My letter published in Navhind Times.
Celebrating the Winter Solstice
THE Kumbha Mela of Haridwar will start in February but the formal beginning was declared by Hindu religious leaders on January 14 which we celebrate as Makar Sakranti. Many people believe that Makar-Sakranti is a winter solstice point where the sun appears to make the northward journey. Even though many people consider it as a scientifically correct belief this point actually occurred on December 21 and will continue to come on the same day for a few decades. Historically, Hindus got introduced to the tropical zodiac where 360 degrees are divided into 12 equal parts. This system was merged with the Rigvedic system of zodiac based on 27 constellations. This happened in around 300 CE when the winter solstice point actually used to occur exactly when the Sun entered Capricorn (Makara). Over the years, the two zodiacs have been drifting apart from each other by 1 degree per 71 years. Currently this change is accumulated to 24 degrees and hence Makar Sakranti comes on January 14 where as the sun’s apparent northward movement begins on December 21. Certainly changing this system is not possible so easily given the weight of tradition it carries with itself but certainly there is nothing wrong in acknowledging the reality backed by the progress that modern day science has made.
One might wonder have I studied astrology in depth and as one would guess the answer is No. This particular fact got noticed by me when I read Koenraad Elst’s blog. Rest all is from Wikipedia.