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Panchanga (Samskrit: पञ्चाङ्गम्) refers to the Bharatiya calendar system of timekeeping to maintain a record of day to day activities. While Kalamana discusses the different time measurement systems and their role and importance, a Panchanga refers to different times of the day and night and their importance. It is used to identify a particular day with respect to the weekday, month and year of a particular calendar system.
In different societies, depending on their requirements and practices - rituals, social and civil events - various calendar systems have evolved. These systems are essentially based on the solar year either tropical (savana) or sidereal (nakshatra) or lunar years (tithis or luni-solar). In the present times a Gregorian calendar is in use, almost globally, for all administrative and government records and events.
परिचयः ॥ Introduction
Bharatiya Panchanga evolved over thousands of years since the vedic times. Based on the astronomical observations through different phases and periods - Vedanga and Siddhanta - the calendar has undergone continuous refinements. There are essentially two systems followed in Bharatavarsha or Indian sub-continent by different sections of people.
- Solar (Saura)
- Luni-Solar (Chandra)
The lunar month is seen as the most natural unit of time with clearly visible pramanas, namely Amavasya and Purnima, in the sky. A lunar month is the period from one new moon (Amavasya) to the next or from one full moon (Purnima) to the next; and it is easily observed without a requirement of any calculations or instruments. A solar month is calculated from the entry into a rashi by the Sun (sankranti) to his entry into the next rashi; and arriving at a sankranti time requires some careful observation of the planetary motions. A Panchanga however, describes many planetary events along with their significance and relevance in astronomical, astrological, ritualistic, social fields, thus to a traditional Sanatana Dharma household the annual Panchanga is indispensable. Their lifestyles are completely entwined with the concept of Kala. The concept of Kala includes both macrocosmic and microcosmic time scales uniquely discussed by Bharatiya shastras, however, of the different such measures of time the daily Panchanga that we use to conduct our activities consists of five aspects.
Most of the festivals in our country are based on the luni-solar (or lunar) calendar. Each of these falls on a particular tithi of a specified Paksha (fortnight) in a particular month or day and a few festivals are based on the nakshatras.
पञ्चाङ्ग॥ Calculations in Panchanga
In our country, based on the siddhantas handed down from generations people have evolved calculation systems of the Panchangas. They are still being followed in lineages of families. One who calculates and gives the Panchanga is called a Panchangakarta. The mathematical calculations involved in making a panchanga primarily follows two systems
- Drkganita paddhati
The Purvapaddhati (or Older System) is said to be followed when the Panchangakarta uses principles laid down in ancient texts without taking into consideration, the astronomical corrections. Followers of Drkganita (meaning the mathematical calculations based on what is seen in the sky) take into accord the changing time points based on changing planetary motions over large periods of time. For example, based on the planetary descriptions in Mahabharata, Bhishma chose to leave his body with the arrival of Uttarayana. This day is observed as Bhishma Ekadasi, in the present days it is around February or Magha Masa (Lunar Amanta System). So around the time of Mahabharata Uttarayana was in the time of Magha Masa. Varahamihira mentions that during his time Uttarayana and Makara Sankramana came together. It should be noted that Uttarayana or the movement of the Sun towards the Northern hemisphere started with the Makara Sankramana time (in January in current time) is also mentioned in Surya Siddhanta. However, if we see the present day planetary motions, it is observed that the Sun takes the northern path from Dhanus (December 22) itself denoting the start of Uttarayana.
पञ्चाङ्ग-विषयाः ॥ Contents of a Panchanga
A Panchanga typically gives the microcosmic details of five aspects of the day to day time. They are
- तिथिः॥ Tithi (Lunar Day)
- वारः॥ Vara (Day of the week)
- नक्षत्रम्॥ Nakshatra (Asterism)
- योगः॥ Yoga
- करणः॥ Karana
The coordinates for a day include the tithi present at the time of sunrise, the day of the week, the nakshatra in which the moon is present at the time of sunrise, the yoga and karana at sunrise. Thus the calculations for the day starts with the sunrise. It should be noted that sunrise time changes with the places so the factors become different with change in place.
