Monday, December 23, 2019
Know the Vedic concept of Uttarayana (Winter solstice)
At a time more and more people start developing interest in Vedic knowledge we are also seeing similar growth in spurious interpretation of the wisdom of the seers. One such topic is about the start of Uttarayana or winter solstice. This blog is aimed at putting at rest the confusions about Uttarayana created by western educated minds and confused desi people.
Sun is the basis of Time
First of all one must know that the Vedic seers had seen the play of the Divine in everything of Creation. The Sun being the Pratyaksha Brahman is the source of all life. It is known as Ravi because it illuminates and protects the all the three worlds. Brahmanda Purana (21-4) traces the root word of Ravi to 'av' which means illumination and protection. It is also known as Kāla or Time from whom every other computation of time flows. The Brahmanda Purana (Ch 23) verse is reproduced below.
Devas, Humans, animal and plant life are the four types of beings made to function or not function by the power of the Sun. The measurement of Time done on the basis of the Sun has the basic unit of 5 years only, which was in vogue until c.1500 BCE, as known from Lagadha Jyothisha. Almost every other day was important for worship of some divinity in that system. With decline of worship attributable to many reasons, we are no longer using the worship related 5-year Yuga system but retained the same years in the large cycle of 60 years (12 rounds).
Four-fold calculation of time.
The basis of this system is 4-fold in which one without the other meaningless. Quoting from Vayu Purana (Ch 50),
The four types of calculations are (Vayu Purana Ch 50)
Today people tend to treat all the four differently but the verse from Vayu Puarana (which was older than Mahabharata) and also from Brahmanda Purana and Siddhantas (Ganita / astronomy) state that all the four are collectively taken into account to determine time. In this backdrop we should reject the name ‘Luni-solar’ as suggested by western understanding but proudly call it as Vedic-māna or Chatur māna. The moment one starts understanding the interplay of all the four, most confusions disappear.
We are indeed following this Chatur-māna without realising it. The exclusion of Adhika Māsa from the calendar or time scale is to align the Saumya or Chandra-māna with time determined by the Sun. All the four, i.e. the sun, the moon, the star and the Sāvana (checking from sunrise) are reckoned together to know whether the time is fruitful for a religious activity and an auspicious activity.
Today the perfect alignment of the four is being followed only in the Tamil regions which people tend to think as the solar calendar. Functionally it is Chatur māna calendar. Confusion often arises when the calendars based only on lunar movement fail to align the time with the Sun. For example a few years ago Maha Shivaratri occurred in lunar Pushya month. The basic feature for identifying Maha Shivaratri was to have Phalguna as the following month. In this case the following month was Magha. That gave the valuable insight as to what our ancient seers had meant when they specified Phalguna as the following month. It must invariably be the solar month of Phalguna. This implies that Maha Shivaratri occurs at a time the Sun would be in Kumbha (Aquarius).
The insight gained from this is that any specific time identified by a lunar Tithi comes along with a relation to the position of the Sun, for, Time doesn’t exist without the Sun. Based on this we can deduce the exact time of Gitopadesa too.
Time of Gitopadesa.
The complete disconnect with the Chatur-māna scale of time of the Vedic society had resulted in the complete absence of thought about the solar month of Gitopadesa. Gitopadesa was rendered on Margashira Shukla Ekadasi. People tend to treat Margashira as the lunar Margashira. If it was lunar Margashira, where was the Sun at that time? As per lunar reckoning the Sun must have been at Kartika. The identification of time as “Margashira Shukla Ekadasi” with Sun in Kartika is not the proper way of identification of the Chatur- māna. The Sun being the major reckoner of Time, Margashira Shukla Ekadasi must have the Sun at Margashira and the Shukla Paksha must be of lunar Pushya month. (The time gap of one solar month between Kartika and Margashira makes huge impact on arriving at the correct date of Mahabharata war).
Margashira Shukla Ekadasi is the most the celebrated Vaikuntha Ekadasi that conceptually matches with Krishna rendering the knowledge of the means to Moksha. With the decline in knowledge of the 4-fold Time, Gitopadesa is assigned the day in lunar calendar which always falls in the solar Kartika. The month-wise analysis of the Mahabharata events done by me based on the internal evidences shows the date of Gitopadesa with the Sun still confined within the sign of Margashira.
