Makara Sankranti, and the Whole Indian 12-fold Zodiac, is Off.

I recently posted an alert to my Indian readers that the now-popular method of calculating the date of “Makara-sankranti” is wrong. (It is a very important Hindu holiday: The winter-solstice, which marks the beginning of Capricorn). The correct date is near December 21st, not near January 14th. One of my readers investigated and sent me a defense of the erroneous Makara-sankranti date, written by an astrologer in India. Here is my reply to what he wrote.

“Considering the Winter Solstice marks the beginning of the gradual increase of the duration of the day.

That’s right, that’s exactly what the winter solstice is – the shortest day / longest night.

“Scientifically, the shortest day of the year is around December 21-22 after which the days begin to get longer, hence actual Winter Solstice begins on December 21 or December 22 when the tropical sun enters Makara rashi. Hence actual Uttarayana is December 21.

Correct. Uttarayana means “northern course” and refers to the Sun hitting the tropic of Capricorn and beginning to move northward towards the equator. Makra Sankranti is the comencement of Uttarayana (the northern course) and of Makara (Capricorn).

This was the actual date of Makar Sakranti too. But because of the Earth’s tilt of 23.45 degrees and sliding of Equinoxes, Ayanamasha occurs.

The equinoxes do shift in relation to the stars, that is true. But it does not change the dates of the equinoxes and solstices. It changes the star that is closest to the Sun at the equinoxes and solstices! So the date of makara-sankranti and the Sun beginning its northern course does not change. It always occurs when the days stop getting shorter, which is always more or less on December 21st.

This has caused Makara Sankranti to slide further over the ages.

No. What “slides further over the ages” is the star that is near the Sun when makara sankranti (winter solstice) happens.

A thousand years ago, Makar Sankranti was on December 31 and is now on January 14. Five thousand years later, it shall be by the end of February, while in 9000 years it shall come in June.”

No. Precession of equinoxes doesn’t change the date of the equinoxes and solstices, it changes the stars which are associated with the equinoxes and solstices. Makara Sankranti (the winter solstice) is always more or less December 21st. This is not a point of contention, even the Indian government passed this as a law at the same time they ratified Lahiri ayanamsha. The problem is that Indian astrologers wrongly project the rashis into the stars, against not only the judgement of the Indian government but also of astrological logic. To them “Makara” / “Capricorn” is a group of stars in the sky. And they notice that the Sun does not enter that group of stars until mid-January, although two thousand years ago it did so in mid-december. They have become ignorant to the fact that the rashi’s are defined by solstices and equinoxes, not by stars. The nakshatras are the stars, the rashis are not.

Please read this paper for much more information about this.