Apart from the above details, additionally, in a Panchanga one finds the information about the following aspects of the usage of a Panchanga. Texts such as jyotisha granthas (phalita) and Muhurta Chintamani elaborate the various ritualistic activities to be undertaken by people during specific days the spiritual gains by performing them.
- Systems of calculation involved in constructing a Panchanga
- Results of the particular year based on planetary configuration on Chaitra Shukla Pratipat (may vary slightly due to regional differences)
- Navanayakas and Grahachara (movement of grahas)
- Predicting natural phenomena (rains, heat, tsunamis, natural fires etc) based on planetary positions.
- Predicting country's (thereby people's) results such as rainfall, crop yield, business development, crime, accidents, diseases etc
- Establishing important festivals and days (according to sampradayas)
- Everyday Tithis, monthly Sankrantis, Nakshatras, Adhikamasa/Kshayamasa, Vishuvats and Rashi chakras etc
- Dharmas to be performed
- Important and significant Yogas specific to that year
- Auspicious Muhurtas (for marriages, upanayana, choula samskaras, grhapravesha, starting new business etc)
- Graha shanti vidhis (ex, during birth of a child, or at death, malefic astrological charts, rajodharma etc)
- A few details from Dharmashastras (ex, Rig Veda Upakarma is different from Yajurveda Upakarma)
- Annual/monthly horoscope predictions for people belonging to 12 rashis
- Svapna shastra and interpretation of dreams
- Samudrika shastra and interpretation of body marks
- Asoucha Prakarana and Shraddha vidhis
- Activities to be performed in various tithis, days of the week, nakshatras, yogas and karanas
- Vaastu Prakarana
- Vivaha Prakarana
- Other kinds of panchangas such as Bhaskara panchanga, Gauri Panchanga
Tithi (तिथिः) is a fundamental unit of lunar time (Chandra Mana) - the time taken for the movement of moon by 12 degrees as compared to the Sun. The moon, like the sun, moves from west to east with reference to the fixed stars. The motion of the Moon is much faster than that of the Sun. Moving at a small angle of 5° 8′ towards the ecliptic, the movement of the moon may be considered as moving along the ecliptic itself. Observations show that moon takes an average period of 27.3216615 days to complete a revolution of 360° with reference to the fixed stars, which is called the Sidereal period of the Moon. For the same angular movement of 360° along the ecliptic, in the same direction with reference to the fixed stars, the Sun takes about 365.256364 days, which is the Sidereal period (Year) of the Sun. Thus we have
Motion of the Moon per Day = 360°/ 27.3216615 = 13°10′
Motion of the Sun per Day = 360°/ 365.256364 = 0.98°≈1°
Tithi = Time taken for the Moon to cover 12° relative to the Sun
Thus tithi is defined as the time taken for the moon to gain about 12°10′ per day over the sun. It is found that the current average interval between two successive Amavasyas is 29.530589 Savana days. This interval between two Amavasyas, where we can see the natural pramana of new moon in the sky is defined as a Chandra Masa or Lunar Month. The lunar month is thus a natural unit for a month, marked by two successive conjunctions of sun and moon (which happens on the new moon day). Approximating the movement of the moon, if it moves by 12° per day, to complete 360° it takes 30 Tithis; this interval is also called as the Synodic period of the moon (synodic means successive conjunctions of the same celestial bodies).
Tithi = [Longitude of the Moon - Longitude of the Sun] / 12° where both longitudes are in degrees
Note: If the longitude of the Moon is less than that of the Sun then add 360° to avoid negative sign and then divide it by 12 to get the tithi.
