Sankranti means the movement of the sun from one rashi or constellation according to Hindu astronomy to another. According to this theory there are 12 sankrantis in total in an entire year.
Each sankranti is marked at the beginning of a month according to the calendars followed in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Odisha, Punjab, and Gujarat among other places.
However, in some places according to the local calendars, Sankranti marks the end of a month and the beginning of another, as in West Bengal and Assam.
Thus the Karka sankranti marks the sun moving into the Karka rashi. In 2017, Karka Sankranti will begin on the 16th of July. The punya kal Muhurta on this day will stay for six hours and forty-nine minutes and the most auspicious Maha Punya Kal Muhurta will last for two hours and sixteen minutes
- Legend regarding Karka Sankranti
Legend has it that Gods go to sleep for 6 months. It is believed that they go to sleep during the Dakshinayana period. Dakshinayana begins from the time the sun enters the Karka Rashi or from the Karka Sankranti. It lasts for 6 month and ends with the Uttarayana of the sun which begins with Makar Sankranti in the month of January according to Gregorian calendar.
It is believed that during Dakshinayana period the Gods go to sleep, so Lord Vishnu too goes to sleep.
- Rituals of Karka Sankranti
Chaturmasam a four month period from Sravana to Karthika month as per Hindu calendar falls during the Dakshinayana period and is considered to be auspicious and a time for celebration. Lord Vishnu is worshipped during this auspicious period.
Devotees during this period take a religious or a holy bath and perform Pitra Tarpan for departed souls of their family, ie forefathers. According to Hindu mythology, this phase is the best to perform Shraddh ceremony for departed souls as it gives them peace. Satvik or vegetarian food is also taken by the devotee.
Varaha Swami is regarded to be anincarnation of Lord Vishnu and is worshipped during this period. Vishnu Sahasra Nama Sthothram is chanted by the devotees the whole day and blessings are sought.
This day is also called Deva Sayani Ekadashi and is said to be the most auspicious one for charity as it is said to be extremely beneficial on this day. It is fulfilling to be donating food and clothes on this day.
- Significance of Karka Sankranti
Karka Sankranti also starts the beginning of the agricultural seasons as it is the beginning of the monsoon. This Dakshinayana phase is considered to be an auspicious one as some of the major festivals occur during this period, as the Ganesh Chaturthi, the Deepavali, The Vijaya Dasami etc. nights in this phase are longer than the day as the Sun moves from the Karka Rashi to the Dhanu Rashi during this period.