Telling time has been refined to a science in the Hindu culture. And nowhere is time given greater prominence than in the Hindu temple. If you are accustomed to Western time concepts, the following overview of time from the Hindu per- spective will be illuminating.
ANNOUNCING TIME/SPACE COORDINATES—THE SAMKALPA
The samkalpa, a formal statement of intent chanted aloud by the priest be- fore each temple ceremony, designates the time and place of the puja. It is divided into several sections. Vedic Calendar lists this chant for each day with the appropri- ate tithi, nakshatra, yoga, karana, and so on. It does not list the yuga and other larger time divisions, since they do not change very often! Therefore, we will list and explain them here, both for the information of those who are doing temple pujas and for the appreciation of the general reader.
The samkalpa chant begins with the name of the present kalpa—a vast, cosmic time period known as “a day of Brahm (God).” (Each new creation cycle begins a new kalpa. Some calculate one kalpa to be 4,320,000,000 years.) The name of the current kalpa is Svetavara. Each kalpa is divided into 14 manvantaras. We are in the first phase of the 7th manvantara, called Vaivasvata. Each manvantara lasts 71 mahayugas. Each mahayuga is made up of four yugas—Sat, Treta, Dva- para and Kali. The Sat Yuga is known as the Age of Enlightenment, and each yuga that follows is progressively “darker” as the mass mind becomes more external- ized. At the present time our solar system is experiencing the last part of the Kali Yuga of the 28th mahayuga of the Vaivasvata Manvantara. We are in the Dark Age, and the first rays of light from the Sat Yuga are beginning to be felt again. (To summarize, each kalpa (4.32 billion years) is divided into 14 manvantaras. Each manvantara equals 71 mahayugas. And each mahayuga equals 4 yugas.) So, the priest would say, “Svetavarana Kalpe, Vaivasvata Manvantare, Ashtavim Satitame, Kaliau Yuge, Prathamepade, etc.”
Next in the samkalpa, the priest announces the place on earth where the puja is being performed. In Hawaii, we state we are in the middle of the Pacific ocean, in the Hawaiian Islands, on the famous island of Kauai, near the mountain of Waialeale, along the Wailua River on the parcel of land where heaven meets the earth!
These greater delineations are followed by further diminishing designa- tions of time, all of which are found on your calendar in the paragraph at the top of each day’s designations. This includes the name of the year, the half-year, the season, month, fortnight, day, nakshatra, yoga and tithi. Each of these important elements of the calendar is explained below.
In India there are numerous era systems in use. The Kali Era, Vikrama Era, Saka Era and the Kollam Era are several of the era systems being followed today. Vedic Calendar incorporates three different types of era systems. First, the Gregori- an or Christian Era system is used for modern day convenience. Second, we use the Kali Era, which is followed in various Hindu traditions including the Tamil. It began around February 17, 3102 BCE. The exact date varies according to the method of calculation. The third system used in Vedic Calendar is the Siva Era which began February 16, 1973, the first day of the lunar month in which the Siva Nataraja Deity was installed in the Kadavul Hindu Temple.
The current year is listed on each day of Vedic Calendar in these three era forms. To the third line of the last column is the name and number of the Kali Era,
e.g. Pramodha 5092. In the fourth line are the Gregorian years of the Kali Era year. In the fifth line is the circle (year) and cycle (3-year period) of the Siva Era system.
The Hindu year for the Kali Era system begins when the Sun enters the sign of Mesha (Aries). In the Gregorian, of course, it begins January 1. And in the Siva Era system the beginning of the year varies year to year. The new year’s day marked on the calendar for celebration is that of the Kali era. It is a day of great importance, and a time of celebration, marking the dawn of a new year cycle.