Chandra Masa (Lunar Month) = 360°/12° = 30 Tithis
This 360° ecliptic is divided into 27 nakshatras, which the moon covers in 27.3216615 days. Thus, we have the moon taking a little more than a Savana or Civil Day (time between two consecutive sunrises) to cover the extent of a nakshatra along the ecliptic.
Determining Amavasya (New Moon) and Purnima (Full Moon)
As the Sun and the Moon are moving in the same direction, the point at which they are in the same celestial longitude as seen from the Earth, when the Moon is said to be "new" or is called Amavasya or New Moon Day when we do not see the moon in the sky. After 24 hours, the Moon will have moved ahead of the sun by 12°10′ time. This separation of the moon from the sun goes on increasing at the rate of 12°10′ per day until it completes a 360° revolution and the moon will again be in conjunction with the sun resulting in Amavasya.
Amavasya occurs when Sun and Moon are on the same celestial longitude (360°)
Purnima or a Full Moon Day happens when the Sun and Moon are on the opposite longitudes 180° apart, when we see the fully bright moon in the sky.
Purnima occurs when Sun and Moon are on the opposite celestial longitudes (180°)
A lunar month can thus be reckoned in two ways both of which are followed in Bharatiya Kalamana, thus we have two calendar systems
- अमान्त-पद्धतिः ॥ Amanta or Mukhyamana - starting from Amavasya (new moon) to the succeeding Amavasya. This system is followed in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
- पूर्णिमान्त-पद्धतिः ॥ Purnimanta or Gaunamana - starting from Purnima (full moon) to the succeeding Purnima. This system is followed in most of the north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Kashmir.
चन्द्रकलाः ॥ Phases of Moon
Phases of the Moon is a term used to describe the course of the Moon during the lunar month. During the course of a lunar month, the size and shape of the moon visible from earth appear to change from day to day. Terms such as new, cresent, half, gibbous, and full and then again in the reverse order, until it is new are used to explain the phases of the moon between two Amavasyas. Fifteen tithis or half of a lunar month is called Paksha (पक्षम्) or a fortnight. The Paksha starting from a new moon to the succeeding full moon is called Shukla Paksha (शक्लपक्षम्) or Bright Fortnight and the other Paksha from the full moon to the next new moon is call Krshna Paksha (कृष्णपक्षम्) or the Dark Fortnight. The names of the tithis remain the same in both pakshas, however, this categorization is significant in determination of the coordinates of a day in a given month. Specific activities are associated with each such tithi in a ritual perspective.
तिथयः ॥ Names of Tithis
The tithis or lunar days which make a Chandra Masa have the following names. The fifteenth tithi is called Purnima and the thirtieth tithi is Amavasya as per Panchanga notations.
- Day 1 : Pratipat (प्रतिपत्)
- Day 2 : Dvitiya (द्वितीया)
- Day 3 : Tritiya (तृतीया)
- Day 4 : Chaturthi (चतुर्थी)
- Day 5 : Panchami (पञ्चमी)
- Day 6 : Shasti (षष्टी)
- Day 7 : Saptami (सप्तमी)
- Day 8 : Ashtami(अष्टमी)
- Day 9 : Navami (नवमी)
- Day 10 : Dashami (दशमी)
- Day 11 : Ekadashi (एकादशी)
- Day 12 : Dvadashi (द्वादशी)
- Day 13 : Trayodashi (त्रयोदशी)
- Day 14 : Chaturdashi (चतुर्दशी)
- Day 15 : Paurnami (पौर्णमी)
The tithis, however, beginning as they do at any hour of the day, do not exactly coincide with solar days, and this gives rise to some little difficulty. The general rule for civil purposes, as well as for some ordinary religious purposes for which no particular time of day happens to be prescribed, is that the tithi current at sunrise of the savana day gives its name and numeral to that day, and is coupled with its week-day. Thus Bhadrapada sukla chaturdasi Sukravara (Friday the 4th of the first or bright fortnight of Bhadrapada) is that civil day at whose sunrise the tithi called the I4th in the bright half or sukla fortnight is current, and its week-day is Friday.
