January 18, 2009


January 14, 2009

Soura Masa and Ayanas - Uttara and Dakshina

Soura Masa (Solar Month) is the period between two successive sankranthi, or the time taken by the sun to pass completely through one sign of the zodiac is called a Soura masa or Solar month. A sankranthi on which a solar month commences takes its name from the sign-name of that month. The Mesha Sankranthi marks vernal equinox, the moment of the sun’s passing the first point of Aries (Mesha).There are 12 solar months in a year. The Soura months have the same names as that of Rashis. They also have Tamil equivalent names. They are tabulated under the Length of months.Dakshinayana and Uttharayana Punya kaalasThe Karkataka Sankranthi, three solar months after Mesha sankranthi is called Dakshinayana Punya kaala. The Sun will be directly over Tropic of Cancer (23 ½ degree “N” Latitude) at this time. [Tropic of Cancer passes through India at Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Durgapur etc.] Sun starts its southward movement from this moment. This will normally be on 16th of July.The Makara Sankranthi, 6 solar months after Karkataka sankranthi, is called Uttharayana Punya kaala. The Sun will be directly over Tropic of Capricorn (23 ½ degree “S” Latitude - it passes through Australia) at this time. Sun starts its northward movement from this moment. This will normally be on 14th of January. Around the Dakshinayana Punyakaala, 21st of June is called the Summer Solstice meaning the longest day (maximum Dinamana). Around the Uttharayana Punyakaala, 22nd of December is called the Winter Solstice meaning the shortest day (minimum Dinamana). Between the two dates 21st of March is called Vernal (Spring) Equinox and 23rd of September is known as Autumnal Equinox. On these two dates daytime will equal night time [Dinamana will be equal to Rathrimana]. All this is applicable to Earth’s Northern Hemisphere (where India is located).AyanaOne year consists of two ayanas. Each ayana is spread over six soura masas. Each ayana signifies the sun’s direction. Thus during Dakshinayana, Sun is moving South and during the Uttarayana, Sun is moving North.
Click here to read Why Different Sankramana s ?

Ayana can also be understood as passage of Sun to the North and South of the equator.Karkataka Sankramana marks the beginning of Dakshinayana and Makara Sankramana marks the beginning of Uttarayana.[Some say: Dakshinayana and Uttharayanas are now commencing on June 21 and December 22 and not on the days of Karkataka / Makara Sankramana. Further, the beginning day of Ayana is moving backwards by about 1 day for every 72 years.]Around June 21 and December 22, Karkayana and Makarayana occur. These are sankramanas as per Sayana reckoning. As the current value of Ayanamsha is about 22 1/20, Sayana sankramanas are occurring about 23 days earlier than the Nirayana ones. With increasing value of Ayanamsha, Sayana sankramanas will move backwards by about a day every 70 years.Other Punya KaalasVishuvath Punya kaalas: Mesha and Thula Sankramanas Vishnupada Punya kaalas: Vrushabha, Simha, Vrushchika and Kumbha Sankramanas.Shadashiti Punya kaalas: Mithuna, Kanya, Dhanus and Meena Sankramanas.Punya kaalas / Parva kaalas VarjyaGenerally, no auspicious events are to be celebrated during 16 ghatis before the Punya kaala and 16 ghatis thereafter (1 ghati = 24 minutes), roughly 6 ½ hours on either side.

Punya kaalas are also referred as Parva kaalas.However, for the Dakshinayana / Uttharayana and Vishuvath Punya kaalas, “Pakshini” should be observed. Pakshini means, two nights and a day or two days and a night depending on whether the Punya kaala occurs during day or night (middle of the Pakshini period). Entire Pakshini should be avoided for auspicious events.Vakya SankramanaSages have declared in one sentence (Vakya) the specific time duration between all the Sankramanas (between Mesha and Vrushabha, Vrushabha and Mithuna, etc.) in a year. Sankramanas determined based on this Vakya (sentence) is called Vakya sankramana.Soorya Siddhantha and Drigganitha sankramanas are determined based on the Soorya Siddhantha and drigganitha systems of calculations of the movement of Sun.

Why different Sankramanas?

Why different Sankramanas?

