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Yugaadi marks the beginning of the traditional lunar new year celebrated in several states of India such as Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Literally, Yugaadi means Adi – “the beginning of” and  yuga – “an era”.  As per current understanding, a yuga  is a measure of time, associated the term with long periods – as in Krta, Treta, Dwapara & Kali yugas,  each spanning thousands of years.

However, if we go back in time for about thirty five centuries, we find Indians had a very different interpretation of the term yuga. Vedanga Jyothisha  compiled by Laagadha  around ~1400BC very clearly defines a yuga as a period of five years. The very opening verse of Vedanga Jyotisha has the following verse:

pa~ncha saMvatsaramayam yughAdhyakSham prajApatim |

dinartvayana mAsAngaM praNamya shirasA shuchih ||

which approximately translated to the following:

“I bow to thee, Oh Prajapati, one who has the day, season and the half-year as limbs,   the over-seer of the five-year long yuga”

Vedanga Jyotisha also tells us when the five-year yuga began based on the alignment of the Sun, Moon and stars (specifically both meeting at the star Shravishta) in the sky.  Also, according to the text, five years of a yuga were called samvatsara, parivatsara, idaavatsara, anuvatsara and idvatsara. Incidentally, this beginning of a new yuga took place at winter solstice, and not at (or close to) Vernal equinox as the current yugaadi is.

Things change over time. Now, we call every year a samvatsara, and the five-year long yuga is almost unknown to most people! If you are more interested on this topic, I suggest you to read this paper by B.N.Narahari Achar is a good resource.

Wishing a very happy Yugaadi to all visitors at ಅಲ್ಲಿದೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆ!

-neelanjana

Today is the Vernal Equinox. In plain English, it is also called the Spring Equinox, or the first day of the Spring.

The day is called Equinox to imply it is the day of the equal day and night. Wherever you on the Earth, that is. Whether you are near the tropics or near the poles. Little hard to believe, but true.

If you are standing somewhere on 13 degree North latitude in Bengalooru, India, here is how the Sun’s path goes aound the sky. The yellow line indicates the path of the Sun, and the little yellow disk represents the Sun.

Path of the Sun as seen from a place 13 Degree North, on Vernal Equinox

Path of the Sun as seen from a place 13 Degree North, on Vernal Equinox

On the other hand, if you were somewhere in the temperate lands, such as the San Fransisco bay area, this is how the Sun’s path would look like.

Solar path on Vernal Equinox, from a place 37 degrees North

Solar path on Vernal Equinox, from a place 37 degrees North

Now,  this is what happens if you go much to the North – say somewhere near Anchorage, Alaska.

View from further North

View from further North

What if you go down South, to Sydney, Australia or Johannesburg, South Africa?

down-south

At each place, you may notice the Sun rises in the true east, and sets in the true west. And this is the reason why the day and night are of equal length everywhere today.

-neelanjana

All the pictures were captured using the solar simulation tool here:

http://astro.unl.edu/naap/motion3/animations/sunmotions.swf

The Winter Solstice is almost here. The shortest day, (and hence the longest night) of the year in the northern hemispher occurs generally on December 20th, 21st or 22nd.  Most of my early years were  spent at a town 13 degree North. Back there, solstice, or equinox, there isn’t much of a difference 🙂  June 21st, supposedly the longest day of the year, was in the early rainy season and so the chance of seeing the sun was rather dim.

Later when I spent a few years in a city located 19 degree North,  it started making sense why they said that the days were much longer in the northern hemisphere in June :-).  I was thrilled to see the evening twilight last till 7:45 pm. 

All my elementary Geogrphy text books told me that between the tropic of cancer and the arctic circle lies the “temperate” zone. It was translated in Kannada as “ಸಮಶೀತೋಷ್ಣ ವಲಯ” –  a region where cold and warmth are balanced. These books had also told me that between the Equator and the Tropic of the Cancer where  I lived was called the Tropical zone – ಉಷ್ಣ ವಲಯ – “a hot region”.  

As a nine year old, my thinking was that our summers were hot because it was located in thetropics.  The word ‘temperate’ suggested me some kind of ideal climate where it is pleasantly cool in winter, and warm in summer. Later I discovered  many places in North India located north of Tropic of Cancer,  did not actually fit my dreamy discription. But since I never visited any place north of Vindhyas, my mental imagery of a temperate paradise had remained somewhere deep in my brain. 

The real weather shocker came when I moved to a city in the western hemisphere, located at 38 degree north. Wow! It was July when I arrived here, and the he Sun set at 8:50 pm.  To top that the days were hot as hell. Six months later – in December, it was bone chilling cold ( well, at least to a person from tropics!). Now I understand the meaning of temperate = sama-sheetOShNa = ‘ equally cold and hot’. My text books were accurate to the dot.  Temperate was indeed equally balanced between winter and summer! : “Hot as hell in summer, and Bone chilling cold in winter”!

Surprisingly, in the USA the winter solstice is called the first day of winter. In my opinion,  it seems little illogical. The  days will get only longer from now on.  If this is not mid-winter, at least I should say it is a month into winter. But can it really be the first day of winter? I doubt. But I am not a weather man. So  who am I to have a say anything about this matter? But, if you want to know about the origin of the winter solstice festival in India, and can read Kannada, you may like to read this link, and this link.

Anyway where I live now,  winter is generally characterised by denuded trees. Typically this is what I expect to see is this in my neighbourhood. Quite a bleak sight indeed.

A Winter Street

Here, winter also happens to be the  rainy season.  So we see lots of dull, cloudy windy days. More like the one shown in the picture below.

Typical winter day

But why would we call it “Mother Nature” if not for her whims and  quirks?

I found an opportunity to photograph some really nice “fall foliage” just around the corner from my house today, the 20th of December.  Olny two days to go before winter solstice, and perfect colors so typicall of Fall! 

Some of those snaps are here.

bahu-roopi.jpgfierce-red.jpgyellow-maple.jpgperfect-fall.jpggreen-yellow-red.jpg

This  reminded me of the 500 mile road trip I made two months ago to see fall foliage in northern California. The quality here in my neighborhood is as good as “The Road to Paradise” . Quantity?  I wouldn’t try to compare!

-neelanjana

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