Date of Gitopadesa.
The solar, lunar and savana (sun rise timing) match well, with the star (though not mentioned) that goes well with the war preparation (offerings to Vampire / Pishacha, an olden practice known from the “Bharani” literature in Tamil such as Kalingatthu Bharani, Daksha Yaaga Bharani) done on the previous day, in the star Bharani.
The planetary chart at the time of Gitopadesa
The above details must warm up the reader to the reality that the Sun was the major reckoner of time for any event. The Sun only carries along with it the Devas, the sages and other entities by whom the world and its beings are protected and are made to undergo the karma due to them. In this context we come across the dates of Uttarayana, Dakshinayana and Vishuva as ‘Punya kala’ – auspicious times for worshiping Pitrus and deities. Such times cannot occur at some point in space (of intersection the ecliptic and the celestial equator) but only when the four-fold time factors combine.
Equinox identified by the Sun and the Moon.
A specific verse on the date of equinox is found in both Vayu Purana and Brahmanda Purana. It tells about the time when the vernal equinox was at 27 degree Aries – the maximum limit that the vernal equinox can travel – a gem of wisdom passed on by the Vedic society from its long past of having observed the celestial entities. From Vayu Purana Ch 50:
The day of vernal equinox was identified by the location of the Sun in the 1st Pada of Krittika when the Moon was in the 4th Pada of Vishakha. We have to carefully look into the time denoted by this verse.
When the Sun is in Krittika 1st Pada (Aries), the moon at Vishakha would be Full Moon. This happens in solar Chitra month and most probably in lunar Vaishakha month. Full Moon in Vishikha star would happen every 3rd year. Here the verse carefully avoids a reference to Full moon or days before that, but only gives the position of the moon at 4th Pada of Vishakha which will be the last 6 hours of Moon’s transit in Vishakha! This means the Vishuva related worship and homa was done only at the last 6 hours of Moon’s transit in Vishakha in Scorpio when the Sun was in Krittika 1st Pada. Now let the readers ponder over the acceptability of western concept of Vernal equinox which does not take into consideration these intricate features laid out by the Vedic society.
Strangely the time of autumn equinox doesn’t follow the reverse of the vernal equinox. It only follows the position of the Sun at the last pada of Libra, in Vishakha while the moon must continue to be within the last Pada of Aries (1st Pada of Krittika). The Sun cannot be expected to go beyond 27 degrees to the left of zero degree Libra. In both the Vishuva, the sun was at its maximum limit at Aries and Libra respectively. But the identification of ‘Punya Kala’ of Vishuva was by means of Moon’s location in a particular Pada.
Now let me quote another verse from the same chapter of Vayu Purana that tells us why Equinox is important. The verses also say when the Uttrayana starts.
Verse 203 says that equinox is favourable for Devas and Pitrus! Those calling for ‘celebrating’ Uttarayana today (at the time of writing this on 22nd December, the winter solstice of the western astronomy) must tell us in what way they are going to celebrate. The Vedic society valued the four points (2 Vishuva and 2 Ayanarambha) as Punya Kala for paying obeisance to Pitrus and Devas. Even today those who meticulously follow the Vedic life do tarpan on these 4 dates. The Pitrus don’t come on any day that western astronomy declares as Vishuva or solstice. The days that attract them and the Devas as well must have a link with the sun and the moon and also the star – the Star in whose form the Purusha is seen!
For the maximum limit of 27 degree Aries, our Vedic seers had laid down the time for Vishu-Punya Kāla in the above verse. The solstices and the Vishuva are separated by 90 degrees between each other. When the Vishu at Mesha occurs at Krittika 1st Pada, the Uttarayana would be observed on the day when the Sun would be at 2nd Pada of Dhanishtha (27 degree Capricorn). The date of Uttarayana in that position of the Sun is given by Rig Jyothisha. The Moon will be at Dhanishtha and at first tithi. This means when Shukla Pratipat starts with the moon still traversing Dhanishtha, Uttarayana Punya Kala was observed and the Pitru tarpan was given.
