Monday, January 14, 2019

Makara-Sankranthi: A yearly epoch

Varied customs of Makara-Sankranthi

Makara Sankranthi denotes entry of Sun into Makara-Capricorn and is celebrated across the country. It is closely associated with onset of Uttarayana when the sun starts its northward march. At some point in antiquity both coincided, but have since slipped due to precession of equinoxes. Bath in sacred rivers, use of til-sesame, sugarcane, boiling over of milk, flying kites, worship of cows, their decoration with gaietyare the prominent features in celebration of Makara Sankranthi. What do these have in common?

There is unity in diversity

Though apparently unrelated, they are local manifestations of a unified ethos; like branches of the same tree. That unifying thread is recognition of an epoch in time afforded by nature. Our physiology is woven inextricably with the cycles of nature. Daily circadian rhythms andmating patterns of animals are prominent examples. Rishis of Bharata, by virtue of critical observation and pristine lifestyle in harmony with nature, could feel and identify the periodic epochal moments affording unfettered access to inward spiritual journey and enlightenment. Uttarayana and Makara Sankranthi are such epochs, apt both for spiritual and material advancement.

Principles of yoga underlie our traditions

Sugarcane oozing with juice, regularly spaced rings and nodes that sprout leaves symbolizes the cyclical nature of time and nectarine epochs therein. It is no coincidence that sugarcane rings and epochal times are both called parva. Boiling over of milk while celebrating plenty, are to a Yogi’s eye the arousal of kundalini and the process of enlightenment within. The mighty bull and gentle cow, mainstay of rural livelihood are embodiments of sattva guna and induce the same in us as we bathe, decorate and bond with them. A bath in the sacred rivers at this time stills the mind and breath; unfettering ourmindsas it flies inwards and upwards. Sesame is ideal for worship of the Pitrs and also the devas when used with jaggery and groundnut. Ancient texts document that the six-month period of Uttarayana gives an impetus for inner journey through the yogic path called Archiraadi-marga, that leads to liberation. Hence predominantly spiritual rituals like Upanayanam are conducted exclusively during the sacred period of Uttarayana.

This Makara Sankranthi, as the Ardh-Kumbh gets underway at Prayagraj, may our kumbha (pot) overflow with milk in our hearth and joy in our hearts.