Tropic of Cancer

Tropic of Cancer has the sun directly overhead, on the day of Summer Solstice, which falls on 21st June. It is on this day that the Northern Hemisphere is tilted towards the sun to the maximum.

Tropic of Cancer, Capricorn and Equator – The 23.5 degree tilt

Tropic of Cancer is one among the three important latitudes, the other two being the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn. It is also known as Northern Tropic, and is 23.5 degrees north of the equator. This line passes through India, in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and West Bengal, Tripura and Mizoram.

Tropic of Cancer passing through India

As the earth keeps going around the sun, there are certain points in the orbit, when due to the angle of the earth’s tilt, the days and nights either become equal (equinoxes) or day is longest in the Northern hemisphere (summer solstice) or night is longest in Northern Hemisphere (winter solstice). This occurs due to the tilt of the earth’s axis by 23 ½ degree.

Equinox and Solstice points on the Earth’s Orbit

Example – on Vernal Equinox, from Earth, Sun is seen against Aries

Seen from the earth, it gives us a perception that the sun is moving northwards and southwards every 6 months between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn which are latitudes at 23.5 degrees north and south of the equator, respectively.

The perceived, northern movement of the sun from Tropic of Capricorn to Tropic of Cancer is called as Uttarayanam in India. The other movement of the sun from Tropic of Cancer to Tropic of Capricorn is called Dakshinayanam or “Southern Journey”.

Currently the dates for the equinoxes and solstices are:

  • Spring or Vernal Equinox – March 20
  • Summer Solstice – June 21
  • Autumnal Equinox – Sept 22
  • Winter Solstice – Dec 21

Sol is Sun. Solar. Stice is stand still. So Solstice is the day the Sun is still over tropics. Hence movement of Sun happens the next day. Thus Dakshinayanam falls on June 22nd and Uttarayanam on December 22nd. More on this in our book, 2012-The Real Story.

Tropic of Cancer and the Ancient Prime Meridian at Ujjain

In ancient times, the line connecting the North Pole to South Pole, passing through Ujjain in India, was the Prime Meridian of the world then.

Today, the way, the Greenwich observatory is the marker point of the Greenwich meridian in London, in those days, the Maha Kaleshwara temple in Ujjain was the marker point.

Maha Kaleshwara temple

Maha means great, Kala means time and Eashwara means the controller. So this temple of Maha Kaleshwar in Ujjain represented the control mark for calculating and keeping track of time for the globe, in yester years.

The temple and the deity here seem to bear an apt name. What is further significant is, the reason why out of all the cities on this Meridian, Ujjain was chosen as the referral point.

It could have been because Ujjain is situated on the Tropic of Cancer.

The Indian name for this line is Karaka rekha.

D K Hari and D K Hema Hari at the Karka Rekha, Tropic of Cancer    

This line marks the northern limit of the annual traversal path of the sun between north and south of the equator.

Ujjain Meridian and Tropic of Cancer

More on the Tropic of Cancer and Ujjain Prime Meridian in our book and film, Understanding Shiva.

So why is the Tropic of Cancer called so?

This is because at the time of its naming, the sun was positioned in the Cancer constellation during the Summer Solstice in June.

Cancer is a constellation, which is the Latin word for a crab. Thus this zodiac is represented by a crab.

In the Greek legends, Cancer is identified with a Crab that attacked Hercules, who was fighting the multi headed Hydra. The crab bites Hercules on the foot, after which he crushes it. At that time the Greek Goddess Hera, an enemy of Hercules, places the crab among the stars.  

The most dreadful and fatal disease is also known as Cancer. This name Cancer for this disease had its origin when Hippocrates named the cancerous cells as Karkinos, meaning as crab. He named it after a crab perhaps because

  1. Malignant tumour is as hard as a rock, and reminded him of the hard shell of the coconut.
  2. The pain that the malignant tumour induces reminded him of the pain that a malignant tumour induces.

This word Karkinos became Cancer in Latin, which is the word for a crab in that language.

In the Samskrt language, the word for Tropic of Cancer is Karka Rekha, and this word Karka also means a crab. And again, the disease of Cancer in Samskrt and Ayurveda is referred to as Karka Roga.

This word Karka is etymologically similar to the Greek word Karkinos, and shows how the languages have travelled all across the world and mingled with each other.

Sun Temples

We have had Sun temples from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Afghanistan to Assam in the ancient Indian land of Bharatha, the most popular ones being Konark temple in Orissa, the Sun temple in Modhera and the Suryanarkovil in Kumbakonam among others which fall on the popular tourist circuits.

