Vaidika Kala Mapana (वैदिककालमापनम्)
परिचयः ॥ Introduction
People of the vedic times engaged seriously in the performance of yajnas at specific times prescribed by the shastras. Thus, it was necessary to have accurate knowledge of the science of time so that the times prescribed for performing the various vedic yajnas could be correctly predicted well in advance. Thus, it was essential to study the natural divisions of time caused by the motion of the Sun and Moon, such as days, months, seasons, and years, with special attention to the study of the times of occurrence of new moons, full moons, equinoxes, and solstices that is included under the purview of the science of Astronomy. Therefore, Astronomy in the vedic times, was essentially the science of time-determination that was motivated by the need to fix time for the various yajnas that were performed at different times in different seasons.
In fact, this is the definition of astronomy given in Vedanga Jyotisha, the earliest available work dealing exclusively with astronomy that gives all necessary information needed by the vedic hota to predict times for the vedic yajnas and other observances.
However, the Vedic literature also has references to astronomical events and observations. For eg. The Kaushitaki brahmana states that the year ended with the full moon at the Purva Phalguni.
मुखम् वा एतत् संवत्सरस्य यत् फाल्गुनी पौर्णमासी । मुखम् उत्तरे फल्गू । पुच्छम् पूर्वे । तद् यथा प्रवृत्तस्य अन्तौ समेतौ स्याताम् । एवम् एव एतौ संवत्सरस्य अन्तौ समेतौ ।5.1
mukham vā etat saṁvatsarasya yat phālgunī paurṇamāsī । mukham uttare phalgū । puccham pūrve । tad yathā pravr̥ttasya antau sametau syātām । evam eva etau saṁvatsarasya antau sametau ।5.1
Thus, ancient Indian astronomy may be classified into two main categories:
- Vedic astronomy
- Post-vedic astronomy.
Day in Vedic Literature
The day, in vedic literature was called Vasara (वासरः) or ahan (अहन्). And was reckoned from sunrise to sunrise. The variability of its length was known. For, the Rgveda invoking Somaraja says,
“O Somaraja, prolong thou our lives just as the Sun increases the length of the days.”
सोम राजन्प्र ण आयूंषि तारीरहानीव सूर्यो वासराणि ॥७॥
soma rājanpra ṇa āyūṁṣi tārīrahānīva sūryo vāsarāṇi ॥7॥
On the analogy of a civil day, a lunar day was also sometimes reckoned from one moonrise to the next and the name tithi was given to it.
तदाहुर्यद्दर्शपूर्णमासयोरुपवसति न ह वा अव्रतस्य देवा हविरश्नन्ति तस्मादुपवसत्युत मे देवा हविरश्नीयुरिति। पूर्वां पौर्णमासीमुपवसेदिति पैङ्ग्यमुत्तरामिति कौषीतकं या पूर्वा पौर्णमासी साऽनुमतिर्योत्तरा सा राका। या पूर्वाऽमावास्या सा सिनीवाली योत्तरा सा कुहूः। यां पर्यस्तमियादभ्युदियादिति सा तिथिः.....॥7.11॥ (Aitareya brahmana 32.10)
tadāhuryaddarśapūrṇamāsayorupavasati na ha vā avratasya devā haviraśnanti tasmādupavasatyuta me devā haviraśnīyuriti। pūrvāṁ paurṇamāsīmupavasediti paiṅgyamuttarāmiti kauṣītakaṁ yā pūrvā paurṇamāsī sā'numatiryottarā sā rākā। yā pūrvā'māvāsyā sā sinīvālī yottarā sā kuhūḥ। yāṁ paryastamiyādabhyudiyāditi sā tithiḥ.....॥7.11॥
However, the term tithi in the sense in which it is used now occurs in the Vedanga Jyotisha. It does not occur in the vedic samhitas and brahmanas, but there are reasons to believe that tithis were used even in those times.
Divisions of a Day
The duration of daylight, reckoned from sunrise to sunset, was variously divided into,
- Two parts called Purvahna (forenoon) and Aparahna (afternoon)
- Three parts called Purvahna, Madhyahna, and Aparahna.
