YEAR-Uttarayana and Dakshinayana make a year, each ayana has six months.Year has six seasons and 12 months.
THE HALF YEAR-AYANA
Each year is divided into two halves, known as ayana. The current six month period—either Uttarayana or Dakshinayana. Uttarayana begins on the day of the winter solstice, normally December 21 or January 14, when the sun begins its apparent northward journey. Dakshinayana begins on the first day of the summer solstice, normally June 21, marking the sun’s southward movement. The two days commencing the two ayanas are considered sacred and known as punya kala,
THE SIX SEASONS—Ritu
In the West we are familiar with four seasons—spring, summer, autumn and winter. In India, there are six seasons. Each season is two months (masa) in duration.
1. The new year begins with Vasanta Rtau, the season when the trees and plants are blossoming, which begins on the first day of Mesha Mass (mid-April).
2. Grishma Rtau, commencing at the start of Maithuna Mas (in mid- June), is the “hot summer.”
3. The rainy season, Varsha Rtau, begins in Simha Mase (mid-August).
4. Sara Rtau, the season of fruits, begin in Thula Mase (mid-October).
5. Hemantha Rtau, the cold season, begins in mid-December.
6. Sisir Rtau, the last season of the year, begins in Kumbha Mase (mid-February), when trees and plants begin sprouting new leaves.
THE MONTH—MASA—SOLAR AND LUNAR
In India, several states use a solar-year calendar while others use the Lunar – year calendar. In all states the lunar calendar is used for determining the dates of religious festivals and for selecting auspicious times for beginning many socio-religious activities. Vedic Calendar uses both the solar month and the lunar month and would be known as a “luni-solar calendar.” For business purposes and modern convenience we also use the Gregorian year which follows neither a solar month nor a lunar system.
The Hindu astronomical text, Surya-Siddhanta, defines the solar month as the time it takes the sun to traverse one rasi (Zodiac sign), measured from the time of entry into one rasi (this point is known as a samkranti) and the next. The point when the sun enters Mesha (Aries) rasi is widely accepted as the beginning of the year. Thus the first solar month is called Mesha in Sanskrit.
The Sanskrit names of the solar months are listed in Vedic Calendar. Each is named after the sign of the zodiac that the sun is in. Their names are Mesha (Aries), Vrshabha (Taurus), Mithuna (Gemini), Kataka (Cancer), Simha (Leo), Kanya (Virgo), Thula (Libra), Vrschika (Scorpio), Dhanus (Sagittarius), Makara (Capricorn), Kumbha (Aquarius) and Meena (Pisces). The Sanskrit name of the current solar month is found at the top of each day’s notations, in the middle preceded by the word mase.
The lunar month is measured either by the period covered from one newmoon to the next, known as the amanta or mukhya mana system, or from one fullmoon to the next one, known as the purnimanta or gauna mana system. Vedic Calendar uses the purnimanta lunar month system. Each lunar month is simply named Moon 1, Moon 2, Moon 3, etc. This notation is found at the very top of each calendar page. In India and other parts of the world those who follow a panchangam strictly, such as Vedic schools, known as “gurukulams” or “pathasalas,” live their life by the lunar month, “moon,” or masa.
LIGHT AND DARK FORTNIGHT—PAKSHA
One month is the duration of one orbit of the moon around the earth. In Hindu measuring of time, this period is divided in two parts, the light fortnight, called shukla paksha (or sudi), and the dark fortnight, called krishna paksha (or vadi). Shukla Paksha is the period when the moon is waxing, beginning on the new moon (Amavasya) and extending to the full moon (Purnima). Krishna paksha, the period when the moon is waning, begins after the full moon and extends to the new moon. Knowing whether the moon is waxing or waning is helpful in understanding the moon’s current influence. Under the waxing moon, we are generally more energetic, as moon’s forces are on the rise, indicating growth and development.
