Great is the Sun and wide he goes, through empty heaven with repose, and in blue and glowing days, more thick than rain he showers his rays. The silver beams of the moon may be associated with dreams, creativity and the magic of love, but the Sun with its golden rays dispelling both the darkness of the night and the ignorance of the soul is no less celebrated. The nourishing and energizing qualities of the Sun have been recognised, eulogized and revered across all cultures of the world as intrinsic to life and awareness that is unique and all important to human existence. Lord Surya , said to ride the sky on his chariot defeating the darkness finds mention in the Rig Veda, the oldest of the Vedas. Known by many epithets like Vivaswat (Brilliant), Savitr (nourisher), Dinakar (creator of the day) Bhaskar (light provider), Loka Chaksuh (eye of the world), Sahasra Kiran (of a thousand rays) and Graharaja, (Lord of the planets) the Lord Surya is worshipped for health, peace and victory. The ‘Aditya Hridayam’ a hymn, finds an important place in the epic Ramayana where a battleweary Rama vanquishes Ravana after being energised with the recitation of the hymn narrated to him by sage Agastya. The powerful Gayatri mantra is also dedicated to Savitr, the Vedic Surya deity while the Surya Namaskar is a practice in Yoga incorporating a series of 12 gracefully linked asanas, chanting the twelve names of Surya. Makara Sankranti is an important festival dedicated to the Sun, celebrated when it transits into Makara rasi (Capricorn) marking the end of the winter solstice and is the only one celebrated as per the solar cycle.
This is unlike majority of the Hindu festivals that follows the lunar cycle. It ushers in the auspicious ‘Uttarayana’ period, where the warmth of the Sun embraces the earth and the spring follows with celebratory mode. The harvest festival of the Sankranti is not just about prosperity, but the period which connotes a new dawn, new beginnings and a break from the past. It attributes revolutions, changes, hopes and positivity. Makara Sankranti is the date from which the Northward movement of the Sun begins. According to the scriptures, Dakshinaya, symbolizes as the night of Gods and the sign of negativity and Uttarayana is considered as a symbol of day of Gods and sign of positivity.
On this day as the Sun starts its journey towards the Northern Hemisphere, days will be longer and nights becomes smaller and people take holy ‘snaan’ in Ganga, Godavari, Krishna, Yamuna and at holy places. Performing haldi kumkum ceremony is a way that invokes the waves of quiescent Adi – Shakti. This helps in generating impression of Saguna bhava in the mind and enhances the spiritual emotion of God. Makara Sankranti is also celebrated as the harvest festival and marks the arrival of spring. ‘Lakshadeepam’, was celebrated at Padmanabha Swamy temple on Makara Sankranti day. The entire temple was adorned with one lakh (one hundred thousand) oil Lamps in and around the temple. The first Lakshadeepotsav was celebrated on the first of Makaram 925 ME, 14th of January 1750 AD. The festival was celebrated by the King Marthanda Varma Raja. This mega festival is celebrated on the concluding day of the Murajapam. Murajapam is a holy prayer offered to the Lord Ananta Padmanabha Swamy once in 6 years by chanting the three Vedas (Rig, Yajur and Sama) and Vishnu Sahasranamam for a period of 56 days which ends on the day of the Makara Sankranti in the month of January. Laksha Deepam festival is celebrated on the day of the Makara Sankranti. This festival still continues as an immensely grand festival and visual magnitude attracting staggering numbers of devotees to this great temple. The highlight of the year was the “Jalajapam”, which was revived after a century.