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Uttarayanam: Shift from Makara Sankramanam to Dhanur Masam

Authorship and Copyright Notice : All Rights Reserved : Satya Sarada Kandula

Meaning of Uttarayanam:

  • The moon traverses 27 nakshatras in one lunar month. The sun traverses 27 nakshatras in one year.
  • If you live in the Northern Hemisphere: Look towards the east every morning, and you can see that the sun rises in the general direction of the east, but a little more to the north and slightly sooner everyday after the winter solstice, and a little more to the south everyday  and  slightly later after the summer solstice. Twice a year, the sun rises exactly in the east.
  • Uttarayanam or Uttarayana Punya Kalam is the period during which each sunrise is just a little more to the north. Similarly Dakshinayanam is the period during which each sunrise is just a little more to the south.
  • Traditionally, we celebrate Uttarayanam from Mid-Jan to Mid-July and Dakshinayanam from Mid-July to Mid-Jan.
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Tutulemma: Solar Eclipse Analemma Credit & Copyright: Cenk E. Tezel and Tunç Tezel (TWAN) (APOD, NASA)

The day on which the sun ‘changes direction’ and starts rising towards the north, is called the Winter Solstice, Uttarayanam. This was the day that Bhishma was waiting for, so that he could leave his mortal coils.

Meaning of Makara Sankramanam:

The day when the Sun traverses from the first pada (quarter) of Uttarashada Nakshatra to the second pada (quarter) of the Uttarashada Nakshatra is called Makara Samkramanam (entering Capricorn.)

See Also : Moola Karthe, Dhanur Masam, Sri Maha Vishnu

Date of the Uttarayanam now and then:

  • At one time Uttarayanam and Makara Sankramanam occured on the same day.
  • Nowadays, the Winter Solstice, no longer corresponds to Makara Sankramanam.
  • The Winter Solstice (Real Uttarayanam) takes place on the 22nd or 23rd of December. And Makara Sankramanam occurs in the middle of January.
  • The solstices, ‘slip’ past the nakshatrams at a definite rate. This is called the precession of the equinoxes. (The equinoxes are the days on which dates and nights are of equal length. The solstices are days on which the sun changes its north-south direction.)
  • The equinoxes and the solstices define our seasons, spring, summer, autumn and winter and are therefore important for seasonal celebrations.

Let us say that Dec 22nd, you wake up at sun rise and note down which constellation (nakshatram), the sun points to. Next year, same day, same time, you will find that the alignment is off by 50.3 seconds of arc. 71.6 years later, you will find that your measurement is off by a whole degree, and that you are closer to the previous nakshatram. It will take 25,700 years, for your descendants to see the same alignment that you did.

Some Very Very  Rough Arithemetic: Part 1:

  1. The equinox shifted from Jan 14th to Dec 22nd – 22 days approximately.
  2. Therefore the equinox that is supposed to take place when the sun is aligned with Uttarashada Second Padam, now takes place  22 days/365 days * 27 nakshatrams * 4 padams/nakshatram = 6.5 padams earlier.
  3. That is it takes place when the sun is aligned with Moola Makshatram 3rd Padam.
  4. ie, it takes place in Dhanur Masam.

Some Very Very  Rough Arithemetic: Part 2:

  1. In 1 year the equinox shifts by 50.3 seconds.
  2. To shift by 22/365*360 degrees, ie 21.7 degrees, it takes : 21.7 degrees*3600 minutes per degree / 50.3 seconds per year. 1553 years.

When did Uttarayanam and Bhishma Ekadasi coincide? Quoted From : http://www.ias.ac.in/currsci/dec252005/2174.pdf

“It is stated that Bhisma died on Maga S 8 on the winter solstice day, i.e. at the start of Uttarayana. At present, this tithi occurs between 20 January and 20 February, which differs from the date of winter solstice, 22nd December, by 29 to 60 days. This difference is caused by the precession of the earth’s axis around the ecliptic poles in the retrograde circuit in 25,725 years, as stated earlier. It causes a slow backward shift of equinoxes and solstices with respect to the nakshatras and the lunar months at the rate of one day in 71 years. As it would take 2060 to 4260 years to produce a shift of 29 to 60 days, the date of Bhisma’s death would be 1200 ± 1000 BC. This date can be pushed back to the Krtttikâ epoch of 2300 BC, if we put the beginning of Dhanisthâ exactly opposite to Maghâ (Alpha Leonis).”

Uttarayanam and Christmas coincided approximately 2000 years ago: Quoted from: http://www.dattapeetham.com/india/talks/christDatta.html“
“In december the sun will be in Dhanus Raashi (Sagittarius). On 14th January every year sun moves to the next sign i.e. Makara (Capricorn). From that day (14th January) the period of Uttaraayana commences (Uttarayana is the period from 14 January to 14 July). The commencement of this Uttarayana happens on January 14th in the system of Nirayana only (Sidereal calculations). But in Sayana system (Tropical calculations), Sun starts his Uttarayana period in the last week of December. The system of Sayana observes the movement of sun and corroborates and finalises the astrological calculations on sun. Presently, this movement of Sun to Uttarayana happens either on 22nd or 23rd of December. But about 2000 years ago (possibly when Jesus was born) this change used to happen on December 25th every year.”

Why the number 108 is special : The number 108 is very special to Hindus. Ashtottara SataNama means 108 names. Sri Vishnu and most of the Devas and Devis are worshipped with 108 names. Some people have japamalas with 108 beads to help them keep count. There are 27 nakshatras (constellations) and each has 4 padas or quarters. This makes 108 padas in all.

Southern Most Rasi is not (no longer) Makara!

Authorship and Copyright Notice : All Rights Reserved : Satya Sarada Kandula

Written by Satya Sarada Kandula

October 31, 2008 at 10:23 am

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