Sankramana being a point of time can occur at any part of the day. This occurrence during evening / night times makes it difficult to observe the prescribed rituals, say Tharpana. One explanation given is that at least one of the three sankramanas viz. Vakya, Soorya Siddhantha, Drigganitha may occur at a convenient time and that could be followed instead of having extreme difficulties / non observance due to extreme difficulties.The exact time of Sun’s entry into a Rashi is referred as Punya kala (Auspicious time). Religious observations are prescribed during these punya kalas. Mainly the observation consists of Bathing in Sea / Rivers / Ponds / Wells (in decreasing order of importance), and offering oblutions to the departed souls. These are naturally accompanied with a period of fasting.

There is a saying that the one who does not bathe during a punyakala will suffer with diseases during seven generations. Persons who have last their parents have to perform shraddha. Persons who give danas, will enjoy the same items (whatever is given as dana) during their next birth. During Makara Sankranthi usage and give away of Til (Ellu) is given lot of prominence. Ellu as such is not normally received by anybody. Therefore preparations of different varieties of sweets using Ellu are made and used and given away. This is common across the whole of India – sweets being of their own region.Danas (donations) are another important prescription.

The prescribed items of dana are: During Mesha sankramana – Goat, Vrushabha sankramana – Cow, Mithuna – Food and clothes, Karkataka – Ghee and Milk, Simha – Umbrella and gold, Kanya – Household articles, Thula – Til (Ellu) nad Milk products – Milk, Curds and Ghee, Vrushchika –Light, Dhanus – Clothes and Vehicles, Makara – Firewood and Agni (Fire), Kumbha – Cow, Water and Fodder and Meena – Land, Garland of flowers etc.Based on the exact time of Sankramana, the characteristics of Sankranthi purusha ( an imaginary character representing the Sankranthi) are drawn up. These characteristics indicate the general picture for the ensuing year from the sankramana.

Makara Sankranthi purusha lakshana is believed to be the dominating characteristics for the whole year.

January 12, 2009

Makara Sankranthi - The astronomical significance

Sankramana (Sankranthi) - Makara Sankranthi.
January 14 is Makara Sankranthi or Pongal. This article is in commemoration of Lohri / Bhogi, Sankranthi / Pongal.
Makara Sankranthi marks the beginning of Uttarayana ( a six month period). The Sun will be directly over Tropic of Capricorn (23 ½ degree “S” Latitude - it passes through Australia) at this time. Sun starts its Northward movement from this moment. This will normally be on 14th of January. Uttarayana is considered auspicious for all events, while the Dakshinayana is banned for many auspicious events like Upanayana, Aksharabhyasa etc. Thus the onset of Uttarayana is celeberated as a festival of joy by one and all. The day is celeberated by the agricultural community as a Fresh produce day. Fresh produce is used to prepare varieties of food and enjoy. One popular recipe is known as Pongal its chief constituents being Rice, Jaggery or Sugar and Ghee. The festival is also known as Pongal because of its chief use / popularity.
The point of time when the sun leaves one sign of zodiac (Each sign is also referred as a House or Rashi – Sun’s orbit is depicted as a circle with Earth as centre and the circle is divided into 12 equal parts of 30 degrees each – each segment of 30 degrees being called a House or Rashi – Each house or Rashi has been given a name – names from Mesha, Vrushabha, . . . . Kumbha and Meena) and enters another is called Sankranthi or Sankramana. In other words, Sankramana is said to occur every time sun enters a Rashi. This event is a milestone for Souramana (measure based on movement of Sun). Sankranti marks the beginning of a Soura month. Each Sankramana is known by the name of the Rashi the Sun is entering. Thus the sankramanas are Mesha Sankramana, Vrushbha Sankramana etc.
Makara Sankranthi (14 January) Purusha Lakshana: Manda is the name - indicates Peeda to brahmins. Bathes in shankodaka, sitting on Dog, holding Pasha (rope as weapon) in hand, wearing black colour blouse, copper brown clothes, smeared Turmeric essence, wearing Seesa (Lead) jewellery, holding a kabathra coloured umbrella, uses akshatha (grains) of horse gram, wearing Kamala flowers, holding madhu phala, holding Stone vessel, eating root vegetable. Is elderly , belongs to Kshatriya Clan , has a smiling face, is in an upward looking posture, looking Down and is moving towards South West. Phala: All items used by the Sankranthi purusha will either become costly or perish.

Read here to know the significance of Soura Masa (Solar Month) and Dakshinayana and Ayana Uttharayana Punya kaalas , Vakya Sankramana

Click here to read how does one celebrate Ugadi ?