Mai Samay Hoon!
I wanted to put up this blog during Sankaranti, Pongal … But could not catch up with Time … Possibly just like the Calendars / Panchangams I use at home … Today, I mull upon 2 Hindu Festivals – Makara Sankranti / Pongal and Ugadi.
Makara Sankranti marks the transition of the sun into the zodiacal sign of Makara (Capricorn) on its celestial path. In the year 2016 it was celebrated on the January 15th, 2016.
Makar Sankranti Origin and Significance:
Makar Sankranti is a significant day as the Sun enters Makar Rashi (i.e. Capricorn zodiac) as per Vedic astrology. Although all twelve days in Hindu calendar when Surya Deva transits a Rashi are considered significant for worshipping Surya Deva, but the day when Surya Deva starts moving into Makar Rashi is considered the most auspicious of all Sankrantis.
Makara Sankranti is also celebrated as Uttarayana. The word Uttarayana is combination of Uttara and Ayana which mean north and movement respectively. Hence, by definition, Uttarayana means the Northwards movement of Sun (of course as seen from the earth). Which occurs on the day of December Solstice! Sol-stice. When Sun stands still briefly and assumes movement in the opposite direction.
In the Northern Hemisphere and of course India, Solstice and Uttarayana occurred on 21st December, 2016 at 16.14 hours (Indian Standard Time)
Now, there are 2 astronomical reasons for which Sankranti is celebrated:
- Sun entering the Zodiac / Constellation of Capricorn – January 20, 2016
- Beginning of the Northwards Movement of the Sun – December 21, 2015
But, Makara Sankranti, Pongal, Uttarayana – All were celebreated on January 15, 2016
Now, I move on to Ugadi …
The name Yugadi or Ugadi is derived from the Sanskrit words yuga (age) and ādi (beginning): “the beginning of a new age” – A new Year in this context.
The Yugadi, as per Bhāskara-2 lunar calculations in the 12th century falls on the sunrise immediately after the first new moon after Sun crosses the celestial equator from south to north on the spring equinox and … Enters the First Point of Aries!
Astronomy agrees with that ! And full moon was on 23rd of March. And NEW MOON falls on the 8th of April !!! Bang ON !!! Ugadi is on the 8th April of 2016 ! I was confused about it till I started writing this down.
But here again – there are 2 astronomical aspects for which Ugadi could be celebrated:
- The Equinox – Which is an astronomical event in which the plane of Earth’s equator passes through the centre of the Sun. When day and night are of approximately equal duration all over the planet – This occured on the 20th of March in 2016.
- The first point of Aries - Over its year-long journey through the constellations, when the Sun enters the constellation / zodiac of Aries – This will occur on 18th April in the year 2016
If Aries is considered as the beginning of the Zodiac – Then Yugadi should be on the 18th of April this year right?
This is where some basic Astronomy came to my aid …
As the Earth orbits the sun, the sun appears to move against the background stars, which form different constellations. It’s not that the sun is actually moving. The motion is entirely an illusion caused by the Earth’s own motion around our Sun. The sun, relative to distant background stars drifts in an easterly direction from day to day. Over the course of a year, the sun appears to be in front of, or “in”, different constellations / Zodiacs – Aries to Pisces – (Approximately 28 days in each Constellation. (Stay with me please) …
What makes this complicated is that the North Pole is not always pointing in the same direction relative to the backdrop stars. Our Earth spins and wobbles like a top. A wobbling Earth makes the North Pole trace out a circle on the celestial sphere. Now, the wobble is quite slow—it takes 26,000 years to wobble around once.
Over the course of one orbit around the sun, the direction of the Earth’s axis drifts ever so slightly. But wait about 2000 years, and the sun will be sitting in an entirely different constellation!
The Astrological signs more or less aligned with their corresponding constellations when the modern Western Zodiac was defined about 2,000 years ago. But in the intervening centuries, the slow wobble of the Earth’s axis has caused the solstice and equinox points to shift roughly 30 degrees westward relative to the constellations! At present, signs and constellations are about one calendar month off. In another two thousand years or so, they’ll be about two months off.
For eg., (as quoted by drik panchangam author) - thousands years before (precisely in year 285 C.E. as per Lahiri Ayanamsha) the day of Makar Sankranti was coinciding with the day of Uttarayana. And we continue to celebrate !
- Neither the Sun entering Capricorn
- Not the beginning or Sun’s northwards movement
Or, during the time of Bhaskara-2, is it possible that the Sun crossed the celestial equator from south to north on the March Equinox and entered the First Point of Aries on that day? And we celebrate Ugadi:
- Neither at the beginning of Aries
- Nor at the Equinox
Somewhere, lost in time, jargon, lack of Scientific Support, unwillingness to change … or all of it. Celebrating, indeed ! But not knowing what I am celebrating
‘Seriously Lost in Time’
And then, there’s a 3rd confusion – The Hindu Calendars still consider Ugadi on Chaitra Shuddha Padyami – The 1st day (new moon day) in the month of Chaitra which is said to be on the 8th of April by all Telugu and a couple of other Regional Panchagams (indian calendars). Which is in conflict with the Indian National Civil Calendar published by the Gazette of India!
The calendar months follow the signs of the tropical zodiac rather than the sidereal zodiac normally used with Hindu Calendar.
|Month (Sanskrit)||Length||Start date (Gregorian)||Tropical zodiac||Tropical zodiac (Sanskrit)|