Today is Makar Sankranti, probably the only Hindu festival which more or less falls on the same date as in a Gregorian calendar. When I was a kid, my Diwali and Holi always changed dates and I had to always sift through a Thakur Panchami (Hindu calendar that was the first thing I mom bought every year) to confirm the dates. But Makar Sankranti nearly always fell on 14th January (and on some years, for only our multiple Gods know why, on 15th January) and for this strange reason, the date always held more importance for me than the other popular festivals. Well, the reason was not exactly strange; while other Hindu festivals followed the lunar calendar, this one relied on a solar calendar. But back then, it always amazed me to think how the ancient Indians would have calculated the cycle of solar revolution. Truth be told, calendars are a perfect example of the marriage of Science and Theology, one that worked out well for both of them.
Without veering off further, let me take you to our Needull for today. Talking about calendars, one calendar that indeed caught our nerves was the Mayan calendar which predicted that the world would end on 21st December 2012. Well, when it didn’t happen (or did it?), we all laughed on the Mayans and their flawed science. Well, the fact is that Mayan calendar NEVER predicted the apocalypse. Their ~5000 year calendar had a concept of 400 year cycles (similar to our Yug) and 2012 was just the end of the 13th cycle (and the beginning of the 14th). It was our media, as always, that invented the whole theory.
So read more about it in this 2012 National Geographic article which debunks the myth and ensures that our respect for the Mayans is kept intact – Doomsday Calendar Explained.
P.S: If you are more interested in Mayans, do refer to a link to a 10 page report in the above article about the rise, splendor and collapse of the civilization. Long but worth a read.