Calendars are created by civilizations to give a meaning to the continuous flow of time, according to their world-views. India has developed it's own unique collection of many calendars for regulating it's religious and cultural life. The current book presents a comprehensive account of their structure and relative importance at present and places them in the context of other calendars prevalent outside India. Suggestions have also been made for making some changes to bring them in line with our current astronomical knowledge. This book will be very useful for students, researchers and anyone else who is curious about the calendars.
Dr. Vinod K. Mishra originally hails from Chainpur, a village of Mithila region in the state of Bihar, India. After finishing M.Sc. (IIT, Kanpur), he obtained Ph.D. from Stony Brook University (USA) with specialization in Theoretical Nuclear Physics. His work in the fields of Physics,Networking Science, and Quantum Information have been published in various research journals. In addition, he has also authored two books ,entitled, "An Introduction to Quantum Communication" and "Software-Defined Networks". Currently, he is working as a Scientist in a federal research institution of USA. The current work is an outcome of his deep interest in the scientific traditions of ancient India as given an classical Sanskrit treatises.
While growing up in India, I was always intrigued by the New Year’s Day. It was a holiday and a long awaited one by office workers and village people alike. But the month name of January did not occur in the traditional month names used by my village. No one could answer me satisfactorily why we did not have our own New Year and why it was not celebrated. This fact bothered me for some time, but then I got used to it.
Later during my adult years I came across many different kinds of New Years. Also I found out that there were not one but many New Years celebrated across the length and breadth of India. This is very unusual because among all the ancient civilizations (like, Chinese, Jewish, Christian, etc.) Indians alone do not have a unique calendar. Depending on one’s point of view, this may be seen as a celebration of India’s diversity or an indictment of her disunity down through the ages.
I wanted to understand this diversity and so I started writing a book to explain it to myself. Now a Calendar is a product of a culture’s scientific achievements and theological assumptions. I have tried to look at both the angles for understanding the panchā˙nga (traditional Indian Calendar). The background information about astronomy and some history has been included to put matters in perspective.
I would like to acknowledge the help I got from many books, articles, and of course from the Internet.
India is a land of diversity with many religions, languages and regional cultures. This even gets carried to the calendars that govern peoples’ social and religious lives. If one asks many Indians, when is the Indian New Year’s day, it is very easy to get many answers. The western Christian calendar (henceforth called the Common Era calendar) is the only one being followed by all Indians. Compared to many ancient cultures like Chinese, Jewish, Muslim and others, India may be unique in not having developed a single unique calendar for all of her people. Instead, we have too many calendars to choose from and all of them are based on the ancient science of jyotisa. The word jyotisa in Sanskrit is equivalent to the two modern subjects of astronomy and astrology. It was considered to be an integral part of the ancient Vedic curriculum. The jyotisa or Science of Light is one of the six ancillary Vedic sciences, other five being Rituals (kalpa), Phonetics (śiksā), Etymology (nirukta), Grammar (vyākarana) and Prosody (chhanda). They were known collectively as Limbs of Vedas (vedān˙ga) with jyotisa being known as the Eyes of veda-purusa (Vedic scriptures envisioned as a human being). The importance of jyotisa arose from the need to understand and predict various celestial events, and fix the dates of ritual and religious significance. Later it developed to include such branches of Mathematics as Arithmetic, Geometry, Algebra, etc. The ancient Indian scholars of jyotisa subsequently made many significant contributions to the fields of Astronomy and Mathematics. The jyotisa comprised of both Astronomy and Astrology, as they were never considered separate in India as it happened in the West. One should emphasize the fact that Astrology has always been an integral part of Hindu Dharma (a better synonym for Hinduism). One of its theological assumptions is the correspondence between the outer world of objects and the inner world of consciousness. This is expressed by the saying "yathā pinde tathā brahmānde", or whatever is inside the human body is out there in the outside universe. This led to the hypothesis of a deep correlation between the moving astronomical bodies of the sky and the past, present, and future lives of the newborn. The ideas of karma (action) and punarjanma (rebirth) then imply that the planetary positions are indicators of the quality of the past lives and do not have any causative functions. So in India, astrology was not justified by postulating the influence of planets on humans through physical forces (like gravitation and electromagnetism) as was attempted in the West.
In the present work, we will try to understand the astronomical and historical origins of the main calendars prevalent in India. The main part of the book consists of five chapters. The first two (ch. 2 and 3) provide the astronomical understanding and the rest (ch. 3, 4, and 5) describe the panchān˙ga. Some of the relevant information has been provided in the Appendixes.
The material presented does not claim originality and has been compiled from many sources like books, magazines and Internet. I acknowledge my debt to all of them. Some of them have been mentioned by name but many have not for which I offer apologies.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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