Even within the 5-year period, the Uttarayana did not start on the same tithi-stars. The above combination appeared every 6th year only. For other years they followed the formula of shifting the moon (when the sun will be in the ordained position of Vishuva or ayana) to 6th consecutive tithi, in 19th consecutive star. The same formula was used by me to deduce the Vishuva and ayana dates of Mahabharata.
Let me quote the following verse from Brahmanda Purana (Ch 23) to show that Dhanishtha was the foremost star – implying it to be the upper limit of Uttarayana.
The same primacy to Dhanishtha is told by Markandeya in Mahabharata (3-219-10) that Dhanishtha was assigned the foremost position by Brahma. The following figure explained by me in my video Understanding Equinoxes the Vedic way gives the maximum oscillation of the vernal equinoxes with the median position falling at Aries zero degree with corresponding Uttarayana falling at zero degree Capricorn.
Once the equinox started backward movement, the Vedic society seemed to have revamped the Vishuva and Ayana dates. They had prescribed the median position of Uttarayana at the beginning of Capricorn and Vernal equinox at the beginning of Aries. Or why else we get to see the same, repeated again and again in every possible occasion in the Puranas and Siddhantas?
Siddhanta being the foremost literature on mathematical astronomy let me first quote Surya Siddhanta (Ch 14). Only heretics would reject Siddhantas as non-Vedic. All the Siddhantas (Jyothish) have been authored by Vedic sages and all the Siddhantas calculate Time of the life-span of the four-faced Brahma starting from Kalpa.
The same is expressed in Brahmanda Purana (Ch 21)
The same is repeated in Vayu Purana (Ch 50)
Let anyone who wants to challenge this, produce evidence from Vedic scriptures. We gloat over the fact that the Vedic society had existed for thousands of years. If precession was a continuous phenomenon the Vedic society must have seen different months for the ayanas. Why is there no evidence like above on any other months as the duration of ayanas?
The 2nd most obvious reason (after the limited to and fro oscillation of the equinoxes) is that the Sun carries along with it the deities that are fixated in certain months of the ayana and season and do not keep travelling continuously like the western vernal equinox. Let me reproduce the forgotten deities of the Sun. Both Brahmanda Purana and Vayu Purana had given the same version. Here I am reproducing the Brahmanda Purana version (Ch 23) given in the context of the chariot of the Sun.
The months Madhu, Madhava etc refer to solar months whose equivalents are Mesha, Rishabha (Caitra, Vaishakha)
Note the seasons mentioned along with the solar months. The season is defined by the sun’s movement across five and a half stars, which is equal to two zodiacal signs.(Rig Jyothisha- 9)
Then comes the information on what they do to mankind.
Different sets of 14 divine entities residing in two specific months each, starting in sequence from Chaitra and spring season are responsible for nourishing Pitrus, devas and human beings. Can they shuffle their positions, say, those in vasanta season with sharad season which is what western concept of continuous precession of equinoxes would make them do? The Purana continues further:
The above is the fundamental belief of the Vedic society. The different entities residing in different months- seasons cause the rain, heat, happiness and despair. Their locations described above must dispel any doubts on the shifting zodiac, for they cannot discharge their duties in a shifting zodiac.
Equinoxes in backward movement is considered inauspicious. Particularly when the Uttarayana moves in Ajaveethi (which is actually Dakshinayana in equilibrium position) i.e. in Sagittarius mankind suffers. History shows that Vedic religion started suffering only after Uttarayana started moving in Sagittarius (6th century onwards). So we are holding on to the median position of the Sun and its Devas for the propitiation of pitrus and deities. Vishuva is on the day of solar ingress into Aries and Uttarayana is when the sun enters Capricorn.
Once Uttarayana hits the 3rd degree mark of Sagittarius there will be a reversal in the movement of equinox and also in the fortunes of the Vedic society. Until then we will have heretics in the garb of supporters of Vedic system doing maximum damage to the cause of the Vedic Thought. Let us remain focused on what the texts say and continue with the age old custom of “Uttarayane, Hemanta ritau, Makara Māse....” in our oblations at the time of solar ingress in Capricorn.