June 21st the summer solstice.
Solstice is an astronomical event that occurs twice each year as the sun reaches its highest or lowest excursion in relation to the celestial equator on the celestial sphere. The solstices together with the equinoxes are connected with seasons and many cultures have elaborate rituals and associations to commemorate this.
The word in itself is derived from the Latin Sol and Sistere that is literally translated to Sun-stand still. It appears as seen from earth that the sun’s path comes to a stop before reversing its movement.
In relation to the tropic of cancer or Capricorn the sun appears highest in the sky, while in the tropics it appears directly over head and this is referred to as the subsolar point. These points actually occur twice a year.
In a larger sense the day of the solstice is either the longest day or the shortest day outside the tropics. Depending on where you are- viewing it from and which time of the year. During the June solstice the subpolar point is further north from any other time at the tropic of cancer,(23.44”N) and the December solstice is when the subsolar point is further south than any other time at the tropic of Capricorn (23.44”S)
During the June solstice places on the Aortic circle experience the midnight sun as the sun is on the horizon during midnight for 24hrs.
These concepts are deeply embedded in the ancient cultures celestial navigation. The visualized the zodiac as an oblique angle because it is positioned between the tropical circles and equinoctial circle and touches each of the tropical at one point. This is described as three circles and the centre one is called helical or of the sun.
In the Hindu context this is the onset of Dakshinayana, the movement of the sun to the south beginning on the Karka sankranti or the first day of the Karkataka Masa of the solar calendar, to end on Makara sankranti the onset of the movement of the sun to the northern hemisphere.
Somehow this is considered an inauspicious period, “the asura kala” for me personal asura Kala is about rejuvenation, and rebirth, the time the earth needs to heal.
The sadhuguru of the Isha foundation has an interesting thing to say, that this is significant to anyone who practises any form of yoga, for the relationship with the planet alters here as compared to our relationship during the northern run. The planet moves south so the earth moves in the anticlockwise direction that would mean altered body physiology.
This also the time that the Adiyogi Shiva became Dakshina murti. He turned south because the sun did so; he also began teaching yoga to his first seven disciples the saptarishi. This is the onset of the path to realization the sadhana pada, the uttarayana then gets referred to as the samadhipada the time for realization.
The sadhana pada becomes more important because in the process of making anything happen the most important thing to do is in our hands. What is not in our hands we can only anticipate? Sadhana is in our hands and we can attend to it.
Daksihanaya now becomes a period of nurturing; seasonally we are looking at rains, and harvest.
The Dakishnayana also brings with it the four holy months the Chaturmasa. It begins on the shukla ekadasi of Ashada and ends on the Shukla ekadashi of Kartika. This is the monsoon and most important festivals take place in these four months. The first month that is Shravana is dedicated to Lord Shiva particularly the Monday’s. This is the month of air imbalance of Vata prakopa. Probably this inspired the Hindi song “Sawan ki mahina pawan kare shor.” Jokes apart imbalance of Vata leads to emotional imbalance. The next month the Bhadrapada hosts Krishna Janmashtami and Ganesh Chaturthi the imabalance of Vata continues into this month. The mind seem to be depressed and unable to receive what it wants, that is there could be a lack of fulfilment of desires. Then 3rd month is Ashwin which is more energizing with navaratri arriving. 4th month is the Kartika masa and the arrival of Diwali, with the advent of Uttanadwashi or the Tulasi vivah the auspicious moments for life sacraments like marriage and upanayana begin.
Interestingly the period of chaturmasa, leafy vegetables are avoided as are onion garlic, which are underground growths, this could be more in relation to the environment in which they grow.
To create awareness of the summer solstice the NGO science popularisation association and educators foundation. (SPACE) conducts solar fest at Jantar Mantar the visitors are made aware of the various astronomical instruments and the importance of the longest day. The teams from SPACE explain to the participants the importance of the 4 yantras that is the JaiPrakash Yantra, Ram Yantra, Samrat Yantra and the Mishra Yantra that are the part of the ancient observatory.
Last year the IIT students performed a skit to educate the participants on the significance of the summer solstice day and dispel myths around the eclipse. They also sit up pin hole camera and ball projectors so that people could watch the sun.