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Makarsankranti / Uttarayana and Dakshinayana

Panchang Ganita, Panchanga Siddhanta, Panchang Author: Pundit Mahesh Shastriji, Seattle, WA USA
Inspiration: Late Pundit Maganlal Devshanker Shastriji


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Makarsankranti / Uttarayana and Dakshinayana

Contributed by: Pundit Mahesh Shastriji

Makarsamkranti and Uttarayana misconception and Panchang Siddhanta

Contributed by: Pundit Mahesh Shastrij

We grew up flying kites and having different festivities on Makar samkranti. We kept hearing that Makarsamkranti is Uttarayana. But that's completely wrong. When we ask what is Uttarayana? We get answer that sun travels north. Dakshinayana is the Sun travelling south. The fact is we have been taught in school that the Earth and other planets circles around the Sun in orbit. So the Sun isn't moving any north and South. Then why they say the Sun is moving North or South? Are they wrong?

Our great rishi knew that the Earth and the planets are circling around the Sun. What they meant is an astronomical phenomenon that is the apparent motion of the Sun moving north and south in direction -- sun moving up and down in latitudes. Longitudes are East and West, Latitudes are North and South. If every day you note down the position of the Sun in sky at the end of the year you can trace the apparent annular path of the Sun in heavens called as ecliptic measured as longitudes. The zodiac (Aries, Tauras etc...) is on this ecliptic. The sky is in 3D hence object appear to move up and down as well in terms of latitudes.

We all know the fact. The earth is titled and circles around the Sun with this tilt. When the tilt is facing the sun we get summer in places above equator and winter in the places below equator. When the tilt is away from the sun we get winter in places above equator and summer in the places below equator. This tilt gives rises to seasons. The uttarayana is the point in orbit where the tilt is away from the Sun. It seems like the Sun is below celestial equator. Because the Earth is tilted 23.45. degrees the maximum latitude that we can apparently see in sky that the sun is moving north is 23.45. and minimum latitude that we can apparently see in sky that the sun is moving south is -23.45. When the sun hits -23.45. in latitude it.s the point in sky we call it winter solstice. Hence Uttarayana is also the point on that day we.ll see shortest day on the earth and extreme cold weather. As earth continues to circle around the Sun we see the latitudes of the sun gradually increasing towards north this continues till we hit the point where the tilt of the earth is very close to sun . longest day on the earth and from that point days will become short . this point is also called as Dakshinayana.

Please see following diagram to study the tilt and the earth.s movement around the Sun.

There are two types of zodiac -- Fixed and Tropical. Every year while circling around the sun the earth slides a little as earth wobbles while circling around the Sun. When you extend the north pole to celestial north pole it currently points to north star after few thousands years it will point to different star. This creates a problem. Twice a year the tilt is neighter away or faces the sun. This points are called equinoxes. This is also a point where celestial equator and ecliptic intersect. The first point is called vernal equinox and as per the tropical zodiac it is the starting point of zodiac but as earth wobbles this point shifts and giving rise to ayanamsha. The ayanamsha is observed with the reference to some fix distant stars. At some point in the history the tropical zodiac was properly alligned to the a star 180 degrees opposite to spica -- chitra nakshatra -- which is the starting point of sidereal zodiac -- fixed zodiac or the zero degrees of aries. Every year the vernal equinox slides by 50 seconds as the earth wobbles.

There is a common misconception that Makar Samkranti is the Uttarayana. This is because at one point in time Sayana (Sayana zodiac start with vernal equinox -- 0 degrees of aries) and Nirayana Zodiac (Nirayana zodiac or fixed zodiac starts with some fixed starting point that is 0 degrees of star ashwini or 180 degrees opposite of star chitra) were same. Every year equinoxes slides by 50 seconds due to precision of equinoxes, giving birth to Ayanamsha and causing Makar Samkranti to slide further. As a result if you think Makar Samkranti is uttarayana then as it’s sliding it will come in June after 9000 years.  However Makar Samkranti still holds importance in our rituals as a Samkranti. All Druka Panchanga makers will use the position of the tropical Sun to determine Uttarayana and Dakshinayana. Hence January 14th isn’t Uttarayana. 

