Updated: Apr 2, 2022
As we are ushering in the Indian New year today, let's know more details about the Indian calendar system. In India, like everything else, every region/ state has their own variations of the calendar. However, the underline themes remain the same which is based on the Moon & Sun positions. It has 12 months and every month is generally 30 days.
The names of Hindu months (with corresponding English months) are as follows: Chaitr (March-April), Vaisakh (April-May), Jyaisth/Jeth (May-June), Asadh (June-July), Shravan (July-August), Bhadra / Bhadw (August-September), Ashvin (September-October), Kartik (October-November), Agrahayana/Margsheersh (November-December), Paush (December-January), Magh (January-February), Phalgun (February-March).
Although most of the variations have Chaitra as their first month, however, some regions have slight variation. Thus based on the new year month a calendar follows, Hindu calendars can be further classified as Chaitradi (beginning with Chaitra month), Ashadadi (beginning with Ashad), and Karthikadi (beginning with Karthik).
LuniSolar & Solar Calendar
In the Indian New Year, since ancient times, both lunisolar, as well as a solar calendars, is in use in India. Lunar calendar months strictly follow the lunar cycle of two lunar fortnights (Shukla paksha- Waxing moon & Krishna paksha – waning Moon). Interestingly, the lunisolar calendar is basically a lunar calendar that has some intercalation rules to synchronize it with the solar year. Leap months (adhik maasa) and occasionally, skipped months (kshaya maasa) are introduced to achieve this. In a solar calendar the months are aligned with rashi or zodiac (Nakshtras). Each month begins with sankranti (entry of sun into zodiac). Malayalam calendar, Bengali calendar and Tamil calendar are examples of Indian solar calendars.
Amanta & Purnimanta System
The Hindu calendar either follows amanta system or purnimanta system to identify the end of a lunar month. On the amanta calendar, one month ends and the next begins with amavasya tithi( New Moon). Telugu calendar & Gujarati calendar are examples of amanta calendar. Purnimanta system reckons month ends and next month begins with Poornima Tihit(Full moon). The traditional Hindu calendar popular in north India is a purnimanta calendar.
Samvat or Samvatsara ( meaning a “year” in Sanskrit) is a term that is used to refer to a year in various Hindu calendars. As we are ushering in the Indian New year today, let's know more details about Samvatsara.
The “Saptrishi Samvat”, is the oldest calendar in the world and is still followed by the Kashmiri people in India. The most commonly known samvats are Vikram Samvat, named after Great King Vikramaditya and Shaka samvat named after Satavahana dynesty’s King Shalivahan. In modern India Saka Samvat is adopted as the official national Calendar India.
The Gregorian calendar year 2022 corresponds to year 5098 of the Saptarishi Samvat, year 2079 of Vikram Samvat , and year 1943 of Shaka Samvat.
Hindu new year falls on shukla paksha(Full Moon), pradipada tithi (First day) of Chaitra month and is also called Chaitra Shukladi. 2022 Hindu new year falls on Saturday, April 2, 2022. Vikram samvat 2079 starts on this day.
According to the Legend, the Saptarishis had once assembled at Hari Parbat (Sharika Mountain where the presiding deity of the Kashmir valley eighteen-armed Goddess Maa Jagadamba Sharika Bhagwati resides), When the first beam of sunlight touched her Swayambhu Shrichakra form, to pay obeisance to her. This very moment formed the basis of calculations for the Navsamvatsara or NAVREH, and the beginning of the Saptarishi Era. Thus named as Saptrishi Samvat.
Vikram Samvat is associated with Raja Vikramaditya and was developed by well known ancient astrophysicist “Varahmihir” in Ujjain. Ujjain, located in the tropic of Cancer, is considered the best place to study astrology and is historically associated with important space research centres, time calculation etc. Vikram Samvat is ahead of the Gregorian calendar by 57 years.
The Saka era is believed to have been founded by King Shalivahana of the Shatavahana dynasty. Some scholars calculate Saka Era from the birth of Shalivahana, while some suggest that it marks the victory of Shalivahana over Vikramaditya. The historical consensus is that it began in 78 AD.
It is adopted as the National calendar of India in 1957 by the Calendar Reform Committee headed by renowned astrophysicist Dr Meghnad Saha. The Saka Calendar bears a deep connection with the history of India. Its creation and usage are steeped in the Golden era of the Maurya and Gupta rule. The adoption of the Saka Calendar as the National Calendar of India is a tribute to the advanced intellectual capabilities of the old time.
The Saka Calendar is recognized beyond Indian borders, in countries where the influence of Indian culture is prominent. It is used by the Hindus of prominent South-East Asian countries like Java, Bali and Indonesia. Bali celebrated Nyepi, the Saka New Year. Nepal’s accepted calendar, Nepal Samvat is clearly an evolution of the Saka Calendar.
Panchang - The Daily Calendar
Panchang is the astrological daily calendar based on the Indian calendar. Daily panchang is one of the most popular reference manuals for astrologers and people of the Hindu community who rely on a day's planetary position to determine auspicious timing, festivals, vrats etc. Panchangam (a Sanskrit word meaning Five attributes) refers to the five attributes of the day - Tithi (lunar day), Yoga (luni-solar day), Vara (weekday), Nakshatra (constellation), and Karana (half of a lunar day). These five limbs represent five sources of energy, both visible and invisible, as denoted by these segments in a day. Location, Time Zone, Time and Date etc... are very important in determining the accurate panchang for a particular day.