THE MOON SIGN OR RASI
In Vedic Calendar the rasi names the Zodiac sign the moon is currently passing through. It lists the degree of the sign of the moon at 6:00 AM. For example, “Kataka (Cancer) Rasi 1.4” means that the moon is at 1.4 degrees Cancer at 6:00 in the morning. The moon travels approximately 12° per day. For gardening, the moon sign is useful in determining planting, harvesting, fertilizing and other gardening activity dates. The rasi is listed in the first column for each day. The moon takes a little over two and one-half days to traverse one zodiac sign. The rasis are Mesha (Aries), Vrshabha (Taurus), Mithuna (Gemini), Kataka (Cancer), Simha (Leo), Kanya (Virgo), Thula (Libra), Vrschika (Scorpio), Dhanus (Sagittarius), Makara (Capricorn), Kumbha (Aquarius) and Meena (Pisces).
THE DAY—SOLAR AND LUNAR — THE SOLAR DAY—VASARA
In addition to observing the lunar day, or tithi (discussed in the next section), the traditional Hindu calendar also recognizes the solar day, or vasara. The vasara begins with sunrise and ends with sunrise the next day, based on the rotation of the earth on its axis. (The time of sunrise and sunset are listed in column six of each day’s notations in Vedic Calendar.) Each solar day is divided into 24 horas (hours), and the horas are assigned to the planets in their “descending sidereal period.” There are seven days in the week, and each is most strongly influenced by a particular planet as follows. In Vedic Calendar, vasara is listed after the English weekday notation and also as the last item in the first line of the sankalpam.
Solar Day (Vasara) English Ruling Planet
Bhanu (or Ravi) vasara Sunday (Sun)
Indu (or Soma) vasara Monday (Moon)
Mangala vasara Tuesday (Mars)
Budha vasara Wednesday (Mercury)
Guru (or Brihaspati) vasara Thursday (Jupiter)
Sukra vasara Friday (Venus)
Manta (or Sani) vasara Saturday (Saturn)
KALI ERA LUNAR DAYS—30 TITHIS
Days are also designated by the Kali Era measurement, known as the tithi. A tithi is an exact lunar day, which is approximately one-thirtieth of the time it takes the moon to orbit the earth. A tithi may vary in length from day to day.
There are 15 tithis in each fortnight. Their names are: Prathama, Dvitiya, Tritiya, Chaturthi, Panchami, Shasthi, Saptami, Ashtami, Navami, Dasami, Ekadasi, Dvadasi, Trayodasi, Chaturdasi and Amavasya/Purnima. Purnima, full-moon day, is the fifteenth tithi of the bright fortnight, and Amavasya, new-moon day, is the fifteenth tithi of the dark fortnight. (On many panchangams, the new moon is numbered as the thirtieth tithi.) The current tithi is the first item in column two for each day. It is also the last item in the first line of the sankalpam at the very top of each day’s designations, e.g., “Chaturthi/Panchami Yam Titau.”
Certain tithis are not conducive for study or beginning new efforts. In gurukulams (schools) and aadheenams (monasteries) these are times of retreat. As they occur in pairs four times per moon, they are roughly parallel to the modern “weekend,” though, of course, they do not necessarily fall on Saturday and Sunday. The retreat tithis are Ashtami, Navami, Amavasya, Prathama and Purnima. Each has its own special nature. Purnima (full-moon day) is especially good for worship. Amavasya (new moon day) is conducive to meditation. For many devout Hindus, Amavasya and Purnima are times of vrata, observing religious vows. Prathama, the tithi following both Purnima and Amavasya, is generally a good day for seminars and philosophical discussions. Ashtami and Navami are ideally reserved for rest and relaxation. Ashtami is traditionally a day for fasting and not a good day for learning. (In western astrology, Ashtami would be recognized as a square aspect between the sun and the moon, a configuration which can make for a difficult day.) Ashtami is considered inauspicious for beginning new activities because of the inharmonious energies existing due to the relationship between the sun and moon. In Vedic Calendar, retreat days are noted in the upper left corner of the day’s designations. Retreats are labeled “Retreat Star,” with the exception of those occurring at full-moon time. These retreat days have special names. Purnima is the Copper Star Retreat, Prathama is the Silver Star Retreat. In addition, approximately every other moon the Dvitiya tithi following the full moon is taken as a re- treat day at Kauai’s Hindu Monastery. It is the Gold Star Retreat. Each “work day” in the monastery is noted by a large number in the upper left corner of the day. This number indicates the number of the day of that phase (or quarter) of the moon. The first day after the retreat is number one, and so on.
