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Uttarayana 2012 date

Last Updated: 9/4/2011 10:15:57 AM

Uttarayana 2012

Uttarayana 2012 date is 14 January. Uttarayana fall on the first of (solar month) Magha, first lunation dark half or Moon's wane of Pausha or Magha, 12th-13th of January.

Accordingly the new year of the luni-solar computation now in use begins with the first of Chaitra, which falls somewhere in the course of March, and in solar reckoning is said to agree with the entrance of the sun into the sign Mesha, or Aries. There was, however, a period at which a different principle was followed, and one that coincides with the peculiarity that puzzled the poet; the new year then commenced on the first of the solar month Magha, the date of the Makara-Sankranti, or sun's entrance into the sign Capricorns, identical with the Uttarayana, or return of that luminary to the regions of the North, or, in fact, to the winter solstice; a very important era to the nations north of the equator, amongst whom no doubt were the primitive Hindus, as bringing back to them the genial warmth of the sun and the resuscitation of vegetable life, and deservedly, therefore, held to be the beginning of a new year.

The Uttarayana, or winter solstice, although no longer considered as occurring on the first day of the year, and which, even in olden times, as we shall see, was thrown back a fortnight, to the first of the light half of Pausha, retains the veneration attached to it originally as the renovator of flora and fauna existence, and is one of the great festivals of the Hindus. It commences, as in our own calendars, with the entrance of the sun into the sign Capricorn; but, although the astronomical period is the same, the actual dates present a considerable deviation. According to our Ephemerides, the sun enters Capricorn on the 21st of December; according to those of the Hindus, on the 1st of their solar month Magha; and this, in actual practice, is identified with the 12th of January or thereabouts. It has been already observed that the adjustments of the Hindu calendar are very difficult matters to deal with, and an explanation of the difference between the 21st of December and the 12th of January is to be found only in astronomical calculations. The dates of the equinoctial and solstitial points, as far as they are regulated by the solar and lunar moveable zodiac, are fixed, but their relation to the sidereal zodiac depends upon the precessional variation. However, it is sufficient to know that the essential elements of the celebration are the Makara Sankranti, or sun's entrance into Capricorn; the Uttarayana, or commencement of the sun's return to a northern declination; and the actual observance on the 1st of the luni-solar month Magha falling on the 12th of January; or occasionally a day before or after it.

The observances enjoined on this occasion are partly of a private, partly of a public character. The first consist of offerings to the Pitris, or progenitors, whether general, as of all mankind; or special, as of the family of the worshipper ; to the Vastu devas, the Dii Lares, or domestic genii; the guardians of the dwelling, or the site on which it is erected; and to the Viswa devas, or universal gods. The ceremonies addressed to all these are performed within the abode of the householder, and are conducted by the family priest. The principal article of the offering is tila, or sesame seeds, either separately, or, as is more usual, mixed with molasses, or the saccharine juice of the fruit of the date-tree, and made up into a kind of sweetmeat, called Tilua. Pishtakas or cakes also are offered, composed of ground rice, mixed with sugar and ghee; whence the festival has the denomination of Tilua Sankranti and Pishtaka Sankranti, the solar conjunction of the sweetmeat or the cake.

The good things prepared on this occasion are not intended exclusively for those imaginary beings those unable to eat them. They are presented merely for the purpose of consecration, and that they may be eaten with greater zest by the householder and his family; nor is that all, for a portion of them is sent to friends and relations, as memorials of regard, enclosed in fine linen, silk, or velvet, according to the means of the presenter, and the station of those to whom they are presented.

In many places in Bengal a curious practice is observed, called Bawanna bandhana, particularly by the females of the family. In the evening, one of the women takes a wisp of straw, and from the bundle picks out separate straws, which she ties singly to every article of furniture in the house, exclaiming Bawanna pauti, implying, may the measure of corn be increased fifty-two fold pauti denoting a measure of grain. In the villages similar straws are attached to the Golas, or thatched granaries in which the grain of the preceding harvest has been stored.

