Equinox is the day the sun shines over the equator twice a year as it is seen to move from north and south. This year the northward crossing of the equator is on 20 March
Come 21 March and people are seen thronging certain places of the world — one among them being the temple of Lord Padmanabha Swamy at Trivandrum! The purpose is to see the spectacle of the equinoctial sun passing through the mid-point of the tower, known as Gopura.
Every year the equinoctial days — in March and September — attract many pilgrims and tourists alike wanting to catch a glimpse of the direct solar-rays splash through the openings located one below the other at the middle of the Gopura of the temple.
Equinox is the day the sun shines over the equator twice a year as it is seen to move from north and south. This year the northward crossing of the equator, popularly known as Spring Equinox starts at 15:33 hours, Universal Time (UT) on 20 March. The date of Spring equinox oscillates between 20 and 21 March depending on the leap year adjustment. The unique sighting of the equinoctial sun at the middle of the Gopura is hailed as an archaeological wonder of the ancient builders, though not very ancient because this Gopura was built 400 years ago.
Not so recent is the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia built in the 12th century whose central tower offers the fantastic sight of the sun touching its summit only on the days of the equinox. Back in time, four centuries before Angkor Wat was built, the Maya people had made the Temple of Kukulkan in the city of Chichen Itza that is also found to be aligned to the equinoctial sun. On both the equinoctial days, the shadow of the sun makes snake-like body from the head of the serpent carved at the bottom of the structure.
Another structure, the Stonehenge circle in Southern England, built farther back in time in stages between 3100 BCE and 1600 BCE was found aligned to the equinoxes when it was first reported by William Stukeley in his 1740 publication. The alignment continues to be seen even today, attracting a considerable crowd and a new evolving order of pagan worship.
Competing with the antiquity of the Stonehenge is the megalithic structure found on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea — the Mnajdra temple complex. One of its structures has a central passage exactly on the way of the equinoctial sunlight and the two edges of the passage align with the two solstices. This structure is perhaps the most researched but has also left researchers most bewildered. Graham Hancock is of the opinion that it could have been built 12,000 years ago, in the earlier precession cycle, but the archaeological evidence do not place it beyond 5,000 years ago.
A number of other structures of lost civilisations are found to be exactly oriented to the equinoctial sun. Some of them have been documented by the NASA website, while many others are being unearthed by archaeo-astronomers. To mention some of them, the giant rock on top of a mountain in Machu Picchu of the Incas in Peru built in the 15th century, the Grianan of Aileach of Ireland built around the 6th-7th century and the Ahu Akivi statues of the Easter Island built in the 15th century are found positioned in such a way that they face the equinoctial sun.
Many churches in Europe, built centuries ago, are also seen to have openings in strategic places on the wall to allow the sun’s rays to fall on the altar exactly on the equinox days.
Such perfect alignment of these structures with the equinox of today is astounding and unbelievable as per current scientific understanding of a phenomenon called ‘precession of the equinoxes” that is attributed to the precession of the earth’s axis.
Current science on precession of the equinoxes
It is true that the sun’s position in the backdrop of the star-studded sky does not come back to the same position at the time of equinox (sun shining on the earth’s equator). The equinox of every succeeding year falls 20 minutes short of the previous year thereby causing a shortfall of one day every 72 years. By this time, the sun moves one degree in the sky. This backward movement of the equinoctial point is known as the precession of the equinox.
As per this scientific theory, the structures seen oriented to the equinox of today must have been built with different orientations of the equinox in the past. If one or two structures were aligned to the equinox of today, it could have been dismissed as coincidental, but with so many structures matching perfectly with today’s equinox, it raises a question whether we are missing out something in nature that we have not yet grasped. The archaeo-astronomy of these ancient buildings seems to be at loggerheads with the astronomy of today, that forces us to relook at the astronomy theory of precession.
As per current science, precession of the equinox is attributed to the axial precession of the earth. It is believed that the earth rotates like a spinning top whose axis draws a circle in the opposite direction. Applying the same logic of motion, it is theorised that the earth’s axis gradually traces a circle on the sky in 26,000 years. Every year the axis pre-cesses at the rate of approximately 50 arc seconds by which the equinox is seen to occur 20 minutes earlier. The equinoctial sun (also known as tropical sun) is observed in the backdrop of a distant star, a referential frame lying outside the solar system. Here lies the difference between what is seen by archaeo-astronomy and proposed by current astronomy.
