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All varieties of devotional topics that don't fit under the other sections of the forums. However, devotionally relevant topics, please - there are other boards for other topics.

Indian months -



yAcaka - Thu, 15 May 2003 00:40:47 +0530
Dear Vaishnavas,

could anyone give an overview of Indian months and corresponding Western months?

They seem not to coincide, as I read for example that Kartika month roughly corresponds to the second half of October and the first half of November. Are there any astrological/astronomical reasons for it?
adiyen - Thu, 15 May 2003 19:22:15 +0530
Dear Yacaka, I do not have the detailed information you want, but I may be able to answer your question.

Not only does India have its own calendar, different parts of India have different calendars too, and the part of India we here are concerned with, Bengal where the Gaudiya religion originated and the majority of its followers still come from, has quite a distinct calendar whose months you will see named on our "Vaishnava Calendar".

You may be aware that many cultures have distinct calendars, Chinese, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim. The Western calendar is the product of a long interaction between old Rome and later Christendom. It is based on a combination of a year calculated by solar movement, divided into what were originally lunar cycles, 'Moons', ie months. The Indian calendars, on the other hand, are still directly tied to the lunar cycle, from full moon to dark moon and back again. Because the western months are no longer tied to this lunar cycle, there is in fact no correspondence between the two calendars at all.

As well as this, the Bengali months are related to the peculiar passage of seasons in that Eastern State of India, where Bengalis traditionally recognised six seasons, rather than our four (I am told other cultures have even more than that!). When I was living there I used to know the names of these seasons, and I seem to recall the months corresponded to the changing seasons, but I forget now. For example, the current Bengali season is called the Storm Season, after the violent storms and cyclones which herald the start of the Monsoon. Then follows the Wet Season, which since the days of Buddhism (which began near Bengal) has been a special time for monks and saintly people. In Vaishnava Calendars this time is divided into four months called Chaturmasya ('Four Months'!). The last of these is the most sacred of all, called variously Kartik and Niyam Seva. During this time is also the Bengali New Year, which is associated with Durga Puja, rather than Vaishnavism, but there is a certain mutual recognition.

As far as I am aware, all Indian Hindu calendars share these features in each month: The month begins on the day of Full Moon called the Purnima. A fortnight of days is then counted including panchami (fifth), shasti (sixth), saptami (seventh), astami (eighth), navami (ninth), dasami (tenth), ekadasi (eleventh and a sacred day for Vaishnavas every fortnight), duadasi (12th), trayadasi (13th), caturdasi (14th). Till the Dark Moon day called Amamvasya. Thus this is called the 'Dark fortnight' (Krishna, meaning 'Dark'). A similar fortnight (called Shukla, the Bright Fortnight) of days is then counted back to the Full Moon, and the cycle begins again. This is how it is supposed to work, but often there are complications, which I personally still don't understand much. Vaishnava Panditas, then, have the task of finding the correct times for the observance of Holy Days. Sometimes there will be disagreement. One then follows one's own Panditas. In Judaism, specialist Rabbis perform a similar function. The catholic Church still fixes the date of Easter according to the Lunar Cycle. Other Christian Churches hold different views about when Holy Days should be observed.

If you just try to observe the pattern of fortnights I describe above in the Vaishnava Calendar, it should become clear. Vaishnavas observe Holy Days by fasting and chanting. These days are marked on our Calendar as 'VRATA', which literally means 'Vow' (to fast, either fully from all edibles, or from certain foods proscribed on that day, usually grains).

Yacakaji, there may be other Vaishnava observances which we old timers here take for granted, but which newcomers do not know. For example there is quite a complex set of do's and don'ts called Sad Achar, which is very important when you are associating with devotees in India, and developing your sadhana generally. Have you heard of this? It is taught in Hare Krishna Temples in the West to some extent. But I think we have so far neglected to outline this here for those not familiar with it.

For example, Bengali Vaishnavas will always take a full shower or bath immediately after going to the toilet, 'passing stool' as the medical expression goes, and/or after rising from bed (I note that the start of Gopalguru's Paddhati has a more complex or different observance, but in general full bath after toilet is mandatory nowadays for most devout Hindus). Certainly one must fully bathe (incl full shower) before one does any devotional sadhana (it may not be possible to do it while one is at one's occupation or travelling). Please excuse me bringing this up if you already know it. But I think some visitors to this site may find this info new.

Hope this helps. Madhava probably knows a lot more about the Indian Calendar than I do, but he asked me to help out here, and he is busy, so I am contributing my penny's worth!

Best wishes,
Braj Mohan Das.
Guest_Jagannathdas - Fri, 16 May 2003 00:02:00 +0530
There are two Hindu calendars; Lunar and Solar.
In the west we follow a solar calendar. Our months follow those of the Roman calendar introduced by Julius Caesar.
Time has a way of working differently to how we historicaly calculate it, so that many changes have been made to the western calendar to bring it in line with the actual yearly cycle. The solar calendar will naturally start with the sun entering Aries in March, as this is the start of zodiac. Caesar moved the first month of the year from March to January - nearer to the winter solstice.
The Hindu solar calendar is marked the same as the signs of the zodiac:
Mesha-Aries, Vrishabha-Taurus, Mithuna-Gemini, Kataka-Cancer, Simha-Leo, Kanya-Virgo, Thula-Libra, Vrischika-Scorpio, Dhanus-Sagittarius,
Makara-Capricorn, Kumbha-Aquarius and Meena-Piscies.
The lunar months are:
Chaitra-March/April, Vaisakha-April/May, Jyestha-May/June, Ashadha-June/July, Sravana-July/August, Bhadrapada-August/September,
Aswija-September/October, Kartika-October/November, Margashira-November/December, Pushya-December/January, Magha-January/Febuary, Phalguna-Febuary/March.
The name of each lunar month is given as a result of the nakshatra (constellation) falling on the full moon day of the particular month.
yAcaka - Sun, 01 Jun 2003 23:35:53 +0530
Dear Braj Mohan Das and Jagannathdas,

your elucidating postings provided me with everything I had desired to know about Indian months. Thank you very much for them.

If anyone is interested, I happened to find a short article also dealing with this topic, entitled The Hindu Months and Time Eras at http://www.sanskrit.org/Astronomy/Hindutimeeras.html

QUOTE(adiyen @ May 15 2003, 2:52PM)
Yacakaji, there may be other Vaishnava observances which we old timers here take for granted, but which newcomers do not know. For example there is quite a complex set of do's and don'ts called Sad Achar, which is very important when you are associating with devotees in India, and developing your sadhana generally. Have you heard of this? It is taught in Hare Krishna Temples in the West to some extent. But I think we have so far neglected to outline this here for those not familiar with it.

I have already heard of it, because, in fact, sadAcAra was discussed some time ago on Questions and Answers forum in the thread called The Beginnerís Practice started by Nilamadhava. However, if the administrators feel that this topic deserves a more complex treatment, and if they open a new thread dedicated solely to this issue, I (and certainly other newcomers as well) will only be happy to learn more about it.

Jaya Radhe,