In Hindu calendar there are total twelve Sankranti in a year which can be divided into four categories.
In Hindu calendar there are total twelve Sankranti in a year. All twelve Sankranti can be divided into four categories.
Ayan Sankranti / Ayani Sankranti:Makar Sankranti
and Karka Sankranti are two Ayan Sankranti which are also known as Uttarayana Sankranti and Dakshinayana Sankranti respectively. Uttarayana is six month time period when the Sun moves into Northern hemisphere and Dakshinayana is remaining six month time period when the Sun moves into Southern hemisphere. The Sun God starts moving into Northern hemisphere about 24 days before Makara Sankranti. Currently Makara Sankranti occurs on 14th or 15th January while Winter Solstice, the movement of the Sun from Southern to Northern hemisphere, starts on 21st or 22nd December.
In Tamil Nadu Makar Sankranti or Sankranthi is known as Pongal. In Gujarat and Rajasthan Makar Sankranti is known as Uttarayana. In Haryana and Punjab Makar Sankranti is known as Maghi.
Vishuva or Sampat Sankranti:
Mesha Sankranti and Tula Sankranti are two Vishuva Sankranti which are also known as Vasant Sampat and Sharad Sampat respectively. Mesha Sankranti is also known as Maha Vishuva Sankranti. Various Solar calendars followed in India such as Oriya calendar, Tamil Calendar, Malayalam Calendar and Bengali Calendar mark the first day of the year based on Mesha Sankranti.
Mesha Sankranti is celebrated as Pana Sankranti in Orissa. The 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 Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, as Vishu in Kerala, as Naba Barsha or Pohela Boishakh in West Bengal and as Vaisakhi in Punjab.
For these two Sankranti, fifteen Ghati before and after Sankranti moments are considered for auspicious activities. For Mesha Sankranti ten Ghatis before and ten Ghatis after the Sankranti moment are considered Shubh or auspicious and this time window is taken for all Dan-Punya activities. The later half of the day is considered as auspicious if Sankranti occurs after sunset but before midnight and if Sankranti occurs after midnight then first half of the next day is considered for Mesha Sankranti rituals.
Simha Sankranti, Kumbha Sankranti, Vrishabha Sankranti and Vrischika Sankranti are four Vishnupadi Sankranti. For all these four Sankranti, sixteen Ghati before Sankranti moments are considered for auspicious activities.
Meena Sankranti, Kanya Sankranti, Mithuna Sankranti and Dhanu Sankranti are four Shadshit-mukhi Sankranti. For all these four Sankranti, sixteen Ghati after Sankranti moments are considered for auspicious activities.
The time between Makar Sankranti and 40 Ghatis from the time of Makar Sankranti is considered good for auspicious work. If we consider 1 Ghati duration as 24 minutes, 40 Ghatis is roughly 16 hours for Indian locations. This duration of 40 Ghatis is known as Punya Kaal. Sankranti activities, like taking bath, offering Naivedhya (food offered to deity) to Lord Surya, offering charity or Dakshina, performing Shraddha rituals and breaking fast or Parana, should be done during Punya Kaal.
All Punya Kaal activities are postponed till next day Sunrise. Hence all Punya Kaal activities should be done in day time if Makar Sankranti happens after Sunset.
In South India Sankranti is called as Sankramanam. As only certain time duration before or after each Sankranti moment is considered auspicious for Sankranti related activities, the auspicious time for Dan-Punya activities is independent of above rules and should be done after considering exact moment of Sankranti.