Harish Jharia

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15 January 2011

Why Makar Sankranti (Hindu Solstice) always falls on 14th January: Solar and lunar calendars followed in western and eastern astrology respectively:

Zodiac sign 'Capricorn' or 'Makar'

© Harish Jharia

Makar Sankranti is apparently the only Hindu festival that always falls on the same day every year on 14th January.  Hindu festivals are basically calculated according to Indian panchangas that are based on Indian lunar calendar. On the other hand the internationally followed Christian calendar is based on western solar astrology.  As a result of the difference between the movements of Earth and Moon vis-à-vis the position of the Sun, the Hindu festivals never fall every year, on the same day of the Christian calendar, of course with an exception of ‘Makar Sankranti’. 


Kites flying festivals are organized on Makar Sankranti

Sakranti means transition and in this particular case, when the sun changes direction from one constellation of the zodiac to another, it is known as Makar Sankranti. Transition of the Sun takes place to Capricorn (Makar) constellation, during winter season when we see the path of the sun shifting from the southern hemisphere (Daksinayan) to the northern hemisphere (Uttarayan). In summer season the transition takes place other way round and back to southern hemisphere (Dakshinayan) on 14th July every year and  is called kark Sankranti. 



The path of the Sun visible to us is a resultant view we see from the surface of the earth.  In fact the Sun remains at its same place; instead the earth, tilted at an angle of 23.45 degrees moves around the Sun in an oval orbit. The transition or sankranti takes place when the earth moves from one half of the oval orbit to the other half of the oval path of the earth around the Sun. 


    Look for Jan 14 Makar Sankranti in the above illustration


Along the dakshinayan duration, the earth moves along its orbit with earth’s southern hemisphere tilted towards the Sun and when it moves in the Uttarayan portion of the orbit its northern hemisphere keeps tilted towards the Sun.  Obviously there would be summer season in the portion of the earth that is tilted towards the Sun. 


The earth takes one year to complete one orbit around the Sun. The sun remains northwards (Uttarayan) for 6 months and for the rest of the 6 months the Sun keeps southwards (Dakshinaayan) path, because the total path of the earth is divided into two equal parts.

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- Harish Jharia
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