चान्द्रमासः ॥ Names of Lunar Months
It has been previously mentioned that Chandramana is a natural unit of time and so also the naming of lunar months is according to the visible changes in the sky. The name of a lunar month is given based on the nakshatra constellation in which the moon is generally present (or near those nakshatras) on the Purnima day (that lies between two Amavasya days in Amamta system). It must be noted that these names have been used since Vedic times for determining the days when Yajnas have to be conducted.
Thus in the month when moon is present in the asterism of Chitta at the time of Purnima, that month starting from the Amavasya preceding Purnima and ending with the successive Amavasya is called Chaitra Masa according to the Chandra Mana. The names of the 12 Lunar months are as follows
- Chaitra (चैत्रमासः) : Nakshatra = Chitta
- Vaishakha (वैशाखमासः) : Nakshatra = Vishakha
- Jyestha (ज्येष्टमासः) : Nakshatra = Jyestha
- Aashadha (आषाढमासः) : Nakshatra = Purva Ashada or Uttara Ashadha
- Shraavana (श्रावणमासः) : Nakshatra = Shravana
- Bhadrapada (भाद्रपदमासः) : Nakshatra = Purvabhadra, Uttarabhadra
- Asveyuja (आश्वेयुजमासः) : Nakshatra = Ashvini
- Kaartika (कार्तिकमासः) : Nakshatra = Krittika
- Margashira (मार्गशीरमासः) : Nakshatra = Mrgashira
- Pushya (पुष्यमासः) : Nakshatra = Pushyami
- Magha (माघमासः) : Nakshatra = Magha/Makha
- Phalguna (फाल्गुणमासः) : Nakshatra = Purvaphalguni or Uttaraphalguni
Names of Samvatsaras (Lunar Years)
Each Lunar year is called a Samvatsara. A cycle of 60 samvatsaras is followed by the people. This cycle is five times the Barhaspatya Mana of 12 years. They have specific names and the good or bad effects in a particular year are indicated to a certain extent in the names of these sixty years.
वारः ॥ Vara - Day of the Week
Vara (वारः) Vasara (वासरः) or weekdays are seven as in common knowledge globally, are based on sunrise. They are named after their adhipatis or specific planetary rulers as follows
- Ravi vasara : रविवासरः (Sunday) also called Bhanuvasara
- Soma vasara : सोमवासरः (Monday) also called Induvasara
- Mangala vasara : मङ्गलवासरः (Tuesday) also called Bhaumavasara
- Budha vasara : बुधवासरः (Wednesday) also called Saumya vasara
- Guru vasara : गुरुवासरः (Thursday) also called Brhaspati vasara
- Shukra vasara : शुक्रवासरः (Friday) also called Bhrgu vasara
- Shani vasara : शनिवासरः (Saturday)also called Manda vasara
Surya Siddhanta (11.78) mentions how the days of the week have specific rulers in the given succession. The Sun who is fourth from Saturn is the ruler of the 1st day; the Moon, who is the fourth from the Sun is the ruler of 2nd day; Mars, the fourth from the Moon is the ruler of the 3rd day and so on.
नक्षत्राणि॥ Nakshatras - Asterism
Nakshatras refer to the 27th part of the ecliptic and thus each nakshatra spans 13°20′. The time which the moon (whose motion continually varies in speed) or any other heavenly body requires to travel over the 27th part of the ecliptic is also called a nakshatra.