THE NAME OF THE YEAR
Preceding the number of the Hindu year at the very top of the page is the name of the current year. In all, there are sixty names, which repeat in a sixty-year cycle based on the time it takes Jupiter to orbit the sun five times. The names of the years are:
Prabhava, Vibhava, Sukla, Pramoda, Prajapati, Angiras, Srimukha, Bhava, Yuvan, Dhatri, Isvara, Bahudhanya, Pramathin, Vikrama, Vrisha, Chitrab- hanu, Subhanu, Tarana, Parthiva, Vyaya, Sarvajit, Sarvadharin, Virodhin, Vikrita, Khara, Nandana, Vijaya, Jaya, Manmatha, Durmukha, Hemalamba, Vilamba, Vikarin, Sarvari, Plava, Subhakrit, Sobhana, Krodhin, Vis- vavasu, Parabhava, Palavanga, Kilaka, Saumaya, Sadharana, Virodhakrit, Paridhavin, Pramadin, Ananda, Rakshasa, Anala (or Nala), Pingala, Kalayukta, Siddharthin, Raudra, Durmati, Dundubhi, Rudhirodgarin, Raktaksha, Krodhana and Kshaya (or Akshaya).
Each name suggests the general feeling of the year it denotes. The year 5086 (1984) was known as Raktakshi, “she with red eyes.” The year 5087 (1985) was Krodhana, “the year of anger.” The year 5088 (1986), the last in Jupiter’s cycle, was Kshaya—“decay, destruction or end.” The year 5089 (1987), Prabhava, the first year in the new cycle, means “arise, spring forth; source, origin.” The year 5090 (1988) was Vibhava, “light, luster, splendor, beauty.” The following year, 5091 (1989), was Sukla, “bright, pure, unsullied.” And 5092 (1990) is Pramoda, “exces- sive joy, delight or gladness.” The year 5093 (1991) is Prajapati, “Lord (pati) of creature,” or “Father of creation.”
THE JOVIAN YEAR OR BARHASPATYA VARSA SYSTEM
For the information of those with a background in astrology, a word of ex- planation about the Jupiter cycle as a basis for naming the years may be helpful. Actually it stems from another year system known as Barhaspatya Varsa or Jovian (Jupiter) year system in which the year is measured by the time period of Jupiter’s motion through one Zodiac sign. Traveling through 12 rasis (zodiac signs), Jupiter makes a complete sidereal revolution, comprising 12 Jovian years. Five revolu- tions around the sun forms the 60-year cycle of Jupiter.
Each year is divided into two halves, known as ayana. The fourth word in the sankalpam indicates the ayana, the current six month period—either Ut- tarayana or Dakshinayana. Uttarayana begins on the day of the winter solstice, normally December 21, when the sun begins its apparent northward journey. Dakshinayana begins on the first day of the summer solstice, normally June 21, marking the sun’s southward movement. The two days commencing the two ayanas are considered sacred and known as punya kala, “times of great merit.” The current ayana is the second item in the sankalpam in Vedic Calendar.
THE SIX SEASONS—RTAU
In the West we are familiar with four seasons—spring, summer, autumn and winter. In India, there are six seasons. Each season is two months (masa) in duration.
1) The new year begins with Vasanta Rtau, the season when the trees and plants are blossoming, which begins on the first day of Mesha Mase (mid-April).
2) Grishma Rtau, commencing at the start of Maithuna Mase (in mid- June), is the “hot summer.”
3) The rainy season, Varsha Rtau, begins in Simha Mase (mid-August).
4) Sara Rtau, the season of fruits, begin in Thula Mase (mid-October).
5) Hemantha Rtau, the cold season, begins in mid-December.
6) Sisir Rtau, the last season of the year, begins in Kumbha Mase (mid- February), when trees and plants begin sprouting new leaves.
In Vedic Calendar the season is the third notation in the sankalpam. At Kauai’s Hindu Monastery we follow three seasons as outlined in the Saiva Dharma Shastras. Each season a different textbook is studied. They are as follows:
1) Nartana Ritau, the season of Dancing With Siva, begins on Hindu New Year. This is the period of creation, the warm season, from mid- April through mid-August.
2) During Jivana Ritau, the rainy season, from mid-August to mid-De- cember, Living with Siva: Hinduism’s Contemporary Culture is the pri- mary text.
