But, is Makara Sankranti the start of Uttarayana ?
Makara Sankranti is when the Sun
enters the part of the sky named Makara.
Suppose, one were to divide the sky into twelve equal parts.
Makara is the name for one of the twelve parts and is identified
uniquely by the group of stars in that part of the sky.
Looking from earth, the Sun is at each of the twelve parts for a month.
So, the month when Sun is in the Makara part is Makara masa (month).
Start of Uttarayana (winter solstice) is when the sun has
reached the southernmost point. For the next six months,
the sun rise shifts bit by bit to the north (shifts left when facing the sun).
Climate-wise, the start of Uttarayana is the middle of winter.
When I was a teenager, I used to occasionally observe
the angle of the sun's morning rays falling on our doorstep.
Particularly around Makara Sankranti, since we were
told that the sun changes direction. However, I never
observed that change in direction. I learned why years later...
... because it happens in late December.
The current Uttarayana already started on 22 Dec 2011.
Is the tradition wrong ? So, were our forefathers wrong in
connecting Uttarayana to Makara Sankranti ?
No. Nothing wrong with tradition. At sometime in the past,
Makara Sankranti coincided with Uttarayana.
When in the past ? Sometime around 1100 AD.
Uttarayana starts one day earlier, every 70 odd years.
Makara Sankranti happens one day later, every 70 odd years.
So, around 2080, Uttarayana will be on 21 Dec and
Makara Sankranti on 16 Jan.
Around 1500 AD, Uttarayana was on Dec 31st
and Makara Sankranti was on Jan 8th.
And around year 9500, Uttarayana will be on Sep 15th
and Makara Sankranti will be on Apr 23rd.
Is it just that generations refused to forget the memory of
Makara Sankranti and Uttarayana happening at the same time ?
Or is there something more to connecting the two ?