalu, Madugulu (Jantikalu), Bellam Appalu, kudumulu, Ariselu, Appalu (a sweet made of jaggery and rice flour) dappalam (a dish made with pumpkin and other vegetables) and make an offering to God.
On the day after Makara Sankranti, the animal kingdom is remembered and, in particular, cows. Girls feed the animals, birds and fish as a symbol of sharing. Travel is considered to be inappropriate, as these days are dedicated for re-union of the families. Sankranti in this sense demonstrates their strong cultural values as well as a time for change and transformation. And finally, gurus seek out their devotees to bestow blessings on them.
On the third day, Kanuma (కనుమ) is celebrated. Kanuma is very intimate to the hearts of farmers because it is the day for praying and showcasing their cattle with honor. Cattle are the symbolic indication of prosperity.Nowadays Kanuma is not celebrated as widely as it used to be, but it is an integral part of the Sankranti culture and is meant for thanksgiving to cattle.
The fourth day is called Mukkanuma (ముక్కనుమ) which is popular among the non-vegetarians of the society. On this day, farmers offer prayers to the elements (like soil, rain, fire for helping the harvest) and the (village) goddesses with their gifts which sometimes (and these days mainly) include animals.
People in Coastal Andhra do not eat any meat (or fish) during the first three days of the festival and do so only on the day of Mukkanuma.Kanuma, Mukkanuma and the day following Mukkanuma call for celebrations with union of families, friends, relatives followed by fun activities, which mainly include cock fighting, bullock/ox racing, kite flying, and ram (pottelu) fighting.
On this occasion, in every town and city, people play with kites and the sky is filled with beautiful kites. Children and elders enjoy this occasion.Another notable feature of the festival in Andhra Pradesh is the Haridasu who goes early in the morning around with a colourfully dressed cow, singing songs of Lord Vishnu (Hari) hence the name Haridasu (servant of Hari). It is a custom that he should not talk to anyone and only sing songs of Lord Vishnu when he goes to everyone's house.