Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Scientification of Myth

Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti is a festival celebrated all over India with fervour and uniformity matched by few other festivals. It signals the end of the winter crop season (Rabi crop). Harvest (wheat being the major crop in the North) is often started on this day across India.

However, as usual, I couldn’t take the festival name on face value. What is “Uttar” in Uttarayan? What comes to the North? When asked suddenly, any person vaguely connected to Gujarat, Punjab etc will say that it is the day the Sun travels and enters the Northern Hemisphere. And here we are not talking of ignorant ppl or even non-science grads... We are talking of science students, engineers of top institutes (IITs and NITs) and managers. What is wrong then? Does anything travel northwards?? (The stock market dealers will surely hope the northward growth is in the stocks ;) )

Wiki says it is the day the sun travels towards the north on the celestial sphere. But I thought, we were taught in class eight that the sun is over the Tropic of Capricorn on Dec 22nd (Winter Solstice). So by definition, the Sun travels north on every day after that. Why is it that we celebrate the “Uttar”ayan on Jan 14th? And, if the logic is that the sun enters the northern hemisphere on Jan 14th, it can’t be true as the sun only reaches the equator on the equinox, i.e., March 21st. Also, it cannot be said that the Sun travels northwards over India (it is majorly an Indian festival) as India lies completely in the Northern hemisphere and thus when the sun has not even crossed the equator, it cannot be over India. Then, sun travels to the north of what is the question that remains unanswered. 

Ironically, while most Indian festivals are based on the lunar calendar, this is based on the solar calendar (few others include Vishwakarma Jayanti). I conclude that this festival is just another harvest festival and an attempt was made to give it a scientific meaning by the pundits (no disrespect meant). Of course, contradicting views with references are invited.

Well, for me it means a lot different, sans all the science and let’s say “Scientification” of myth... A day I get to eat rabdi and til... the eve celebrated as Lohri with a bonfire with typical bhangra around it. Few folk songs and a lot of fun... 

Lohri ki khoob saari Badhaiyan :)

Looking forward to a good SPAXI dinner,

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