Uttarayana / Dakshinayana: The season occurs based on tropical sun (without ayanamsha).  This is due to earth’s tilt of 23.45 degrees. The earth circles around sun with this tilt. When the tilt is facing the Sun we get summer and when the tilt is away from the Sun we get winter. Because of this tilt it seems like the Sun travels north and south of the equator. This apperant motion of the sun moving up and down in latitude is called Uttarayana – Dakshinayana is apperant motion of the sun is moving towards South in latitudes.  This motion of the sun moving towards the north is called Uttarayana. When it is moving towards the south it is called Dakshinayana. This causes rise to seaons. They are dependent on equinoxes and solstices. Hence Actual Uttarayana occurs on December 21st/22nd of every year. All Drik panchanga makers like Janmabhoomi/Date panchang/Govt. of India's Rastriya panchanga will use December/21st or 22nd for Uttarayana. Winter solstice is begining of Uttarayana and Summer Solstice is begining of dakshinayana. Vernal equinox is begining of the sayana zodiac that is 0 degrees of Aries. From that every year we apply ayanamsha (to arrive at nirayana zodiac) with reference to some fix star after sliding of vernal equinox -- 0 degree of Aries.

Begining of 1000, the sun used to enter makara on December 31st. Begining of 1500 the Sun used to enter makara on January 8th, 1800 the Sun used to enter makara on January 11th. Now its around January 14th and 15th. Every year it slides more. The sun's entering into sayana makara is around December 21st/22nd, also from that time sun apperantly seem to move upwards in latitudes. This takes roughly long time to slide a month and hence it became common practise to ignore the actual siddhanta but to stick to nirayana sun for uttarayana. Actual ayana gati is never sidereal its always tropical. Taking it sidereal is wrong to determine seasons and uttaraya/dakshinayana. Indian Vedic Calendar/panchangam is combination of Sayana and Nirayana system. For all other calculations nirayana positions of luminaries are used but for seasons and ayana only sayan surya is used. Hence Actual Uttarayana is December 21st/22nd.

Following Sun's latitude will explain you how uttarayana and dakshinayana works: On December 18/2010 Sun's Latitude (@ 0h UT) is -23 degrees 22 minutes and 31 seconds.
On December 19/2010 Sun's Latitude (@ 0h UT) is -23 degrees 24 minutes and 09 seconds.
On December 20/2010 Sun's Latitude (@ 0h UT) is -23 degrees 25 minutes and 19 seconds.
On December 21/2010 Sun's Latitude (@ 0h UT) is -23 degrees 26 minutes and 01 seconds.
On December 22/2010 Sun's Latitude (@ 0h UT) is -23 degrees 26 minutes and 15 seconds.
On December 23/2010 Sun's Latitude (@ 0h UT) is -23 degrees 26 minutes and 01 seconds.
On December 24/2010 Sun's Latitude (@ 0h UT) is -23 degrees 25 minutes and 18 seconds.
On January 14/2011 Sun's Latitude (@ 0h UT) is -21 degrees 24 minutes and 13 seconds.

Here you'll notice that latitudes are increasing till December 22nd and after that it's starting to decrease. These are in negative and hence it shows the sun is moving to south. When the latitude starting to decrease it means sun is moving up -- uttarayana. on January 14th you'll notice that the sun's latitude has already decreased -- the sun has moved up to -21 degrees. Hence January 14th isn't Uttarayana. Actual Uttarayana is December 22nd.

Same way if we study dakshinayana. On Jun 20/2011 (@ 0 UT) Sun's latitude is 23-25-37, Jun 21/2011 23-26-08, Jun 22/2011 23-26-13, on Jun 23/2011 23-25-54. You'll notice that from Jun 23rd midnight at universal time sun's latitude is decreasing before that it was increasing and hence before reaching midnight of 23/Jun Sun already starting to decend in latitude -- dakshinayana and hence Dakshinayana is Jun/22nd Not in July.

Uttarayana is the day when the day is shortest on the earth. According to srimad bhagawatam 5.21.7 "Days start to increase from Uttarayana". Even as per srimad bhagwatam that day is december 22nd.

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yaj jagrato duram udaiti daivam tad u suptasya tatHaivaiti|
duramgamam jyotisam jyotir ekam tan me manaH shivasankalpam astu||
||shri shukla yajurveda vajasaneyi samhita (madhyandina sakha) 34.1||

The divine essence that goes far away, from the waking, and likewise from the sleeping, and that one far-traveling Light of lights, on that-the auspicious will of the divine-may my mind dwell.

.. sarve janA sukhino santu ..
kriShNa! kriShNa!! kriShNa!!!

I bow down to the supreme personality of godhead Lord kriShNa who makes incomplete complete.
Pundit Mahesh Shastriji
Seattle, WA, USA
shastrijii at mypanchang dot com


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