Extent of Nakshatra = 360°/27 = 13°20′
The current nakshatra of the day is obtained by dividing the nirayana longitude of the Moon M, by 13°20′ (or 13.3333). The moon travels nearly one nakshatra daily, which is given in every panchanga. The 27 nakshatras are
- Asvini (अश्विनी)
- Bharani (भरणी)
- Krttika (कृत्तिका)
- Rohini (रोहिणी)
- Mrgashirsha (मृगशीर्षा) or Mrigashira
- Ardra (आद्रा)
- Punarvasu (पुनर्वसू)
- Pushya (पुष्यः)
- Ashlesha (आश्लेषा)
- Magha (मघा)
- Purvaphalguni (पूर्वफल्गुनी) or Pubba
- Uttaraphalguni (उत्तरफल्गुनी) or Uttara
- Hastha (हस्ता)
- Chitra (चित्रा)
- Swati (स्वाती)
- Vishakha (विशाखा)
- Anuradha (अनुराधा)
- Jyeshta (ज्येष्ठा)
- Moola (मूला)
- Purvashadha (पूर्वाषाढा)
- Uttarashadha (उत्तराषाढा)
- Shravana (श्रवणा)
- Dhanishta (धनिष्ठा)
- Shatabhisha (शतभिषम्)
- Purvabhadra (पूर्वाभाद्रा)
- Uttarabhadra (उत्तराभाद्रा)
- Revati (रेवती)
Each nakshatra was named after the most prominently visible star (called yogatara or junction star) contained within its range. Each nakshatra is divided into four equal parts, each part being called Pada (quarter) each of 3°20'. Thus, totally 108 (27x4) nakshatra padas constitute the rashis (zodiac). These 108 padas are equally distributed into 12 Rashis or Zodiac signs so that each rashi consists of 9 padas.
The period of time during which the joint motion in longitude or the sum of the motions, of the sun and moon is increased by 13°20', is called Yoga, or "addition" in this aspect. The sum of the nirayana longitudes of the Sun and Moon divided into 27 equal divisions is called as Yogas. There are 27 yogas.
- Vishkhambha (विष्कम्भः)
- Priti (प्रीतिः)
- Ayushman (आयुष्मान्)
- Saubhagya (सौभाग्यः)
- Shobhana (शोभनः)
- Atiganda (अतिगण्डः)
- Sukarma (सुकर्मा)
- Dhrti (धृतिः)
- Shula (शूलः)
- Ganda (गण्डः)
- Vrddhi (वृद्धिः)
- Dhruva (धृवः)
- Vyaghata (व्याघातः)
- Harshana (हर्षणः)
- Vajra (वज्रः)
- Siddhi (सिद्धिः)
- Vyatipata (व्यतीपातः)
- Vareeyan (वरीयान्)
- Parigha (परिघः)
- Shiva (शिवः)
- Siddhi (सिद्धः)
- Sadhya (साद्ध्यः)
- Shubha (शुभः)
- Shukla (शुक्लः)
- Brahma (ब्रह्मा)
- Indra (इन्द्रः)
- Vaidhrti (वैधृतिः)
The sum of the nirayana longitudes of the sun and the moon is converted into minutes and then divided by 800 (when it exceeds 360°, subtract 360° from the sum, convert into minutes and then divide that figure by 800). The quotient represents the number of yogas completed and hence the current yoga running is obtained by adding 1 to the completed number of yogas.
करणः ॥ Karana - Half a Tithi
In each tithi (12°), the first half is one karana and the second half is the next karana, so each karana is situated at 6°, of the angular distance between the sun and moon. There are eleven karanas (करणः) of which four are Sthira or immovable and seven are Chara or movable. The names of the Karanas and their nature are as follows:
- Chara-Karanas (चरकरणाः) are repeating karanas starting from Shukla Paksha of Pratipat tithi
- Bava (बवः)
- Balava (बालवः)
- Taitula (तैतिलः)
- Kaulava (कौलवः)
- Garaja (गरजः)
- Vanik (वणिक्)
- Bhadra (भद्रः)
- Sthira-Karanas (स्थिरकरणाः) are constant as with the following names
- Shakuni (शकुनिः) : 2nd half of Krshna Paksha Chaturdasi tithi
- Chatuspat (चतुष्पात्) : 1st half of Amavasya tithi
- Naga (नाग) : 2nd half of Amavasya tithi
- Kimsthugna (किंस्तुघ्नम्) : : 1st half of Pratipat tithi
Among the time measurement systems followed in Bharatavarsha, Saura Mana is followed for many purposes such as determining Ayanas (Uttaraayana and Dakshinaayana), Sankrantis etc. The Saura Samvatsara or Solar (sidereal) Year is the time taken by the Sun to go round the ecliptic once with reference to the fixed stars. The Solar Year starts when the Sun enters Mesha rashi i.e., with the Mesha Sankramana of Sun. In the current period Mesha Sankranti in Gregorian calendar falls around April 14 (13 or 15). The solar year is divided into 12 solar months. The length of any particular saura masa is the duration of the stay of the Sun in a particular rashi (of 30° extent) of the rashi chakra.
