– Satish S Nayak, Association of Friends of Astronomy(Goa)

This day, 21stMarch, has been exceptionally special to mankind from millenniums. Our ancient ancestors observed that on this day the Sun stands exactly on the equator and so exactly in the center of the planet. This gives birth to multitude happenings…
* Solar noon exactly at 12 on the equator
* No shadow phenomena at 12 on the equator
* Equal days and nights all over the earth
* Sun rises exactly in the East on this day
* Sunlight falls on both the poles of the earth on this day

           The equinox day marks the passage of the Sun into the Northern hemisphere. Although the northward journey of the sun started on the winter Solstice in December, it’s on this day that the Sun actually steps into the Northern side of the planet. The Northward passage of the Sun marks many crucial happenings in the Northern hemisphere…
* Heralds the beginning of Spring
* Longer days, shorter nights
* Advent of summer
* Beginning of monsoon cloud building in the North
* Reverse phenomena in the southern hemisphere

           The name itself signifies EQUI: equal and NOX: night, meaning equal nights
(& day). This day heralds spring, light, warmth, fruits, flowers, agriculture and rejuvenation of life for the Northern hemisphere, hence was of paramount importance to all the great ancient civilizations of The North. Even public structures all over the Northern world were aligned to receive the magical rays of the equinoxial Sunrise or Sunset as is being discovered by archeo-astronomers worldwide… A few notable examples…
* Stonehenge, 5000 years old in England
* Pyramid of Kukulkán, 3000 years old in Chichen Itza, Mexico.
* Mnajdra temples, 3600years old in Malta, Europe
* Angkor Wat temple, 3150 years old in Cambodia.
* Punkri Burwadhi (megalithic site) earlier than 5500years in Jharkhand, India.

           2000 years ago, on this day, The Sun would shine in the constellation Aries, the ram, hence Aries assumed paramount importance in astronomy and astrology and was designated as the first constellation of the sky. But due to constant struggle of the earth between the tugs of the Sun and the Moon, the earth’s poles are moving at about one degree in 73 years and hence today, the Sun no longer rises in Aries on 21st March. Now it rises in Pisces, so scientifically Pisces would now be the first constellation. The Vernal equinox in Aries marks many religious and cultural events in the world …
* Most New Year days centered around Equinox in the ancient cultures.
* Equinox marked spring festivals (like Holi)
* Nawroz festival of cleansing of Iran and parsis.
* Passover, biggest Jewish festival
* Aries also represents a lamb(Jesus) and its meeting with The Sun (God) on Equinox day had great significance for early Catholicism and the Equinox is still used to calculate Easter day.

           The Vedic Indians, called this day as Vishuvan or Mahavishuvan orVasantik and the day was important as transitional period between the Shishira Ritu to Vasant Ritu(Winter to Spring). The day marked a number of important rituals …
* Ekavimsa Vidhi , a ritual which gave power to Aditya, the Sun to ascend the heavens.
* Divakirta, Vedic recitations done for 10 days prior ro the Equinoxial day
* Stoma , a ritual done 3 days before and 3 days after the equinox to ‘firmly’ place the Sun in the center of the sky
* sacrifices and prayers marked this day and it was prohibited to have any social event like marriages or Grihapravesha on this day.
* The equinox was likned to the advent of the new year, Varshapratipada.

           Astronomy is the oldest living heritage of humans, it’s the struggle of our ancestors to understand the cosmos and find their place in it. So it is important for us to understand and renew the importance of days like the Spring /vernal equinox of 21stMarch. Have a great time and may The Sun shine high.

(PS: Join us today evening at 5.30pm at Holy spirit Church in Margao to witness the rare equinoctial phenomena of the setting sun lighting up the altars , possible due to a skillful alignment of the ancient architects of the Church to the equinox.see you)


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