- Four parts called Purvahna, Madhyahna, Aparahna and Sayahna
- Five parts called Pratah, Sangava, Madhyahna, Aparahna, and Sayahna
The names of these five parts occur together in the Shatapatha brahmana,
आदित्यस्त्वेव सर्व ऋतवः । यदैवोदेत्यथ वसन्तो यदा संगवोऽथ ग्रीष्मो यदा मध्यन्दिनोऽथ वर्षा यदापराह्णोऽथ शरद्यदैवास्तमेत्यथ हेमन्तस्तस्मादु मध्यंन्दिन एवादधीत तर्हि ह्येषोऽस्य लोकस्य नेदिष्ठं भवति तन्नेदिष्ठादेवैनमेतन्मध्यान्निर्मिमीते - २.२.३.९
ādityastveva sarva r̥tavaḥ । yadaivodetyatha vasanto yadā saṁgavo'tha grīṣmo yadā madhyandino'tha varṣā yadāparāhṇo'tha śaradyadaivāstametyatha hemantastasmādu madhyaṁndina evādadhīta tarhi hyeṣo'sya lokasya nediṣṭhaṁ bhavati tannediṣṭhādevainametanmadhyānnirmimīte
While the first three words ie. Pratah, Sangava and Madhyahna occur in Rgveda (Mandala 5),
उता यातं संगवे प्रातरह्नो मध्यंदिन उदिता सूर्यस्य । दिवा नक्तमवसा शंतमेन नेदानीं पीतिरश्विना ततान ॥३॥
utā yātaṁ saṁgave prātarahno madhyaṁdina uditā sūryasya । divā naktamavasā śaṁtamena nedānīṁ pītiraśvinā tatāna ॥3॥
The term Saya (evening) occurs in Rgveda (Mandala 8 and 10),
मो ष्वद्य दुर्हणावान्सायं करदारे अस्मत् । अश्रीर इव जामाता ॥२०॥
उत गाव इवादन्त्युत वेश्मेव दृश्यते । उतो अरण्यानिः सायं शकटीरिव सर्जति ॥३॥
mo ṣvadya durhaṇāvānsāyaṁ karadāre asmat । aśrīra iva jāmātā ॥20॥
uta gāva ivādantyuta veśmeva dr̥śyate । uto araṇyāniḥ sāyaṁ śakaṭīriva sarjati ॥3॥
The days and nights were also divided into 15 parts each called as muhurta. According to Taittiriya brahmana (3. 10. 1. 1–3), the muhurtas falling during the days and nights of the shukla and krshna pakshas (fortnights) were respectively given specific names.
The Taittiriya brahmana (3. 10. 1. 1–3; 3. 10. 10. 2) also assigns specific names to the fifteen days and nights of the shukla as well as krshna pakshas.
However, by the time of the Kautiliya Arthashastra, the day and night came to be divided into eight parts each.
नालिकाभिरहरष्टधा रात्रिं च विभजेत् । छाया-प्रमाणेन वा ।। ०१.१९.०६ ।।
nālikābhiraharaṣṭadhā rātriṁ ca vibhajet । chāyā-pramāṇena vā ।। 01.19.06 ।।
Week in Vedic Literature
In vedic literature, six days were taken to form a week that was called a Shadaha. 5 shadahas made a month and 12 months, a year. As to the names of the six days of a shadaha, there is no reference in the vedic literature. However, this six-day week was later replaced by the present seven day week (called saptaha) which had attained popularity and was in general use at the time of composition of the Atharva Jyotisha - a work on Jyotisha belonging to the later vedic period.
Months in Vedic Literature
In vedic astronomy, months were lunar or synodic and were measured from full moon to full moon and also from new moon to new moon as mentioned in the Taittiriya samhita (184.108.40.206) Originally, these months were named as Chaitra etc. based on the nakshatras occupied by the Moon at the time of full moon. And these names do not occur in the early samhitas and brahmanas. They are known to occur in Taittiriya samhita, Shankhayana/Kaushitaki, and Tandya brahmanas, Ashvalayana grhyasutra, Archa and Yajusha jyotisha. Some of the occurrences are as follows:
- The terms Phalguni purnamasi, Chitra purnamasi, etc. are found in the Taittiriya samhita (7. 4. 8).