Archaeo-astronomy of the ancient structures show that there is no change in the alignment between the earth and the sun. The precession theory of astronomy shows that there is a continuous change in the alignment between the earth and the frame of reference lying outside the solar system. This, in other words, means that the entire solar system is precessing with the inmates (at least the earth) retaining a constant configuration with the sun. This fixed positioning causes the equinox on the same calendric day all the years, though the sun at equinox shifts backwards with reference to outer space.
Archaeo-astronomy supported by documentations
The written version by Stukeley in CE 1740 shows that the equinox occurred at the middle of the Stonehenge then as it is now. The French Republican Calendar started a new era on 22 September CE 1792 which was the day of autumnal equinox of that time, says EG Richards in his book Mapping Time: The Calendar and Its History (p 258). This is exactly the date of autumnal equinox even today!
Richards also informs that 21 March was the day of spring equinox in the year CE 325 when the First Council of Nicaea was convened (p 250). The repetition of the same date of equinox appearing at different times in the past made the calendar researchers think that the date was followed ‘notionally’.
By the time of the advent of the Gregorian calendar in CE 1582, when accurate values of the length of the tropical year were calculated, it was found that the spring equinox continued to occur on 21 March with a variation of a day due to leap-year adjustments. Since then 439 years have passed, by which the equinoctial day must have slipped by six days as per the current theory of astronomy, but no, it is not happening. All these prove beyond doubt that the earth’s axis is not pre-cessing. It is the sun moving in the backdrop of stars that is perceived as precession while the earth is bound with the sun in constant position.
What makes the calendric date of the equinox same always?
The calendric division of the year (a revolution of the earth around the sun) into near-exact number of days of rotation had made it possible to get the same date year after year. To understand this, imagine the orbit of the earth around the sun as a series of 366 dots apportioned equally on the 360 degree-circle, wherein each dot represents a day. Imagine 366 spokes connecting the axis (sun) with the dots on the orbit (rim). Each day the earth comes to each dot in the rim.
At the end of first round, the earth doesn’t touch the 366th dot but falls short of by 3/4 parts because the time taken to complete one round is 365 days and 6 hours (6 hour = ¼ part of a day). In the second year another shortfall of 6 hours, that is repeated in the third and the fourth year, by which time one day is lost. So, a day is added in the fourth year that we call as a leap year. This shows that the earth’s position on the orbit passing through 366 dots almost remains the same with reference to the sun (axis of the wheel) with the loss of 1 full dot corrected in the leap year. By this we can say that the location of the earth on any day on the orbit (rim) is almost the same — with a difference of just one day.
To give an example, on 1 January, the earth will be on the same dot/point on the orbit like it was in the previous years. In the non-leap years, it will be 6, 12 and 18 hours before the 1 January position but will come back to 1 January on the fourth year due to leap year correction. Like this it happens to all the dates including the day of the equinox that sways between 20 and 21 March. This explains the Kirnotsava observed for hundreds of years in some temples of India.
Kirnotsava caused by fixed alignment between the earth and the sun
In the Mahalakshmi temple at Kolhapur, the sunrays fall on the deity’s feet, chest and the entire body on three specific days consecutively every year and this is said to be happening for hundreds of years. Similarly, the face of the statue of Gautam Buddha in the Ellora cave is lit by sunrays on 10 or 11 March every year, which is possible only if the earth is bound to the sun in fixed orientation and not with a drifting axis.
The same phenomenon is observed at Abu Simbel, the rock-cut temples in Egypt, built by Rameses II between 1279 BCE and 1213 BCE. Sun light falls on King Ramses II’s face exactly on two days in the year, on 22 February, marking his coronation, and on 22 October marking his birthday. This continues to be sighted for thousands of years since he built it in this way.
These revelations of Archaeo-astronomy are set to re-write the theory of Astronomy of precession sooner than later. Coming to think of Padmanabha Swamy temple, many olden temples of India must have been aligned to the equinoxes (tropical), though for religious purposes we follow sidereal point for equinox. The reason for the using tropical alignment can be traced to the Vaastu principles in following ‘exact east’ (Shuddha Praacii) for building temples and houses. The ‘exact East’ doesn’t change! That the ancient builders around the world have adhered to it, is the remarkable insight conveyed by archaeo-astronomy of these structures.
The author, a PhD in astrology is an independent researcher in Hindu Epics, Pre-History, Tamil Sangam literature and astro-meteorology. She has so far published five books that include the book validating the year of the Mahabharata war. Write to email@example.com to get hard copy of her books.
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