Besides these private ceremonies, which expressively typify the feelings of satisfaction with which the re-approach of the sun was hailed by a people to whom the principal phenomena of the heavens were familiar, there are also public celebrations of the same event, expressing similar sentiments, but deriving a more local and peculiar complexion from the physical circumstances of the country, and the superstitions of its inhabitants.

According to the Kalpa Druma of Jayasinha, upon the authority of the Padrna Purana, the whole month of Magha is especially consecrated to Vishnu, to whom and to the Sun prayers should be daily addressed, and offerings or arghyas presented. The introduction of Vishnu is a modern interpolation; the same work prescribes daily bathing before sunrise. The Bhavishyottara also directs daily bathing in Magha, with mantras or prayers by the three first classes, silently by Sudras and women, and affirms that the practice is enjoined by the Vedas, a rather questionable assertion. The same may be said of the Vaishnava formulae, given by Raghunandana; according to who the person performing his ablutions is to invoke various personifications of Vishnu, Thus the Sankalpa, or previous prayer, is, "By this bathing, when the sun is in Makara, be thou, oh Magha, oh Govinda, oh Achyuta, oh Madhava, oh God, the giver of the promised reward to me." He is then to bathe, calling to mind Vasudeva, Hari, Krishna, Sridhara, and to say, "Salutation be to thee, oh Sun, lord of the world, giver of "light, do thou make perfect this great worship, this bathing in Magha."

Whatever may be the date of this mixture of tenets, the ablution is no doubt an ancient portion of the rite. Bathing in sacred streams constitutes an indispensable part of most of the ceremonial observances of the Hindus; and where such rivers are not within access, their place is supplied by other pieces of water of less lofty pretensions ; any puddle may take the place of the holy Ganga. At the winter solstice, bathing at the confluence of the Ganges with the ocean is particularly meritorious, and accordingly a vast concourse of people is annually assembled at Ganga Sagar, or the mouth of the Hugli branch of the Ganges, at the period of the Makara Sankranti, agreeably to the limitations above assigned to it; that is, its identification with the 1st of Magha or the 12th of January. Wherever such assemblages take place, objects of a secular nature are now, as they have ever been, blended with those of devotion; and the Mela, which originates in purposes of pilgrimage, becomes equally or in a still greater degree a meeting of itinerant merchants, or a fair.

The number of persons who assemble at Ganga Sagar is variously estimated. They come from all parts of India, the larger proportion, of course, from the contiguous provinces of Bengal and Orissa; but there are many from the Dakhan and from Hindustan, and even from Nepal and the Punjab. They are of both sexes and of all ages; many come with small pedlery for petty traffic; many from idleness or a propensity to a vagrant life, not uncommon in India; and there is a very large proportion of religious mendicants of all sects.

The place at which the Mela is held is, or perhaps it were more safe to say, was, some years ago, a sand bank, on the southern shore of the island of Sagar, immediately to the west of the inlet called Pagoda Creek, from a small pagoda or temple, also on the west of the creek, nearer to the sea than the bank of sand, and separated from the latter by a smaller creek running inland. South from this to the sea-shore, extended a thick jungle, with a pathway leading into the interior, where was a large tank for the supply of the people with fresh water. Tigers lurked in the jungle, and not infrequently carried off the pilgrims. Along the sea-side, for more than a mile, extended rows of booths, shops, and small temporary temples, with the travelling gods of the religious mendicants, who received the adoration and contributions of the pious. Besides the numerous shops for the supply of provisions and sweetmeats, a brisk traffic was carried on in small wares, especially in betel-nuts, black pepper, and the red powder that is scattered about at the vernal festival of the Hooghli.