The saura masas are named after the rashis which the Sun occupies during these months, as Mesha, Vrshabha, Mithuna etc. However, in usage, the names of the solar months are the same as those of the lunar months, namely, Chaitra, Vaishaka etc. These names are prefixed with "saura" to denote the difference between solar and lunar calendar months. Thus solar year commences with Saura Vaishaka (April 14) and ends with Saura Chaitra. The lunar year commences with Chaitra masa (varying in March and April) and ends with Phalguna masa. The names of the solar months are ambiguous, followed differently in different regions of India, hence according to some scholars, naming solar months after the rashis occupied by the Sun will provide clarity.
Role of Panchanga in Bharatiya Traditions
Apart from using the Kalamana for determining macrocosmic time scales and astrological calculations, mostly Saura and Chandra Manas are used to determine the auspicious times for various rituals, yajnas, vratas and samskaras. Most notably the festivals followed in India are based on luni-solar (or lunar) calendar. Each of the festivals falls on a particular tithi or a specified paksha in a particular lunar month. Across many traditions, people follow both kinds of calendars and follow the rituals accordingly. A few prominent examples of Bharatiya festivals are as follows
|Festival Name||Lunar Calendar (Amanta System)|
|Lunar New Year - Chandramana Yugadi||Chaitra Shukla Pratipat|
|Sri Rama Navami||Chaitra Shukla Navami|
|Raksha Bandhan||Sravana Purnima|
|Krishna Janmastami||Sravana Krshna Ashtami|
|Ganesha Chaturthi||Bhadrapada Shukla Chaturthi|
|Mahalaya Amavasya (Pitr Paksha)||Bhadrapada Amavasya|
|Dasara (Dassera or Dusshera) Ten days of Durga Puja, the tenth day called as Vijayadasami||Asvayuja Shukla Pratipat to Dashami|
|Naraka Chaturdasi and Deepavali (Diwali)||Asvayuja Krshna Chaturdashi and Amavasya|
|Kartika Purnima||Kartika Purnima|
|Ratha Saptami||Magha Shukla Saptami|
|Mahashivaratri||Magha Krshna Chaturdashi|
|Holi (Holika Dahana)||Phalguna Purnima|
|Festival Name||Solar Calendar|
|Solar New Year (Assam, Bengal, Odisha, Tamilnadu, Kerala) or Mesha Masa||Mesha Sankranti (April 14)|
|Makara Sankranti or Pongal, Magha Bhihu||Makara Sankranti (January 14)|
|Sri Krshna Jayanti||Moon in Rohini Nakshatra in Saura Bhadrapada (August 17 - September 16)|
|Onam (kerala)||Moon in Sravana Nakshatra in Saura Bhadrapada (August 17 - September 16)|
- Rao, S. Balachandra. (2000) Indian Astronomy, An Introduction. Hyderabad: Universities Press (India) Limited. (Page 39-70)
- Panchanga (2020-2021) by Sri. Kuppa Anjaneya Sastry (Siddhanti of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetha)
- The Indian Calendar (Page 16)