- The term Magha is mentioned in Shankhayana/Kaushitaki brahmana (19. 3)
स वै माघस्य अमावास्यायाम् उपवसत्य् उदन्न् आवर्त्स्यन् ।sa vai māghasya amāvāsyāyām upavasaty udann āvartsyan ।
- The term Phalguna occurs in Tandya brahmana (5. 9. 7–12)
- The terms Margashirsha and Shravana occurs in the Ashvalayana grhyasutra 2. 3. 1 and 3. 5. 2 respectively.
मार्गशीर्ष्यां प्रत्यवरोहणं चतुर्दश्याम् १ | mārgaśīrṣyāṁ pratyavarohaṇaṁ caturdaśyām 1 |
ओषधीनां प्रादुर्भावे श्रवणेन श्रावणस्य २ | oṣadhīnāṁ prādurbhāve śravaṇena śrāvaṇasya 2 |
- While the terms Shravana, Magha and Pausha also occur in Archa jyotisha (5, 6, 32 and 34) and Yajusha jyotisha (5, 6, and 7)
However, in due course the lunar months were linked with the solar months. Thus, the lunar month (reckoned from one new moon to the next) in which the Sun entered the sign Aries was called Chaitra or Madhu; that in which the Sun entered the sign Taurus was called Vaishakha or Madhava; and so on. And the lunar month in which the Sun did not enter a new sign was treated as an intercalary month.
Twelve such lunar months constituted a lunar year.
Year in Vedic Literature
In the vedic literature, the year, generally called by the terms sama, vatsara, and hayana, was measured from one winter solstice to the next. However, in due course, it was used in the sense of a sidereal year. In fact, the Kaushitaki brahmana (19.3) gives an interesting account of how the year-long yajna commenced at one winter solstice and continued until the next. It says, “On the new moon of Magha, the Sun rests, about to turn northwards. The hotas also rest, about to begin with the introductory Atiratra. Thus, for the first time, the hotas obtain the Sun. On him, they lay hold with the Chaturvimsha rite; that is why the laying hold rite has that name. The Sun then goes north for six months, while the hotas follow him with six day rites in continuation. Having gone north for six months, the Sun stands still, about to turn southwards. The hotas also rest, about to begin with the Vishnuvanta (summer solstice) day. Thus, for the second time, they obtain the Sun. The Sun then goes south for six months and the hotas follow him with six day rites in reverse order. Having gone south for six months, the Sun stands still, being about to turn north and the hotas also rest, about to begin with the Mahavrata day. Thus, they obtain the Sun for the third time."
In this context, it is worth observing that the Taittiriya brahmana (3. 9. 22) calls the year “the day of the deities” who are supposed to reside at the north pole.
एकं वा एतद्देवानामहः । यत्संवत्सरः । ekaṁ vā etaddevānāmahaḥ । yatsaṁvatsaraḥ ।
The year of vedic astronomy seems to have been a seasonal or tropical one. Therefore, in the early stages, the names of the seasons were used as synonyms of a year. The year consisted of six seasons and each season lasted for a duration of two solar months. The two solar months commencing with the winter solstice were called Shishira; the next two months, Vasanta; and so on. According to the Aitareya brahmana (1.1) and Taittiriya brahmana (2.7.10), sometimes Shishira and Hemanta were treated as one season and the number of seasons was taken as five.
द्वादश मासाः पञ्चर्तवो हेमन्तशिशिरयोः समासेन तावान्संवत्सरः |dvādaśa māsāḥ pañcartavō hēmantaśiśirayōḥ samāsēna tāvānsaṁvatsaraḥ |
पञ्च वा ऋतवः संवत्सरः । ऋतुष्वेव संवत्सरे प्रतितिष्ठति ।pañca vā r̥tavaḥ saṁvatsaraḥ । r̥tuṣvēva saṁvatsarē pratitiṣṭhati ।
The relation between the seasons and months was as follows:
|2. Grishma (Summer)||3. Shukra
|3. Varsha (Rainy)||5. Nabhas
|4. Sharada (Autumn)||7. Isha
|5. Hemanta (Winter)||9. Sahas
|6. Shishira (Chilly Winter)||11. Tapas
Lunar and Solar Year
Just as there were Lunar months and Solar months, there was also the concept of a Lunar year and a Solar year. And in order to preserve correspondence between lunar and solar years, intercalary months were inserted at regular intervals. It is said that, the mention of the intercalary month is made in the Rgveda (1. 25. 8), but how it was arrived at and where in the scheme of months it was introduced in that time is not known. Prof K. S. Shukla mentions that there is evidence to show that to make the lunar year correspond to the solar year, 12 days were intercalated after every lunar year and one month was dropped after every 40 years.
