Uttarayan - The Fascinating Northward Movement of the Sun

Sunrise at the White Rann, Gujarat. Photo by Anu Anniah

Per the Hindu scriptures, Uttarayan is considered an auspicious time of the year. After December 21st, the Winter Solstice, the Sun seems to move to the north with each passing day. This apparent movement of the Sun to the North is called Uttarayan.

In Sanskrit, uttar means north, and ayan means movement. Of course, the Sun is not moving anywhere. It is the earth’s movement in relation to the Sun. Since we don’t feel the earth move (thank God!), it looks like the Sun is moving.

According to Sadhguru, Uttarayan is a period of receptivity, grace, and enlightenment.

Let me admit upfront that I have a long way to go to understand the depth of knowledge our forefathers had. The concepts of uttarayan and dakshinayan recently came into focus in my mind. Dakshninayan is the southward movement of the Sun after he has finished his business in the north.

My new awakening is a result of several factors that manifested in recent times.

I am blessed with a wonderful view of the sky from my balcony. My husband and I have established an evening coffee ritual that coincides with the spectacular sunsets. Not being in a full-time job gives me the freedom to stand on my balcony and enjoy my coffee while viewing the stunning solar performance each evening.

The result is that I was able to capture photos of the sunset on multiple evenings at around the same time. I noticed clearly that the Sun was moving the goalpost each day. I saw the beauty of uttarayan unravel in front of my eyes.

Images captured and converted to a collage by Anu Anniah

The best part? I seem to have clicked the pictures at approximately the same time each day. 6:13 pm, 6:07 pm, and 6:06 pm, to be precise. The Sun showed up each day and moved just a little bit in the journey towards the north.

Nature has her established ways and follows them in a predictable manner. Hindu scholars understood all this way back in time and celebrated nature and her changes. For example, kite flying is considered an important part of uttarayan. It is believed that this was a way to get people to go out and enjoy the sunlight for better health.

With my limited knowledge, I view uttarayan as a time of much light. It is the onset of the summer months. A time when the sun shines bright, nature is regrowing leaves lost during the autumn and winter months, and flowers are bursting forth to add color to the world. The birds are chattering non-stop to catch up on the silence of the cold winter months. The world is teeming with life.

Maybe that’s why the ancients viewed this as a time for new beginnings. A time when the mind and body are alert, and nature is also in growth mode. Since humans are so inextricably coupled with nature, it goes without saying that this is the time for auspicious beginnings.

Funny how some free time and a nice view help us notice so much about the world around us. A sign to slow down just a little and to stop and smell the roses, maybe?

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