3) The third period of the year, Moksha Ritau, the cool season, is from mid-December to mid-April. Merging With Siva: Hinduism’s Contem- porary Metaphysics is the focus of study and intense investigation.
THE MONTH—MASA—SOLAR AND LUNAR
In India, several states use a solar-year calendar while others use the lunar-year calendar. In all states the lunar calendar is used for determining the dates of religious festivals and for selecting auspicious times for beginning many socio-religious activities. Vedic Calendar uses both the solar month and the lunar month and would be known as a “luni-solar calendar.” For business purposes and modern convenience we also use the Gregorian year which follows neither a solar month nor a lunar system.
The Hindu astronomical text, Surya-Siddhanta, defines the solar month as the time it takes the sun to traverse one rasi (Zodiac sign), measured from the time of entry into one rasi (this point is known as a samkranti) and the next.
The point when the sun enters Mesha (Aries) rasi is widely accepted as the beginning of the year. Thus the first solar month is called Mesha in Sanskrit.
The Sanskrit names of the solar months are listed in Vedic Calendar. Each is named after the sign of the zodiac that the sun is in. Their names are Mesha (Aries), Vrshabha (Taurus), Mithuna (Gemini), Kataka (Cancer), Simha (Leo), Kanya (Virgo), Thula (Libra), Vrschika (Scorpio), Dhanus (Sagittarius), Makara (Capricorn), Kumbha (Aquarius) and Meena (Pisces). The Sanskrit name of the current solar month is found at the top of each day’s notations, in the middle pre- ceded by the word mase.
The lunar month is measured either by the period covered from one new- moon to the next, known as the amanta or mukhya mana system, or from one full- moon to the next one, known as the purnimanta or gauna mana system. Vedic Cal- endar uses the purnimanta lunar month system. Each lunar month is simply named Moon 1, Moon 2, Moon 3, etc. This notation is found at the very top of each calendar page.
In India and other parts of the world those who follow a panchangam strictly, such as Vedic schools, known as “gurukulams” or “pathasalas,” live their life by the lunar month, “moon,” or masa.
LIGHT AND DARK FORTNIGHT—PAKSHA
One month is the duration of one orbit of the moon around the earth. In Hindu measuring of time, this period is divided in two parts, the light fortnight, called shukla paksha (or sudi), and the dark fortnight, called krishna paksha (or vadi). Shukla Paksha is the period when the moon is waxing, beginning on the new moon (Amavasya) and extending to the full moon (Purnima). Krishna pak- sha, the period when the moon is waning, begins after the full moon and extends to the new moon. Knowing whether the moon is waxing or waning is helpful in understanding the moon’s current influence. Under the waxing moon, we are gen- erally more energetic, as moon’s forces are on the rise, indicating growth and development.
THE MOON SIGN OR RASI
In Vedic Calendar the rasi names the Zodiac sign the moon is currently passing through. It lists the degree of the sign of the moon at 6:00 AM. For exam- ple, “Kataka (Cancer) Rasi 1.4” means that the moon is at 1.4 degrees Cancer at 6:00 in the morning. The moon travels approximately 12° per day. For gardening, the moon sign is useful in determining planting, harvesting, fertilizing and other gardening activity dates. The rasi is listed in the first column for each day. The moon takes a little over two and one-half days to traverse one zodiac sign. The rasis are Mesha (Aries), Vrshabha (Taurus), Mithuna (Gemini), Kataka (Cancer), Simha (Leo), Kanya (Virgo), Thula (Libra), Vrschika (Scorpio), Dhanus (Sagittar- ius), Makara (Capricorn), Kumbha (Aquarius) and Meena (Pisces).