The Taittiriya samhita (5. 6. 7) refers to 12 as well as 13 months of a year and calls the thirteenth (intercalary) month by the names Samsarpa and Amhaspati (1. 4. 14).
1 मधुश् च माधवश् च शुक्रश् च शुचिश् च नभश् च नभस्यश् चेषश् चोर्जश् च सहश् च सहस्यश् च तपश् च तपस्यश् च । उपयामगृहीतो ऽसि सꣳसर्पो ऽसि । अꣳहस्पत्याय त्वा ॥
1 madhuś ca mādhavaś ca śukraś ca śuciś ca nabhaś ca nabhasyaś cēṣaś cōrjaś ca sahaś ca sahasyaś ca tapaś ca tapasyaś ca । upayāmagr̥hītō 'si saꣳsarpō 'si । aꣳhaspatyāya tvā ॥
While the Vajasaneyi samhita (7. 30; 22. 31) calls the intercalary month on one occasion by the name Amhasaspati and on another by the name malimlucha (22. 30).
उपयामगृहीतो स्य् अꣳहसस्पतये त्वा ॥7. 30|| upayāmagr̥hītō sy aꣳhasaspatayē tvā ॥7. 30||
तपस्याय स्वाहाꣳहसस्पतये स्वाहा ॥22. 31|| tapasyāya svāhāꣳhasaspatayē svāhā ॥22. 31||
मलिम्लुचाय स्वाहा ||22. 30|| malimlucāya svāhā ||22. 30||
While, according to later works (Tantrasamgraha), Amhaspati referred to the synodic month with two samkrantis, the synodic month without any Samkranti, occurring before it, is called Samsarpa and the synodic month without any Samkranti occurring after it is called Adhimasa (intercalary month).
Thus, a year sometimes contained 12 lunar months and sometimes 13 lunar months. By the time of the Vedanga jyotisha, insertion of an intercalary month after every 30 lunar months was prescribed (Yajusha jyotisha 37). Then, at a later stage the correspondence between the lunar and solar year was established by evolving a cycle of five solar years with 62 lunar months. And this cycle was called a yuga. According to the Vedanga Jyotisha, an ordinary yuga consisted of 1,830 days. And an intercalary month was added at half the yuga and another at the end of the yuga.
Yuga in Vedic Literature
Periods bigger than a year are also met with in the vedic literature. They were called yuga. One such yuga consisted of 5 solar years. The five constituent years of this yuga were called Samvatsara, Parivatsara, Idavatsara, Anuvatsara and Idvatsara.
Two of these names viz. Samvatsara and Parivatsara find mention in the Rgveda (7. 103. 7–8),
ब्राह्मणासो अतिरात्रे न सोमे सरो न पूर्णमभितो वदन्तः । संवत्सरस्य तदहः परि ष्ठ यन्मण्डूकाः प्रावृषीणं बभूव ॥७॥
ब्राह्मणासः सोमिनो वाचमक्रत ब्रह्म कृण्वन्तः परिवत्सरीणम् । अध्वर्यवो घर्मिणः सिष्विदाना आविर्भवन्ति गुह्या न के चित् ॥८॥
brāhmaṇāsō atirātrē na sōmē sarō na pūrṇamabhitō vadantaḥ । saṁvatsarasya tadahaḥ pari ṣṭha yanmaṇḍūkāḥ prāvr̥ṣīṇaṁ babhūva ॥7॥
brāhmaṇāsaḥ sōminō vācamakrata brahma kr̥ṇvantaḥ parivatsarīṇam । adhvaryavō gharmiṇaḥ siṣvidānā āvirbhavanti guhyā na kē cit ॥8॥
While the Taittiriya samhita, the Vajasaneyi samhita and the Taittiriya brahmana (3. 4. 11 and 3. 10. 4) mention all the five names, with some alteration.
