Monday, January 15, 2007

Makar Sankranti

A bitterly cold winter dawn is yet to break. Icy winds from the
Himalayas have been sweeping down all through last week to the vast Gangetic plane. North India is in the throes of a biting cold wave as the sun
prepares for its zodiacal transition from the Sagittarius to the Capricorn ( Makar Sankranti) and starts to travel northwards ( Uttarayan) in the winter solstice. The Makar Sankranti is like a turning point in time marking the ebb of winter and is the first harbinger of the glorious Indian spring. Its a journeys end and
in the cyclic nature of all existence every end is a new beginning.
As the sun prepares for a new journey northwards its new beginnings and
the time for new hopes and inspiration.

Its 5 AM in the morning and I have been working throughout the night and the first tinge of dawn is almost about to break in the eastern horizon. I switch on the television for a tea break and watch a live telecast of the Hindu religious fair the Ardh Kumbh. The Makar Sankranti ( end of suns stay in the zodiac of the Capricorn constellation) is a time for a great show of faith as its an auspicious confluence for Hindus. I am not religious in the conventional senes of the word and although born a
Hindu I have found my own way and my own faith. Yet such a concerted show of faith
is a moving experience and I have always been interested in philosophies.

A sea of humanity have converged on the flat sand bars of the gangetic plains at the confluence ( sangam) of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna and the mythical river Saraswati. Three rivers two real, and one mythical or real is not known as an old river could have died out during the passage of history, meets in an ancient confluence of the different disciplines of one of the oldest human faith. Crystal clear cold drifts over the flowing river as thousands of devotees prepare for the dawn and the holy dip in the holiest river. It says that the river Ganges washes away the Karma of many births. Dew pours from the dark skies yet the devotees brave the bitter cold in a universal show of faith. A fine cold mist settles over the sand banks of the confluence shimmering with the lights of one of the oldest religious fairs the Ardh Kumbh held every six years. It is believed that a dip in the holy waters of the river Ganges flowing down from the freezing Himalayan glaciers at Gomukh to the plains, would relieve the burden of Karmic actions from many births and rebirths. Rebirth is a strong component of the Hindu mystic philosophy.

In the distance the decorated ceremonial boats on the river resplendent in their
dazzling lights gently sway in the current in a joyous dance to welcome the first
light of dawn. Cool mists drift over the darkly flowing river and the dancing lights of the boats creates a wonderful beauty and harmony with the outpouring of faith from
the throng of devotees. The strange half-light which arrives just before the dawn
touches the eastern skies. Its a beautiful light, half dark yet not half light and exists
only for a very short time. The first tinges of a glorious winter dawn breaks against
the dark skies as the red of the rising sun colours the eastern skies. The mist and the
light the dance of the boats and the eternaly flowing dark water of the river tey all become one in a etherealy beautiful atmosphere. The devotees are ready and as the
holy hour approaches they move into the water to cleanse themslves of the sins of many millions of births and rebirths. Breath catches with so much beauty to know that it is not permanent but will change very soon. Nothing exists eternaly and if there
is one essence of our existence it is a continuous change. Yet we hold on to things as if they would be there forever. Yet everything is in cycles and everything rises and decays according to the immutable laws which govern all of our existence. What better
time to think of this as the sun leaves finaly its long movement southwards and leaves
the Capricorn constellation to move northwards to the constellation of the Aquarius.
Cyclic processes of continual change is life itself.


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