The Mela lasts several days, the first ceremony is the propitiation of the ocean, by casting into it various offerings, with short ejaculatory prayers; the oblations are commonly cocoanuts, fruits, or flowers; the most appropriate gift is that of the five gems, Pancha ratna, consisting of a pearl or diamond, an emerald, a topaz, and a piece of coral, along with a cocoa-nut, an areca-nut, and the thread worn by Brahmins. These are wrapped up in a cloth, and cast into the branch of the river which communicates with the sea, at a place called Dhola Samudra, and also at the confluence. The jewels are, in general, of the smaller size, not worth more than a rupee or two. There was a time when the offerings were of a less innocent description, and children were cast into the sea. This horrible and unnatural practice was wholly un-sanctioned by anything in the Hindu ritual; and its suppression, by the Government of Bengal, had the cordial concurrence of the Brahmins. The act was not, like the oblation of fruits or jewels, intended to obtain the favour of the deified ocean, but in satisfaction of a vow; as where a woman had been childless, she made a vow to offer her first-born at Ganga Sagar, or some other holy place, in the confidence that such an offering would secure for her additional progeny. The belief is not without a parallel in the history of antiquity, sacred or profane, but it was the spontaneous growth of ignorance and superstition, not only unprompted, but condemned by the Hindu religion, and was confined to the lowest orders of the people. It will easily be credited, that the occurrence was rare, and that no attempt has ever been made to infringe the prohibition.

On the first day, bathing in the sea is to be performed; it takes place early in the morning and it repeated by some at noon; some also have their heads shaved after bathing; and many of those whose parents are recently deceased celebrate their Shraddha, or obsequies ceremonies, on the sea-shore. After ablution, the pilgrims repair to the temple, which is dedicated to a Muni, or divine sage, an incarnation of Vishnu, named Kapila.

Legend behind Uttrayana

Vishnu became incarnate in his person for the destruction of the sixty thousand wicked sons of King Sagara. He is said to have stationed himself at this place, which was then upon the brink of a vast chasm leading to the infernal regions. When the sons of the king, who were in search of a horse intended for the solemn sacrifice of the Aswamedha, arrived here, they found the Muni absorbed apparently in meditation, while the steed was grazing near him. Accusing him of having stolen it, they approached to kill him, when fire flashed from his eyes, and instantly reduced the whole troop to ashes. In order to expiate their crime, purify their remains, and .secure paradise for their spirits, Bhagiratha, the great-grandson of Sagara, brought down by the force of his austerities the Ganges from heaven; and led her from the Himalaya, where she had alighted, to this spot. The sons of Sagara were sanctified, and the waters of the river, flowing into the chasm, formed the ocean. The Ganges is called Bhagirathi, from King Bhagiratha ; and the sea is termed Sagara, after his great-grandsire. The legend is told, in its most ancient and authentic shape, in the Ramayana."*

The temple of Kapila is under the alternate charge of a Bairagi and Sannyasi, mendicants of the Vaishnava and Saiva sects; the latter presides at the Mela held at this place in the month Kartik, the former at the Mela of Magha. The aggregate collection of Magha was divided amongst five different establishments of mendicants of the Bamanandi order, in the vicinity of Calcutta. In front/)!' the temple was a Bur tree, beneath which were images of llama and Hanuman, and an image of Kapila, of the size nearly of life, was within the temple. The pilgrims commonly write their names on the walls of the temple, with, a short prayer to Kapila ; or suspend a piece of earth or brick to a bough of the tree, with some solicitation, as for health, or affluence, or offspring; and promise, if their prayers are granted, to make a gift to some divinity.

Behind the temple was a small excavation termed Siti kund, filled with fresh water, of which the pilgrim was allowed to sip a small quantity, on paying a fee to the mahant of the, temple This reservoir was probably filled from the tank, and kept full by the contrivances of the mendicants, who persuaded the people that it was a perpetual miracle, being constantly full for the use of the temple.

On the second and third days of the assemblage, bathing in the sea, adoration of Gangi, and the worship of Kapila. continue as on the first; after which the meeting breaks up. During the whole time the pilgrims, for the most part, sleep on the sand; for it is considered unbecoming to sleep on board their boats.

This is the great public celebration of the recurrence of the winter solstice in Upper India.

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