Keeping track of time has always been a matter of concern for humans since the ancient civilization. Back during the ancient times, different parts of the Indian subcontinent had different ways to keep track of time using lunar and solar based calendars, which are similar in principle, but yet different in other ways. In 1957, the Calendar Reform Committee decided to establish a single national calendar for official use. By that time, there had already been more than 30 different regional calendars used in India and other nations in the subcontinent. They are, in fact, still in use today too. Hindus are mostly familiar with one or more regional calendars, the Indian Civil Calendar, and the western Gregorian calendar.
The main difference in the Gregorian and Hindu calendar is that in Gregorian calendar, the individual months vary in length to accommodate the difference between lunar cycle and solar cycle, with a leap day inserted every four years to ensure the solar cycle; but in Indian calendar, every month consists of two lunar fortnights, that starts with a new moon, and the manage the difference, an extra month is added every 30 months.
Days and Months in Hindu Calendar
As there is a difference between the lunar events and the Gregorian calendar, the dates for important Hindu festivals and lunar events vary from year to year in the Gregorian calendar. Also, the starting date of each month of the Hindu calendar is different in the Gregorian calendar, and a Hindu month always starts on the day of the new moon.
Days in Hindu Calendar
There are seven days in Hindu week:
- Raviãra: Sunday (day of Sun)
- Somavãra: Monday (day of Moon)
- Mañgalvã: Tuesday (day of Mars)
- Budhavãra: Wednesday (day of Mercury)
- Guruvãra: Thursday (day of Jupiter)
- Sukravãra: Friday (day of Venus)
- Sanivãra: Saturday (day of Saturn)
Months in Hindu Calendar
Months in the Indian calendar are derived from the names of 15 nakshatras, which are stated in the Atharva Veda. And how it works is that in a particular month, there is a high probability of full moon occurring in a particular month, which may not be exact but it’s near. For instance, there is a high probability of full moon occurring in or near Jyestha nakshatra in Vaisakha, so that the moon is termed as Jyestha Poornima, and the month is named Jyestha.
The names are as follows:
- Chitra Nakshtra = Chaitra month
- Visakha Nakshtra = Vaisakha month
- Jyestha Nakshtra = Jyestha month
- Purva Aashaadha, Uttara Aashaadha Nakshtras = Aasadha month
- Sravana Nakshtra = Sraavana month
- Uttara Bhaadrapada, Poorva Bhaadrapada Nakshtras = Bhadra month
- Asvini Nakshtra = Asvina month
- Krittika nakshtra = Kaartika month
- Mrigashira nakshtra = Maarghasira month
- Pushya nakshtra = Pausa month
- Maghaa nakshtra = Magha month
- Uttara Phalguni, Purva Phalguni nakshtras = Phalguna month
How they correspond with the Gregorian calendar are as follows:
- Chaitra (30/ 31* Days) Begins March 22/ 21*
- Vaisakha (31 Days) Begins April 21
- Jyaistha (31 Days) Begins May 22
- Asadha (31 Days) Begins June 22
- Shravana (31 Days) Begins July 23
- Bhadra (31 Days) Begins August 23
- Asvina (30 Days) Begins September 23
- Kartika (30 Days) Begins October 23
- Agrahayana (30 Days) Begins November 22
- Pausa (30 Days) Begins December 22
- Magha (30 Days) Begins January 21
- Phalguna (30 Days) Begins February 20* Leap years
Hindu eras and Epochs
The years are dated different in Hindu calendar than the Gregorian calendar too. For instance, in the Gregorian calendar, the birth of Jesus Christ is considered as year zero, and the year before that year is denoted BCE (before Common Era), and the years following are denoted as CE (Common era).
What this means is the year we are living today on, 2017, is actually two-thousand and seventeen years after the birth of Jesus’s birth.
Hindu tradition is different. There is a cycle of large space times known as Yugas, which translates to “epoch” or “era” in Hindu calendar. The cycle is Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga, and the Kali Yuga. Many scholars claim that our present time is the Kali Yuga, which began in the year 3102 BCE in the Gregorian calendar when the Kurukshetra war is said to have ended. Today, what is 2017 CE in the Gregorian calendar, is in fact 5119 in Hindu calendar.
Hindus tend to follow and are comfortable with both of the calendars for their traditional and official use.