Kumbha Sankranti – Sun in the Aquarius
Kumbha Sankranti is the time of the year when the Sun enters Kumbha rashi, or the sign Aquarius. As per Jātaka pārijata – śloka 9, that deals with symbols ofdifferent signs, Kumbha is symbolically represented by a man with the pot.
Kumbha rashi – symbol
But how do we know that the kumbha, or the pot, is filled with water, poison or nectar for that matter?
Sanskrit word kumbha means a jar, a pitcher or a pot. Hence Kumbha rashi, as the eleventh astrological sign in the Zodiac, is often interpreted or represented as a water carrier.
Aquarius is one of the Sthira rashis (fixed signs) where stagnation and rigidity occurs. Aquarius draws its water through his abhimuka drishti, on the flowing river of Cancer, and stores this water in a pot for processing. At the very beginning of this process, Aquarius distributes this fresh water in towns (ref. Tvasta Aditya) through pipes. This is the reason why Aquarius represents the infrastructure and growth of cities. To avoid shortages some of this water is stored. However, this process of storing risks fermentation causing poisonous substances to be distributed through the water. That is why the sign Aquarius is the creator of alcohol and all other fermented products. Some of these products are poisonous, and some of these poisons are used for medicinal purposes (if you want to learn about each of the twelve sun signs consider visiting rama-edu.com).
Aquarius as such has two planets as its lord. Rahu as the lord of Aquarius is the one that brings the poison out. This process of retrieving the poison is recorded in the Puranic story of Samudra Manthan (the story itself will be covered separately) during the churning of the ocean. Saturn on the other hand, as the lord of Aquarius, is responsible for holding the poison. This is the reason why in Vedic astrology we often find reference to Saturn as one who holds the bag of sins. These sins are a direct reference to the pot of poison of Kumbha rashi.
Poison of Kumbha and remedies
This poisonous aspect of Aquarius is what we are trying to reduce. To clear these toxins from the body astrologers will fast from salt, during the month of Aquarius, to enable the unclean waters (toxins) to leave the body. We practice this from the advent of Sun entering the Aquarius until the 14th day of the dark Moon, also known as the night of Maha Shivaratri, when Shiva puja is to be performed.
On the day of Maha Shivaratri (this year Maha Shivaratri is on the 3rd/4th of March) Shiva drinks the poison for us, and in this form, he is called Neelkanth (neela = blue, kantha = throat). By performing the fast on the Maha Shivaratri we ensure that Shiva drinks the poison for us and our body is rejuvenated for the year ahead.