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Uttarayana Punyakalam - 2018 - It's importance and significance in Hinduism

The word 'Uttarayana' is a compound word formed of two words 'Uttara' and 'ayana'. 'Uttara' means Northward and 'ayana' means travel / movement. Uttarayana means the northward movement.

The change in Sun's movement towards North is known as 'Uttarayan' in Sanskrit. Scientifically, the tilting of Northern Hemisphere of Earth towards Sun appears to us as Sun's northward movement. Hindus celebrate 'Uttarayana' at the time of the northward movement of Sun. It is considered as 'Punyakalam' i.e holy time.

The northward movement of Sun coincides with Sun's transition into the zodiac sign of Makara Rasi (Capricorn) which is celebrated as 'Makara Sankranti' by Hindus.. 'Sankramanam' is the time when Sun transits from one zodiac sign to the other. In Vedic astrology / Hindu calendar, there are 12 'Sankramanas' in a calendar year. 'Sankramanam' normally falls on 14 / 15 of every month. In some southern states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, new month starts based on Sun's transition.

The time when Sun transits from Dhanur Rasi (Sagittarius) to Makara Rasi (Capricorn), Hindus celebrate 'Makara Sankranti'. Every year 'Uttarayana Punyakalam' and 'Makara Sankramanam' together occurs on January 14 or 15. From this 'Uttarayana' day the Northern Hemisphere of Earth starts tilting towards Sun after its maximum tilt away from Sun. The days in the Northern Hemisphere start getting longer and hotter from this day.

Sun is the Ultimate Source of energy for life on Earth. As the Northern Hemisphere starts titling towards Sun from 'Uttarayana' day, it marks the end of the dead (winter) season. New / fresh leaves start growing on the trees that had shed their leaves in the dry winter season. Human beings and animals depend on plants for their food which in turn depend on Sun for preparing their own food through the process of photosynthesis.

'Uttarayana' symbolizes fresh life / hope. The transition of Sun from Dhanur Rasi to Makara Rasi is considered as 'Punyakalam' and the day is celebrated all over India as Makara Sankranti - a harvest festival.

According to Hinduism, it is believed that 'Uttarayana' day marks the beginning of a day for the 'Devatas' in the 'Devalokam'. And it remains day time for an entire period of 6 months (Earth months) starting from 'Makara Sankramanam' day, for the 'Devatas'.

It is believed that 'Vaikuntham' - the Abode of Lord Vishnu is in the North direction (to Earth). The gates of  'Vaikuntham' opens on Vaikuntha Ekadasi day as it is dawn at Deva Lokam. And the movement of Sun towards 'Vaikuntham' (i.e North) is considered sacred. Hence, 'Uttaranaya' is considered as 'Punyakalam'.

Hindus perform many religious activities like a holy dip / bath in the seas / rivers offering prayers to Sun god, during 'Uttaryana Punyakalam' time. People also donate (daanam / daan) food, clothes, money etc to the poor.

Time / Date of Uttarayana Punyakalam: 7.01 p.m IST on January 14, 2018 (subject to slight variations depending on local time)