- The Taittiriya samhita (5. 5. 7. 3–4) calls them Samvatsara, Parivatsara, Idavatsara, Iduvatsara and Vatsara.
- The Vajasaneyi samhita (27. 45 and 30. 15) calls them Samvatsara, Parivatsara, Idavatsara, Idvatsara and Vatsara.
संवत्सरो ऽसि परिवत्सरोऽसीदावत्सरो ऽसीद्वत्सरो ऽसि वत्सरो ऽसि ।27. 45|
यमाय यमसूम् अथर्वभ्यो ऽवतोकाꣳ संवत्सराय पर्यायिणीं परिवत्सरायाविजाताम् इदावत्सरायातीत्वरीम् इद्वत्सरायातिष्कद्वरीं वत्सराय विजर्जराꣳ संवत्सराय पलिक्नीम् ऋभुभ्यो ऽजिनसंधꣳ साध्येभ्यश् चर्मम्नम् ॥30. 15||
saṁvatsarō 'si parivatsarō'sīdāvatsarō 'sīdvatsarō 'si vatsarō 'si ।27. 45|
yamāya yamasūm atharvabhyō 'vatōkāꣳ saṁvatsarāya paryāyiṇīṁ parivatsarāyāvijātām idāvatsarāyātītvarīm idvatsarāyātiṣkadvarīṁ vatsarāya vijarjarāꣳ saṁvatsarāya paliknīm r̥bhubhyō 'jinasaṁdhaꣳ sādhyēbhyaś carmamnam ॥30. 15||
- The Taittiriya brahmana (3. 4. 11 and 3. 10. 4) calls them Samvatsara, Parivatsara, Idavatsara, Idvatsara and Vatsara.
यम्यै यमसूम् । अथर्वभ्योऽवतोकाम् । संवत्सराय पर्यारिणीम् । परिवत्सरायाविजाताम् । इदावत्सरायापस्कद्वरीम् । इद्वत्सरायातीत्वरीम् । वत्सराय विजर्जराम् । सर्वंत्सराय पलिक्नीम् । वनाय वनपम् । अन्यतोऽरण्याय दावपम् १
संवत्सरोऽसि परिवत्सरोऽसि । इदावत्सरोऽसीदुवत्सरोऽसि । इद्वत्सरोऽसि वत्सरोऽसि ।
yamyai yamasūm । atharvabhyō'vatōkām । saṁvatsarāya paryāriṇīm । parivatsarāyāvijātām । idāvatsarāyāpaskadvarīm । idvatsarāyātītvarīm । vatsarāya vijarjarām । sarvaṁtsarāya paliknīm । vanāya vanapam । anyatō'raṇyāya dāvapam 1
saṁvatsarō'si parivatsarō'si । idāvatsarō'sīduvatsarō'si । idvatsarō'si vatsarō'si ।
There are allusions to yugas, meant as an age also, in the Vedas. The names Krta, Treta, Dvapara and Kali which are used in later astronomy as the names of longer yugas find mention in the vedic literature as well.
- The Shadvimsha Brahmana (5.6) mentions the names Krta, Kharva, Dvapara and Pushya for the four ages that later came to be acknowledged by the names Krta, Treta, Dvapara and Kali.
- In the Aitareya Brahmana (7.15.4) Kali, Dvapara, Treta and Krta are compared to a man lying down, moving, rising, and walking.
- It is also understood that the four yugas indicated different grades; each inferior to the preceding. In order from Krta to Kali, each yuga represents a decline in morality, piety, strength, knowledge, truthfulness and happiness.
- While Dvapara, as a unit of time, is found to be used in the Gopatha-brahmana (1. 1. 28).
असमीक्ष्यप्रवल्हितानि श्रूयन्ते द्वापरादाव् ऋषीणाम् एकदेशो दोषपतिर् इह चिन्ताम् आपेदे त्रिभिः सोमः पातव्यः समाप्तम् इव भवति...
asamīkṣyapravalhitāni śrūyantē dvāparādāv r̥ṣīṇām ēkadēśō dōṣapatir iha cintām āpēdē tribhiḥ sōmaḥ pātavyaḥ samāptam iva bhavati...
