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Mesha Sankranti

Mesha Sankranti - ingress of Sun in sidereal Aries (Mesha Rashi) from Meena  marks the beginning of the New Year in the traditional Hindu Solar Calendar. Solar calendars in India 
such as Oriya calendar, Tamil Calendar, Malayalam Calendar and Bengali Calendar mark 
the first day of the year based on Mesha Sankranti. Solar calendars follow different rules to 
mark the first day of the year depending on exact time of the Sankranti.
It generally falls on 14/15 April. The spring season is at its zenith during this period, and the summer is approaching.


For Mesha Sankranti ten Ghatis before and ten Ghatis after the Sankranti moment are considered Punya-Kaal -auspicious time for daan. If Sankranti occurs after sunset but before midnight then later half of the day is considered and if Sankranti occurs after midnight then first half of the next day is considered for Mesha Sankranti rituals.

Also known as Maha Vishuva Sankranti - the first day of the month of 'Baisakh' as well as the solar year, is similar to the New Year festivals observed elsewhere in India such as Baisakhi (Punjab), Bihu (Assam), Juir Sheetal (Mithila), Naba Barsha or Pohela Boishakh (Bengal), Bisu Parba (Tulu Nadu region in Karnataka), Vishu (Kerala), and Puthandu (Tamil Nadu).
There are specific reasons as to why the Vishuva Sankranti is considered as the first day of 
the solar year. On only two occasions around year, Mesha Sankramana and Tula Sankramana, 
the Sun fully rests on the equator. On these two dates, the length of days and nights are equal. After Mesha Sankranti the Sun moves in the northern direction to our side as our country is 
situated to the north of the equator. It is, therefore, from this day of first movement of the 
Sun from Mesha Sankranti that the New Year is counted. All over the country this day is 
considered auspicious and is celebrated with social, cultural and religious performances.
This is also called "Jala Visuva Sankranti" In northern India it is called "Jala Sankranti", in 
southern India "Sakkar Pongal" and in Orissa it is known as "Pana Samkranti", named after 
'Pana', the main drink offering specially prepared on this occasion.

THE TRADITION
In 'Bhavishya Purana', this festival has been mentioned as Jala Samkranti. According to tradition when 'Bhishma', the grandfather of 'Kurus' or 'Kauravas' and the 'Pandavas' lay on the bed of arrows ('Shara Sajya') he felt thirsty and there was no water nearby in the ravaged battle-field of 'Kurukshetra'. Then 'Arjuna' with his powerful bow thrusted an arrow deep into the ground and water immediately came out in a stream to quench the thirst of the dying warrior. Out of contentment and compassion Bhishma conferred to 'Yudhisthira', "Those people who would offer cold water to thirsty people on this day would not only be free from all sins, but also the departed souls of their ancestors as well as the Gods in heaven would be pleased." This saying of the holy scripture is observed with great reverence and people all over the country offer sweet-water to thirsty people as a religious rite.

Various Solar calendars followed in India e.g. Oriya calendar, Tamil Calendar, Malayalam 
Calendar and Bengali Calendar mark the first day of the year (or Vishu Kani for Malayalam calendar) based on Mesha Sankranti. Solar calendars follow different rules to mark the first 
day of the year depending on exact time of the Sankranti.

In  Odisha first day of the year is celebrated on the same day as the Sankranti if it occurs before Hindu midnight. Mesha Sankranti is celebrated as Pana Sankranti in Odisha.

In Tamil Nadu when Sankranti takes place after sunrise and before sunset the year begins on 
the same day. If Sankranti takes place after sunset then the year begins on the following day. Mesha Sankranti is celebrated as Puthandu in Tamil Nadu.

In Malayalam calendar, the day between sunrise and sunset is divided into five parts. If Sankranti takes place within the first three of them the year begins of the same day, otherwise it begins on 
the following day. In other words if Sankranti occurs till Madhyana it is observed on the same day otherwise it would be observed on next day. Mesha Sankranti is celebrated as Vishu in Kerala.

In Bengal, when Sankranti takes place between sunrise and midnight of the day the year begins on the following day. If it occurs after midnight the year begins on the next following day. Mesha Sankranti is celebrated as Naba Barsha or Pohela Boishakh in West Bengal.

Mesha Sankranti is celebrated as Bihu in Assam and as Vaisakhi in Punjab.

Above rules are good to start first day of the year for civil reckoning. However auspicious time, for Dan-Punya activities, is independent of above rules and should be done after considering exact moment of Sankranti because only certain time duration before or after each Sankranti moment is considered auspicious for Sankranti related activities. 

In South India Sankranti is called as Sankramanam. 

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