THE DAY—SOLAR AND LUNAR
THE SOLAR DAY—VASARA
In addition to observing the lunar day, or tithi (discussed in the next sec- tion), the traditional Hindu calendar also recognizes the solar day, or vasara. The vasara begins with sunrise and ends with sunrise the next day, based on the rota- tion of the earth on its axis. (The time of sunrise and sunset are listed in column six of each day’s notations in Vedic Calendar.) Each solar day is divided into 24 horas (hours), and the horas are assigned to the planets in their “descending side- real period.” There are seven days in the week, and each is most strongly influ- enced by a particular planet as follows. In Vedic Calendar, vasara is listed after the English weekday notation and also as the last item in the first line of the sankalpam.
|Solar Day (Vasara)||English||Ruling Planet|
|Bhanu (or Ravi) vasara||Sunday||Sun|
|Indu (or Soma) vasara||Monday||Moon|
|Guru (or Brihaspati) vasara||Thursday||Jupiter|
|Manta (or Sani) vasara||Saturday||Saturn|
SIVA ERA LUNAR DAYS—SUNS & STAR DAYS
In the Siva Era system there are 27 days (called suns) in each moon plus two or three additional days at the end of the moon (beginning with Purnima, full moon). These special days are called special “star days.” The first special star day is called the “copper star,” the second the “silver star” and the third the “gold star.” Gold stars only occur about every two moons. This method of marking the days is only used within Gurudeva’s monasteries. (The current sun is indicated by the small number at the top right corner of each day’s notations.)
KALI ERA LUNAR DAYS—30 TITHIS
Days are also designated by the Kali Era measurement, known as the tithi. A tithi is an exact lunar day, which is approximately one-thirtieth of the time it takes the moon to orbit the earth. A tithi may vary in length from day to day. There are 15 tithis in each fortnight. Their names are: Prathama, Dvitiya, Tritiya, Chaturthi, Panchami, Shasthi, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami, Dasami, Ekadasi, Dvadasi, Trayodasi, Chaturdasi and Amavasya/ Purnima. Purnima, full-moon day, is the fifteenth tithi of the bright fortnight, and Amavasya, new-moon day, is the fifteenth tithi of the dark fortnight. (On many panchangams, the new moon is numbered as the thirtieth tithi.)
The current tithi is the first item in column two for each day. It is also the last item in the first line of the sankalpam at the very top of each day’s designa- tions, e.g., “Chaturthi/ Panchami Yam Titau.”
Certain tithis are not conducive for study or beginning new efforts. In gu- rukulams (schools) and aadheenams (monasteries) these are times of retreat. As they occur in pairs four times per moon, they are roughly parallel to the modern “weekend,” though, of course, they do not necessarily fall on Saturday and Sun- day.
The retreat tithis are Ashtami, Navami, Amavasya, Prathama and Purni- ma. Each has its own special nature. Purnima (full-moon day) is especially good for worship. Amavasya (new moon day) is conducive to meditation. For many de- vout Hindus, Amavasya and Purnima are times of vrata, observing religious vows. Prathama, the tithi following both Purnima and Amavasya, is generally a good day for seminars and philosophical discussions.
Ashtami and Navami are ideally reserved for rest and relaxation. Ashtami is traditionally a day for fasting and not a good day for learning. (In western as- trology, Ashtami would be recognized as a square aspect between the sun and the moon, a configuration which can make for a difficult day.) Ashtami is considered inauspicious for beginning new activities because of the inharmonious energies existing due to the relationship between the sun and moon.
In Vedic Calendar, retreat days are noted in the upper left corner of the day’s designations. Retreats are labeled “Retreat Star,” with the exception of those occurring at full-moon time. These retreat days have special names. Purnima is the Copper Star Retreat, Prathama is the Silver Star Retreat. In addition, approxi- mately every other moon the Dvitiya tithi following the full moon is taken as a retreat day at Kauai’s Hindu Monastery. It is the Gold Star Retreat.
Each “work day” in the monastery is noted by a large number in the upper left corner of the day. This number indicates the number of the day of that phase (or quarter) of the moon. The first day after the retreat is number one, and so on.
