Chasing the Sun Northward: Understanding Sankranti/Pongal’s Celestial Significance

Sankranti, also known as Pongal in South India, is a joyous cultural celebration marking the sun’s northward journey and the end of the dark winter months. But have you ever wondered why this particular day holds such significance? The answer lies in the captivating dance of the sun across the celestial sphere, embarking on its Uttarayan movement.

Sun’s Celestial Waltz:

Southward Sojourn:

Throughout the year, the sun appears to move back and forth between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. From around June to December, it dips southward, shortening days and bringing cooler temperatures.

Northward Bound:

But on Sankranti, which typically falls on January 14 or 15, the sun makes a pivotal shift. It crosses the equator and begins its northward journey, ushering in longer days and warmer weather. This phenomenon is known as Uttarayan (Sanskrit for “going north”).


Why is Sankranti/Pongal celebrated on this day? 

The festival coincides with the sun’s northward movement, symbolizing the triumph of light over darkness and the return of prosperity. It marks a turning point in the agricultural cycle, signaling the start of the harvest season.

Does the sun actually move? 

While it appears to move from our perspective on Earth, it’s actually the Earth’s tilt on its axis that creates the illusion of the sun’s shifting path.

How long does Uttarayan last? 

The sun’s northward journey continues for six months, reaching its peak at the summer solstice in June.

What cultural significance does this hold? 

Many cultures around the world celebrate similar festivals marking the sun’s movement and its connection to fertility, agriculture, and new beginnings.

Are there any rituals or traditions associated with Sankranti/Pongal? 

Offering prayers to the sun god, sharing festive meals, flying kites, and decorating homes with flowers are some common ways to celebrate this auspicious occasion.

Leave a Comment