Happy Makara Saṁkrānti! This is one of the most beloved annual celebrations, and with good reason: on this day, we honor our beautiful, glorious, life-giving, celestial ball of fire and radiance: Sūrya-devatā, Lord Sun.
Scientific evidence suggests that several thousand years ago, Makara Saṁkrānti was actually the Winter Solstice, when the Northern Hemisphere moves from darkness into light. Because the Earth’s cycle of movement changes in tiny, tiny amounts each year, that day has gone from mid-January back to December 21st/22nd. Regardless, we on this day we still celebrate the end of darkness and the beginning of light!
The sun has been worshipped as a deity in this tradition (and most indigenous paths around the world) from the very beginning. It is the only form of divine light that anyone can tangibly experience. The sun, like sacred consciousness, illumines and sustains our entire world.
Every single day, we feel the sun’s presence on our skin, and see its light reflected in the world around us. The sun is considered the friend of all (mitra), shining his light freely and generously upon all creation. Lord Sun is also our nourisher – his light is the sacred energy from which all food is born.
The sun embodies the qualities of strong, dharmic leadership: all of our natural cycles and rhythms quite literally revolve around the sun. The sun is exemplifies discipline and upholds the cosmic order. And these are just a few of the reasons we have so much respect and gratitude for the sun!
Lastly, even though we honor and respect the physical sun, we recognize that the actual sun we are worshipping is the source of infinite divine light that illumines our inner and outer universe. Our physical sun is just the mūrti, the sacred icon, of the Supreme Presence.
In the same way that a stone statue can not possibly contain the entirely of God’s presence, neither can a small star in the Milky Way contain the vastness of God’s light. Yet each is a vehicle for darśan, for the intimate encounter with grace.
So on this day, let’s come together to celebrate our glorious sun!
1) The single most common practice on Makara Saṁkrānti is to be with the sun! The sun’s rays (kiraṇa) are said to be particularly healing and empowering today, so we spend time outdoors letting the golden rays penetrate our bodies, minds, and hearts. Kite-flying (a fairly modern tradition) is a very fun excuse to do this!
This practice is particularly recommended for anyone struggling with physical weakness, depression or mental fog/indecision.
2) Learn the sun’s mantras and understand his names and attributes. Lesson 2 of our Makara Saṁkrānti course is an exquisite in-depth class on the meaning and pronunciation of the 12 names and mantras of the Sūrya Namaskāra (Sun Salutation).
3) Meditate on and worship Lord Sun’s form as represented in traditional sacred art. Lesson 3 of our course is a wonderfully rich journey through the iconography and symbolism of the sun as a deity. This class covers ancient, modern, folk, and the yantra form of sacred art.
4) Chant or recite the Sūrya Namaskāra mantras. Lesson 4 has both the audio and words for you to practice with. You can also perform the yoga-āsana postures that we know as the sun salutations as you recite each mantra.
5) Chant or listen to the Āditya Gāyatri mantra, an ancient and very potent way to invoke the power and blessing of the sun. The audio, words, and meaning are in Lesson 5.
6) Make and share sweet sesame laddūs (rolled balls) with each other! This is a traditional Ayurvedic prasāda for Makara Saṃkrānti. Part of this practice is also to cultivate friendliness and speak sweetly with each other. Lesson 6 explains this tradition and also includes a delicious Ayurvedic recipe!
7) Study and reflect on classical teachings about the Sun. Lesson 7 is a shloka, a verse, honoring Dawn, and Lesson 8 is a verse from the Īśopaniṣad. It is awe-inspiring to realize that even though thousands of years have come and gone, the sun our ancient ancestors sang to is the same one we sing to.
8) If you practice āsana, you can also perform sūrya-namaskāra, the sun salutations. These are a set of postures that honor and invoke the energy of the sun within the body. Even one round is great, but you can also do a certain number as an offering (11, 108, etc).
9) When you sit for meditation, dhyāna, you can also visualize and meditate on the inner Sun – which is the light of consciousness, the nourisher of all, the warmth of the universe, and the supreme Friend.
It is said that there are six blessings the sun offers us: power, vitality, good health, radiance, success, and positive reputation. As you celebrate and honor Lord Sun, may these beautiful gifts come alive within you!