Sun Temple, Konark
Sun Temple, Modhera
Sun God Murti on wall of Natamandap, Konark temple complex from 13th century Orissa

The land of India today spans from 6.7 degrees North latitude to 37.1 degrees North latitude. In this wide span, we find a plethora of Sun temples, almost in a straight line around 23 degrees North latitude.

Save for a few such as Suryanarkovil near Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu at 10.8 degrees North, the  Konark Sun Temple in Orissa at 19.9 degrees North etc. most of the other renowned temples can be found around 23 degrees North. Some are in ruins, some are memories and some are still in use today.

  • Suryanarayanaswamy temple at Arasavalli in Andhra Pradesh – 18.27 degrees
  • Sun Temple at Somnath Patan near Veraval in Gujarat – 20.9 degrees
  • Sun Temple at Madkheda near Tikamgadh, Madhya Pradesh – 22.9 degrees
  • Sun Temple at Umri near Tikamgadh, Madhya Pradesh – 22.9 degrees
  • Sun Temple at Kandaha, Bangaon, near Saharsa in Bihar – 23.0 degrees
  • Harsiddhi temple at Ujjain – Harsiddhi – 23.09 degrees
  • The famous Sun Temple at Modhera, near Ahmedabad, Gujarat –  23.5 degrees
  • Kanthad Nath at Kanthkot  near Rapar – 23.48 degrees
  • Sun Temple at Dholavira  – 23.89 degrees
  • 8th Century Sun Temple in Chittorgarh Fort, destroyed in 14th century and rebuilt as Kali temple  – 24.59 degrees
  • Surya mandir, Deo, Aurangabad, Bihar, 85 kms from Gaya – 24.5 degrees
  • Dakshinaarka Temple in Gaya – 24.7 degrees
  • Uttaraka temple near the Uttara Maanas tank in Gaya – 24.7 degrees
  • Gayaditya temple on the river Falgu in Gaya  – 24.7 degrees
  • Sun Temple at Jhaira Patan near Kota in Rajasthan: Ruins of an ancient temple – 25.1 degrees
  • The Dwadasha Aditya temples and more in Kashi also called Varanasi – 25.2 degrees
  • The Bhramanya Dev Temple at Unao in Madhya Pradesh, near Jhansi –  25.6 degrees
  • Sri Surya Pahar, Sun Temple at Goalpara in Assam  26.0
  • Sun Temple at Galta near Jaipur in Rajasthan – 26.5 degrees
  • Sun temple in Morar at Gwalior – 26.2 degrees
  • Sun Temple at Ranakpur near Udaipur in Rajasthan – 27.0 degrees
  • Sun Temple near Almora in Uttarakhand – 29.37 degrees
  • Sun Temple at Martand in Jammu and Kashmir 32.5 degrees

Not just these, the renowned sun temples of another Sun worshipping ancient civilization, namely Egypt, also has its sun temples at

  • Abu Simbel – 22.6 degrees
  • Karnak, Luxor – 25.43

Why do we find so many Sun temples almost in a straight row and that too around 23 degrees North latitude?

What did our ancestors know about the Sun that we do not, today?

What is the mystery behind this pattern?

23.5 degrees North latitude is the Tropic of Cancer.

As we have read in our school books, the Tropic of Cancer is the line up to which the sun moves North in its annual journey.

Sun at the Tropic Of Cancer on June 21

The way of living of our ancestors was in harmony with the Cosmos. They conducted their life, the annual and daily activities in their lives, in sync with the flow and rhythm of seasons, Rthu. Their Dharma, way of living,was governed by the Dharma, way of operating of the Cosmic Nature.

Hence they tracked the sun and other celestial bodies in the sky to read the skies and prepare themselves for the daily, annual and spiritual change that are bound to occur as our planet.

The way of living of our ancestors was in harmony with the Cosmos. They conducted their life, the annual and daily activities in their lives, in sync with the flow and rhythm of seasons, Rthu. Their Dharma, way of living, was governed by the Dharma, way of operating of the Cosmic Nature.

Hence they tracked the sun and other celestial bodies in the sky to read the skies and prepare themselves for the daily, annual and spiritual change that are bound to occur as our planet earth hurtles on its journey through space along with its parent, the Sun and its siblings , the other planets in the solar system.

Tropic of Cancer, Karka is one line where the Skies intermingle with the Earth!

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