National Calendar Of India | Saka Calendar

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Indian calendar
Indian Calendar

Indian National Calendar is derived from Vedas of ancient times. It uses the Saka calendar also known as Shalivahana Shaka calendar.

It is used alongside the Gregorian calendar by the Gazette of India, All India Radio and Government of India. For many governmental and many other public purposes we follow the Gregorian calendar, which is used in the greater part of the world. Gregorian calendar is also used for civil and administrative purposes.

The Saka calendar also knows as Panchang is used for Vedic astronomy and astrology and Indian festivals.

Hindu Calendar

There are regional diversities of the Panchang. The differences are like the beginning of the month, year, different importance in celebration of festivals and days. eg. There are tithis which are consecutively repeated for 2 days of the Christian calendar. Some celebrate it on day 1, whereas some on the 2nd day. Mostly the history and geography of the regions are the main reasons for the diversity

Panchang means calendar, a Hindu way of measuring time. As said earlier, there are many regional varieties of Panchang. Not only in India this Saka Calendar is also used in Java and Bali among Indonesian  Hindus. Indian Calendars or Panchang used for fixing updates and moments of Hindu, Buddha and Jains festivals in the different States of India and in many cases for civil purposes also.

The Indian Calendars are used not only for fixing up the dates and moments of religious observances but also for the purpose of dating of documents and for certain civil purposes not only by the rural but also by a large section of the urban population.

There is a great divergence in practice in different parts of the country in this respect. Therefore a unified solar calendar has been proposed for all-India use for civil purposes.

But for calendar calculations, our astronomers all over India have been using only the Saka era since Aryabhata (500 A.D.) certainly and probably from much earlier times, and in local almanacs, other eras are simply imposed on it.

It was officially adopted in India on 22 March 1957 or 1 Chaitra 1879, Saka Era. Its first month is Chaitra has 30 days and starts on March 22 while leap year have the first month of 31 days and starts on March 21. Every month in the first half of the year has 31 days.

Calendar Structure

The months of India’s national calendar are as follows.

Month Duration Begin Solstices
 Chaitra 30/31 March 22 /March 21 Vernal Equinox Day and night are equal
Vaishakha 31 April 21
Jyeshtha 31 May 22
Ashadha 31 June 22 Summer Solstice Dakshinayan starts
Shravana 31 July 23
Bhaadra 31 August 23
Ashwin 30 September 23 Autumnal Equinox Day and night are equal
Kartika 30 October 23
Agrahayana 30 November 22
Pausha 30 December 22 Winter Solstice Uttarayan starts
Magha 30 January 21
Phalguna 30 February 20

 

Indian religious festivals were fixed by the movement of the moon and sun. Chaitra would be the first month of the solar year. The Indian Astronomers also begin the year with Chaitra. The vernal and autumnal equinoxes are two important festivals among Indians.

Another calendar used in equal importance with the Saka calendar in India is the Vikram Samvat calendar, which is a solar and lunar calendar associated with the Hindu religion.

History

The Indian year, throughout ages, has been of two kinds, the solar and the lunar, each having its own starting day, The year beginning for the two kinds of years, for different eras.

For Saka Era Chaitra would be the first month of the solar year and is the era par excellence which has been used by Indian astronomers all over India in their calculations since the time of the astronomer Varaha- mihira (died 587 A.D.) and probably earlier.

The  Indian almanac-makers, even now, use the Saka era for calculations and then convert the calculations to their own systems. Calendars are nothing but predictions of these events and were early framed on the basis of past experiences.

Hindu Festival Calendar

The Hindu festivals often coincide with seasonal changes. The festivals coincide with the movement of sun and moon like Full Moon or the New Moon or they are celebrated on the day after the Moon phase.

Vaisakhi, Pongal and those associated with Sankranti are based on the solar cycle, while other festivals are based on Lunar cycle and their dates vary on the Georgian calendar, like Maha Shivaratri, Holi, Guru Purnima, Ganesh Chaturthi, and Diwali.

Difference between Saka Samvat and Vikram Samvat

Saka Samvat and Vikram Samvat are two commonly used calendars in India. Shaka Samvat is India’s national calendar which started in 78 BC whereas Vikram Samvat started in 57 AD.

Both have the same ways of naming the months both have Shukla Paksha and Krishna Paksha. But the difference is only at the beginning of the month.

The new month starts in the Vikram Samvat with the Krishna Paksha which comes after the full moon, whereas the new month begins in the Shaka Samvat with the Shukla Paksha which comes after the new moon.

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