Reconciliations in the Vedanga Jyotisha
The Vedic literature does have scattered references to many terms that help in understanding the division of time during the vedic times. However, it is the Vedanga jyotisha, the earliest available work dedicated to the field of Astronomy that mentions in detail about the divisions of time that finally evolved from the vedic period. Some facts of note from the Vedanga jyotisha are as follows:
- According to the Vedanga Jyotisha, each yuga was taken to begin with the asterism Shravishtha and the synodic month of Magha, the solar month Tapas and the bright fortnight (parvan), and the northward course of the sun and the moon.
- The five-year yuga of the Vedanga Jyotisha contained 61 civil, 62 lunar, and 67 sidereal months wherein the year consisted of 366 civil days which were reckoned from sunrise to sunrise or 372 tithis.
- Thus, after every thirty lunar months one intercalary month was inserted to bring about concordance between solar and lunar years.
- Similarly, to equate the number of tithis and civil days in the yuga of five solar years, the thirty full moon tithis which ended between sunrise and midday were omitted.
- There were six seasons of equal duration in every year, each new season beginning after every 61 days.
- The moon is conjoined with each asterism 67 times during a yuga. And the sun stays in each asterism for 13 5/9 days.
- Besides tithis and nakshatras, the yoga called Vyatipata was also in use.
It is also to be noted that the five-year yuga was taken to commence at the winter solstice occurring at the beginning of the first tithi of the Shukla paksha of the month Magha. Since the Sun and Moon were supposed to occupy the same position at the beginning of each subsequent yuga and all happenings in one yuga were supposed to be repeated in the subsequent yugas in the same way, the calendar constructed on the basis of the Vedanga Jyotisha was meant to serve for a long time. And this situation of the Sun and Moon at the beginning of the yuga of five years mentioned in this work, according to T. S. Kuppanna Sastry, existed about 1150 bc or about 1370 bc.
- Kolachana, Aditya & Mahesh, Kaluva & Ramasubramanian, K.. (2019). Main characteristics and achievements of ancient Indian astronomy in historical perspective. 10.1007/978-981-13-7326-8_24.
- K. S. Shukla, Astronomy in ancient and medieval India, Indian Journal of History of Science, Vol.4, Nos. 1-2 (1969), pp.99-106.
- Kaushitaki brahmana, Adhyaya 5.
- Rgveda, Mandala 8, Sukta 48.
- Aitareya brahmana, Panchika 7.
- Shatapatha brahmana, Kanda 2, Adhyaya 2, Brahmana 3.
- Rgveda, Mandala 5, Sukta 76.
- Rgveda, Mandala 8, Sukta 2.
- Rgveda, Mandala 10, Sukta 146.
- Taittiriya brahmana, Kanda 3, Prapathaka 10.
- Arthashastra, Adhikarana 1, Adhyaya 19.
- Subhash Kak (2000), Astonomy and its Role in Vedic Culture, Chapter 23 in Science and Civilization in India, Vol.1, The Dawn of Indian Civilization, Part 1, edited by G. P. Pande, Delhi: ICPR/Munshiram Manoharlal, pp. 507-524.
- Taittiriya Samhita, Kanda 7, Prapathaka 5.
- Taittiriya Samhita, Kanda 7, Prapathaka 4.
- Kaushitaki brahmana, Adhyaya 19.
- Ashvalayana Grhyasutra
- Taittiriya brahmana, Kanda 3, Prapathaka 9.
- Aitareya brahmana, Panchika 1.
- Taittiriya brahmana, Kanda 2, Prapathaka 7.
- Rgveda, Mandala 1, Sukta 25.
- Taittiriya Samhita, Kanda 5, Prapathaka 6.
- Taittiriya Samhita, Kanda 1, Prapathaka 4.
- Shukla Yajurveda, Adhyaya 7.
- Shukla Yajurveda, Adhyaya 22.
- Rgveda, Mandala 7, Sukta 103.
- Taittiriya Samhita, Kanda 5, Prapathaka 5.
- Shukla Yajurveda, Adhyaya 27.
- Shukla Yajurveda, Adhyaya 30.
- Taittiriya brahmana, Kanda 3, Prapathaka 4.
- Gopatha brahmana, Prapathaka 1.