Sunday, August 28, 2011
Makar Sankranti ~ Uttarayan (उत्तरायण)
The movement of the earth from one zodiac sign into another is called Sankranti and as the Sun moves into the Capricorn zodiac known as Makar in Hindi, this occasion is named as Makar Sankranti in the Indian context. It is one of the few Hindu Indian festivals which are celebrated on 14 January every year. According to the Hindu scriptures the movement of Sun is two fold, Uttarayan and Dakshinaya. The word ‘Ayan’ means movement. On Makar Sankranti, Sun travels from Southernmost point (Dakshinayan) to the northernmost point (uttarayan). Uttarayan (उत्तरायण), is the six-month period between Makar Sankranti (January 14) and Karka Sankranti (July 14), when the sun travels towards the north on the celestial sphere. The period from 14th July to 14th January is known as Dakshinayan (दक्षिणायण). The starting of Uttarayan is celebrated as Makara Sankranti throughout India.
Sankranti is the Sanskrit word in Indian Astrology which refers to the transmigration of the Sun from one Rashi (sign of the zodiac) to another. Hence there are twelve such sankrantis in one year. However, the Sankranti festival usually refers to Makara Sankaranti, the transition of the Sun from Sagittarius to Capricorn. Uttarayan, literally meaning northward journey of Sun.
Considering the Winter Solstice marks the beginning of the gradual increase of the duration of the day. Scientifically, the shortest day of the year is around December 21–22 after which the days begin to get longer, hence actual Winter Solstice begins on December 21 or December 22 when the tropical sun enters Makara rashi. Hence actual Uttarayana is December 21. Sankranti as per current scientific evidence should fall on 21st of December. While the traditional Indian Calendar is based on lunar positions, Sankranti is a solar event. So while dates of all Hindu festivals keep changing as per the Gregorian calendar, the date of Makar Sankranti remains constant over a long term, 14 January. Makar Sankranti is celebrated in the Hindu Calendar month of Magha.
Makar Sankranti is regarded as the beginning of an auspicious phase in Indian culture. It is said as the 'holy phase of transition'. It marks the end of an inauspicious phase which according to the Hindu calendar begins around mid-December. It is believed that any auspicious and sacred ritual can be sanctified in any Hindu family, this day onwards. Scientifically, this day marks the beginning of warmer and longer days compared to the nights. In other words, Sankranti marks the termination of winter season and beginning of a new harvest or spring season.
Makara Sankranti identifies a period of enlightenment, peace, prosperity and happiness followed by a period of darkness, ignorance and viciousness with immense sorrow. Entry of sun in Capricorn sign is the beginning of a new life. The six months of northern movement of the sun is followed by six months of southern movement. The Sun moves from South to North during Uttarayan. According to astrology the six months period of the movement of Sun from Capricorn to Gemini zodiac, is called Uttarayan. According to Hindu Panchang the period of ‘Magh’ to ‘Aasad’ month is known as Uttarayan. Out of six seasons, the winter, spring and summer falls during Uttarayan. The duration of days starts increasing and that of night starts shortening during uttarayan. The Vedic scriptures regard the period of utterayan as the period of deities. Bhisham pitamah waited for Uttarayan to proceed for his heavenly abode. The Holy River Ganga also touched the earth on this divine day. This day, Gods wake up after sleeping for 6 months.
According to the astrology, people who are not getting the favorable results of sun and Saturn should observe the fast of Makar Sankranthi. They should give donations of sun and Saturn products. Also, people who don’t have good relationship with father or son should observe this fast and give donations. No life can be imagined on earth without sun. Doing Surya Namaskar and offering water to sun everyday, increases fortune and paternal happiness. This day is also called the Surya Upasana Day. Motive behind using and donating Til and Ladoos made of jaggery, on the day of Makar Sankranthi is the same as above. According to astrology, Til is the food of Saturn and jaggery is the food of sun. Til is the producer of oil, that’s why people on this day have food items made of Til and jaggery to please Saturn and sun. On this day there is a tradition of donating Til, blanket, winters clothes, Amla etc.