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MAKARA SANKRANTHI - PONGAL - 15 JAN 1999

The Sun moving from Dhanur Raasi to Makara Raasi on the Uttharayana Punyakalam is known as Makara Sankranti (the auspicious hour when the sun commences its northerly course, entering the Capricorn). It is also called Pongal as the newly harvested rice is first cooked as an offering to the sun whose vitality nourishes everything in the world. Usually in the open courtyard, the Pooja will be done in a spot where the sunlight falls after duly washing the place with cowdung mixed with water. The spot will be drawn with the image of Sun god, with his consorts Samnja ( daughter of Viswakarma, architect of Devas) and Chaaya (Samnja's exact image).

The myth relating to the two consorts is:

Samnja, unable to bear the heat, went to perform penance to get enough strength to bear, left her shadow Chaaya in her place. The Sun, was in search of her and on the way found a beautiful mare, metamorphosing himself into a horse and the two Aswins of Hindu mythology (the foremost physicians of the universe) came out of the union. Samnja had two children - Yama, the god of Dharma and Yamuna, the goddess of the river and Chaaya had two children, Saturn and river TaptL When Samnja went to perform tapas, Chaaya did not treat her children well and Yama kicked his stepmother with his foot in anger. Yama was thereupon cursed that the foot he raised may become a flesh with loathsome worms. As curses from the parents could not be easily undone, the Sun, on Yama's request mitigated the evil by countermanding the curse and reducing the result to that of worms falling down with bits of fiesh, instead of permanently infesting the flesh in the foot. As Yama always espoused the cause of justice and was impartial, he won the name of 'Dharma Raja."

A bath in the holy river such as Cauvery, Tamaraparani and in the sea at Vedaranyam on this occasion is considered auspicious. On this occasion, sage Hemarishi had the Dharshan of Lord Vishnu when he bathed in the tank 'Por Thamarai Kularn' (the tank of gold lotuses) in the Sri Sarangapani temple at Kumbakonam.

The six months commencing from the Makara Sankranti day (Uttarayana period) are said to be the day time of the Devas. The morning hours are said to be specially favourable for receiving the influences liberated by the Devas for the community. The sun is said to nourish not only our earth, but also the various planets and stars comprised in his system. Therefore, all devote themselves to the study of Vedas, celebration of marriages and auspicious rites during Uttarayana period.

Let all of us pray the Sun God and obtain his blessings on this happy day.