In Indian mythology, the word “Sankranti” relates to any transformation or change. Makar Sankranti, which falls on 14th of January, one day after Lohri, indicates change in the direction of the sun, as it starts moving north resulting into longer days and shorter nights. In Hindu mythology, it is called Uttarayana. This was the period during Mahabharat when Bhishma Pitamah waited for his death.
The Uttarayana and Dakshinayana are not only time periods mentioned in the Vedic literature but also the state of minds. Uttarayana means a period for a positive state of mind and Dakshinayana a period for relatively negative state of mind. A positive state of mind in Uttarayana makes meditation easier in this period and more fruitful. Beginners should learn the process of meditation and pranayama during this period.
Bhagwad Gita talks about Moksha and liberation. Those who believe in the philosophy of rebirth know that once a soul is liberated at death, a person is not reborn. For others who believe that hell and heaven are in this birth only, liberation means dying peacefully and without sufferings.
The theory of rebirth is well described in Bhagwad Gita in Chapter 8. The gist of Lord Krishna’s teaching is:
1. Whatever you think throughout your life will be your thought at the time of death.
2. Whatever is the state of mind at the time of death will be the atmosphere you will get in the rebirth. For example if your state of mind is in cruelty at the time of death, you will be born in a cruel family.
3. If you are relaxed, thinking of God or chanting AUM at the time of death, there are chances your soul will be liberated.
4. Fire, illumination, daytime, fortnight before full moon and Uttarayana are the paths for liberation. It means these are the periods/ways for spontaneous positive thinking.
From mental health point of view, this knowledge can be converted into medical prescription. Uttarayana means satwik healthy state of mind and dakshinayana means a depressed state of mind. Performing and attending to Yagna, sitting in well–illuminated light or exposing oneself to sunlight during the day can be an adjunct to depression treatment. During the first fortnight of full moon and during Uttarayana, psychotherapy and counseling invariably will work better and the requirement of drugs may get reduced.
Uttarayana is also the period for ‘Snana’ (bath); ‘Daan’ (charity); ‘Dhyana’ (concentration), ‘Upwas’ (detoxification) and ‘Sun worship’ (Sunbath).
Snana means cleansing of the body, mind and the soul and combined with fast or ‘upwas’ and sun bath is the procedure for detoxification. Once the body is detoxified, it’s in a positive state of mind, can concentrate better and gets detached to material things. One should also start donating in charity whatever one has in excess.
Uttarayana can also be described in chakra language. From mooladhara chakra to anahata chakra is the Dakshinayana path and from anahata chakra to ajna chakra is the Uttarayana path. Those who travel on the Uttarayana path travel from anahata chakra. Those who travel on the Dakshinayana path start from mooladhara.