Makara Sankranti – Festival of Harvest, Uttarayan and the Changing Festival Date!

Sankranti – A festival that is majorly celebrated as the festival of harvest in the southern Indian states of AP, Telangana and Karnataka. It’s a 3 day long festival which starts with Bhogi, followed by Makara Sankranti and Kanuma.

Some facts about this colourful and beautiful festival Sankranti:

1. The prefix ‘Makara’ is added to Sankranti festival as on the day of Sankranti Sun moves into Makara Rashi. Which is why Sankranti is called as Makara Sankranti.

2. Sankranti is known as Uttarayan in the Northern parts of the county. Basically because on the day of Sankranti Sun starts it’s movement from South to the North. Geographically, Sun starts it’s movement from Tropic of Capricorn to Tropic of Cancer.

3. Uttarayan is the period that lasts 6 months. During this period the days are long and the nights are shorter. This is in simple terms. But in the spiritual terms, a day for the ‘Brahma’ (the creator) is equal to 1 Yuga and so is one night. For Devas, a day is equal to 6 months and a night is equal to 6 months.

4. So, during the time of Uttarayan, days are for 6 months and nights are for 6 months. Same logic applies for Dakshinayan but the dates are different. Uttarayan time, in North pole Sun rises on 4th April and sets on 4th of October. Dakshinayan time, in south pole Sun rises on 4th October and Sun sets on 4th of April. This is kind of atmosphere where Devas are believed to be living.

5. During the Uttarayan period, as the days are longer, Sun rays are for longer time, healthier and carry lot of positive energy. Which is why most of the good days fall in the Uttarayan period.

6. South India celebrates Sankranti as a Festival of Harvest – Tamil Nadu Celebrates Sankranti as a mark of ending Rainy Season. Punjab and Uttar Pradesh celebrate Sankranti as mark of the end of winter season. Gujaratis celebrate Sankranti the festival of Kites.

Now, till recently, Sankranthi used to come regularly on 14th Of January, but since last couple of years the date shifted to 15th. As I remember in my childhood, teenage and even in my graduation days, Sankranti was celebrated on 14th of January. But in 2016 the date changed and it moved to 15th of January.

Why this? It’s because of a Astrological correction concept called as Ayanamsa.

What is Ayanamsa?

In astrology, we have Planets, Rashis and Nakshatras. All these are used to calculate and create the charts. Due to the movement of Sun and other planets, the planetary movement keeps happening all the time. Whereas the Nakshatras (Stars) movement is constant. But actually speaking, even nakshatras also move and Vedic Indian astrologers introduced thia Ayanamsa to negate the movement of these nakshatras or stars. It has been observed that every year nakshatras move roughly by 54 seconds which takes approximately 72 to 80 years to move one full degree. Ans so, once every 75 years roughly, the date of Sankranthi changes by one day.

Is this movement perpetual and never ending?

No it is not. Movement is perpetual but not on the one side. As we have 27 nakshatras, the movement is for 27 degrees and then the direction changes. That means after moving 27 degrees in one direction it comes to its original position and then moves 27 degrees to the other side. This movement has been continuing for centuries now.

On the day when Ayanamsa is zero, Sankranthi falls on 21st December and this had happened last time in the year 285AD. Before that it was at zero Ayanamsa in the year 3765BC. So, from zero when it goes backward, Sankranthi shifts 27 days backwards to 24th November and when it moves forward from zero, it shifts 27 days ahead to 18th January from the reference point of 21st December. Hope you have understood the concept of Ayanamsa and why a solar festival like Sankranthi also changes dates.

Here are some of the historically important years and the date of Sankranthi on those days.

1. When Lord Rama was born in year 5114BC Sankranthi came on 12th January that year.
2. When Mahabharat war started in 3140BC Sankranthi came on 14th December.
3. The year of birth of Gautama Buddha that is 563BC Sankranthi came on 9th December
4. At the time of Chanakya around 300BC Sankranthi used to fall on 13th December
5. When Vikramaditya became king of India in 380AD Sankranthi came on 23rd December
6. By 1100AD Sankranthi came on New year day of 1st January
7. In 1469 the birth year of Guru Nanak Dev Sankranthi shifted to 6th January
8. By 1857 when the revolt against British happened Sankranthi shifted to 12th January
9. When we got Independence in 1947 Sankranthi used to fall on 14th January
10. In the year 2016 Sankranthi shifted to 15th January
11. By 2091AD Sankranthi will shift to 16th January
12. In the year 2166AD it will shift to 17th January
13. By the year 2240AD it will go to 18th January and complete its cycle.

After that again the dates will start moving backward again towards 21st December and the cycle of Yugas continue.

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