A karana is half of a tithi or lunar day. There are sixty karanas in one lunar month, but only eleven distinct names are used. The current karana is the third item in the second column of each day’s designations. The first karana ends at the middle of the tithi and the second karana ends with the ending of that tithi. Like the yoga, the karana is a factor used by astrologers for determining the auspicious- ness of the day for a given activity. The names of the karanas are: Bava, Balava, Kaulava, Taitila, Gara, Vanij, Visti, Sakuni, Chatuspada, Naga and Kimtughna.
THE CONSTELLATION OF THE DAY—NAKSHATRA
Nakshatra simply means star cluster. In Hindu astrology the term nearly al- ways refers to 27 specific star-clusters, or constellations, which lie along the eclip- tic. The ecliptic is the apparent yearly path of the sun as seen from the earth. These constellations happen to be at approximately equal distances apart. Each nakshatra embodies particular ideas, powers and forces of nature. When a planet comes into alignment with one of these star clusters (from the view of an individ- ual standing on the earth), the rays of the stars combine with those of the planet to influence the earth. All of the planets, one after another, pass through the ecliptic and align with each of the 27 nakshatras.
The most important “nakshatra” is the one the moon is currently aligned with, as the swift-moving moon’s influence is the most significant to daily life on Earth. All the nakshatras given in Vedic Calendar are for the moon. This means that the nakshatra currently in effect is the one that the moon has “conjoined.” (Similarly, the current rasi, Zodiac sign, is the one that the moon has conjoined.)
THE IMPORTANCE OF NAKSHATRA
Each nakshatra exerts its own unique energies upon the planets within its influence. The nakshatras are considered so important that constellational or nakshatra astrology is a field of Hindu astrology in itself. Nakshatra consideration is a critical element in muhurtha—discerning the nature of a given period and choosing auspicious times for various activities.
When you go to a Hindu temple and ask for a special puja, known as an archana, the priest asks, “What is your nakshatra (or birth star)?” He is asking for the name of the constellation (nakshatra) the moon was aligned with at the time you were born at the place you were born. In other words, a line going out from you at your time of birth and passing through the moon would point to a constel- lation. That is your nakshatra. The priest then repeats your nakshatra during the worship liturgy, along with your name and family lineage. This is your bio-data for the information of the inner-plane helpers. It is helpful to know when one’s nakshatra comes into alignment with the moon each month, as this day is often experienced as emotionally intense. By knowing this beforehand, extra care can be taken to not over-react to difficult karmic experiences that may manifest.
In Vedic Calendar, the current nakshatra is the fourth item in the fourth col- umn of each day’s designations, e.g., Visakha Nakshatra. The twenty-seven nakshatras are:
Asvini, Bharani, Krittika, Rohini, Mrigasira, Ardra, Punarvasu, Pushya, Aslesha, Magha, Purvaphalguni, Uttaraphalguni, Hasta, Chitra, Svati, Visakha, Anuradha, Jyeshtha, Mula, Purvashadha, Uttarashadha, Sravana, Dhanishtha, Satabhishaj, Purvaprostapada, Uttaraprostapada and Revati.
The ending time for each tithi, nakshatra and yoga is listed in column four after each item, respectively. Usually the tithi ending time is the same as the karana ending time. If this is the case, the ending time for the evening karana is listed, and you can assume that the morning karana ends on the tithi ending time. If an ending time is after midnight, the time is listed with a three-letter abbreviat- ed name for the next day. All times are given for “Standard Time.” Therefore, if a “Daylight Savings Time” is in effect in your area, you will need to adjust the times given in Vedic Calendar by adding one hour.
SAMKALPA DOUBLE LISTINGS
Those who are reciting the samkalpa from the calendar during home or temple puja will note that often two tithis, yogas, karanas or nakshatras are listed in the samkalpa, separated by a slash mark. This indicates that there is a change from the first to the second during that day. (The actual time of the change is found in column four.) The first is the 6AM calculation and the second is the 6PM calculation. For example, if the tithi reads “shasthi/ saptami,” shasthi is the morn- ing calculation and saptami is the evening calculation. Only one entry is shown in the samkalpa when both the morning and evening calculations are the same.