Makara Sankranti, A Good Day to Die (And Rebirth)

Today is Makara Sankranti, the Hindu harvest festival, which heralds the end of winter and beginning of spring. It is observed all over India and Nepal with great festivity, kite flying, bonfires, feasts and prayers to the Sun God. The famous Khumb Mela, the world's largest congregation of religious pilgrims, begins on this day. Preparing for this event is no small feat and according to the Indian government more than 155 million devotees and pilgrims will attend the spiritual festival this year.

All Hindu festivals are astronomical and astrological events, with most based on the lunar calendar. Makara Sankranti, is one of the rare ones based on the solar calendar. On January 14 each year (January 15 this year) the Sun enters Saturn’s sign of Capricorn. Legend has it that if you die on this day, you attain Moksha, (liberation/enlightenment), which precludes you from the cycle of birth and rebirth. Indologist date the Makara Sankranti celebration as far back as 5-8000 years. One of the first mentions of the significance of this date is in the ancient Hindu epic Mahabharta. The hero warrior, Bhishma, who was mortally wounded after a ferocious battle lay on a bed of thousand arrows. He chose to hold off his death until the Sun changed signs and moved into Saturn’s Capricorn, so that his final journey would follow the Sun’s Uttaryani, or upward movement towards light and away from darkness.

The Sun as the center point of the Zodiac, is seen by Hindus as the divine light and dispeller of darkness and the one who nourishes and illuminates life on earth, our body and mind. His celestial path and its influence on the horoscope is carefully studied by both Western and Eastern astrologers. In Yoga, the Sun represents prana shakti. The Sun’s transition into Capricorn represents the prana, chi or cosmic energy that sustains us, beginning its movement upwards in the chakras towards the thousand petaled Sahasrara chakra.

To understand the relationship between the Sun and Saturn we turn to another legend in which the Sun unknowingly impregnated his servant Chaya (shadow), who then gave birth to the illegitimate Saturn. Ever since then Saturn struggles to find his confidence and light, as he lives in the shadow of his divine hero and powerful father Sun, who never really approved of his fear, caution and restrain.

The symbol for Capricorn is a makara, or a crocodile which is half terrestrial and half aquatic , and a mythological creature that guards the gateway to the spiritual threshold. The Sun in the horoscope represents our Atma, or our soaring spirit and universal Soul. Saturn is the Atma, subjugated by the limitations of having a physical body.. Astrologically, both the shadow of Saturn and light of the Sun are inimical and hostile to each other and the two planetary forces do not function well in the horoscope under each other’s influence.

The Sun’s entry into Saturn’s sign of Capricorn represents the crossing of the threshold for the reunion of the father with his Son, or the Sun with Saturn.  On this day each year, the Sun is welcomed by his disgruntled son Saturn, into his abode in the sign of Capricorn. Both the light of the Sun and darkness of Saturn embrace in Capricorn, setting the stage for integration of our soul nature (Sun) and our human nature (Saturn).

In Sanskrit, the Sun’s entry into Capricorn is also called Deva Kaala ( the time of the gods) and the next few months are considered by Hindus as very auspicious for yajnas (spiritual rituals and ceremonies), including marriage. The wedding season in India begins around this time, when the hero Sun’s northern and upward journey begins. No doubt the ancient seers of the Vedas understood that marriage is not for the faint of heart, and requires the courage and sacrifice of a great hero Sun, as well as the reality check of Saturn.

Learn more about the shadow of Saturn and the light of the Sun on my youtube channel and how they may be functioning in your horoscope.