A karana is half of a tithi or lunar day. There are sixty karanas in one lunar month, but only eleven distinct names are used. The current karana is the third item in the second column of each day’s designations. The first karana ends at the middle of the tithi and the second karana ends with the ending of that tithi. Like the yoga, the karana is a factor used by astrologers for determining the auspiciousness of the day for a given activity. The names of the karanas are: Bava, Balava, Kaulava, Taitila, Gara, Vanij, Visti, Sakuni, Chatuspada, Naga and Kimtughna.
THE CONSTELLATION OF THE DAY—NAKSHATRA
Nakshatra simply means star cluster. In Hindu astrology the term nearly always refers to 27 specific star-clusters, or constellations, which lie along the ecliptic. The ecliptic is the apparent yearly path of the sun as seen from the earth. These constellations happen to be at approximately equal distances apart. Each nakshatra embodies particular ideas, powers and forces of nature. When a planet comes into alignment with one of these star clusters (from the view of an individual standing on the earth), the rays of the stars combine with those of the planet to influence the earth. All of the planets, one after another, pass through the ecliptic and align with each of the 27 nakshatras. The most important “nakshatra” is the one the moon is currently aligned with, as the swift-moving moon’s influence is the most significant to daily life on Earth. All the nakshatras given in Vedic Calendar are for the moon. This means that the nakshatra currently in effect is the one that the moon has “conjoined.” (Similarly, the current rasi, Zodiac sign, is the one that the moon has conjoined.)
THE IMPORTANCE OF NAKSHATRA
Each nakshatra exerts its own unique energies upon the planets within its influence. The nakshatras are considered so important that constellational or nakshatra astrology is a field of Hindu astrology in itself. Nakshatra consideration is a critical element in muhurtha—discerning the nature of a given period and choosing auspicious times for various activities. When you go to a Hindu temple and ask for a special puja, known as an archana, the priest asks, “What is your nakshatra (or birth star)?” He is asking for the name of the constellation (nakshatra) the moon was aligned with at the time you were born at the place you were born. In other words, a line going out from you at your time of birth and passing through the moon would point to a constellation.
That is your nakshatra. The priest then repeats your nakshatra during the worship liturgy, along with your name and family lineage. This is your bio-data for the information of the inner-plane helpers. It is helpful to know when one’s nakshatra comes into alignment with the moon each month, as this day is often experienced as emotionally intense. By knowing this beforehand, extra care can be taken to not over-react to difficult karmic experiences that may manifest. In Vedic Calendar, the current nakshatra is the fourth item in the fourth column of each day’s designations, e.g., Visakha Nakshatra. The twenty-seven nakshatras are: Asvini, Bharani, Krittika, Rohini, Mrigasira, Ardra, Punarvasu, Pushya, Aslesha, Magha, Purvaphalguni, Uttaraphalguni, Hasta, Chitra, Svati, Visakha, Anuradha, Jyeshtha, Mula, Purvashadha, Uttarashadha, Sravana, Dhanishtha, Satabhishaj, Purvaprostapada, Uttaraprostapada and Revati.
ENDING TIME OF TITHI, YOGA, KARAN, NAKSHTRA, ETC.
The ending time for each tithi, nakshatra and yoga is listed in column four after each item, respectively. Usually the tithi ending time is the same as the karana ending time. If this is the case, the ending time for the evening karana is listed, and you can assume that the morning karana ends on the tithi ending time. If an ending time is after midnight, the time is listed with a three-letter abbreviated name for the next day. All times are given for “Standard Time.” Therefore, if a “Daylight Savings Time” is in effect in your area, you will need to adjust the times given in Vedic Calendar by adding one hour.
DOUBLE LISTING IN TITHI
Those who are reciting from the calendar during home or temple puja or good works will note that often two tithis, yogas, karanas or nakshatras are listed in the calendar, separated by a slash mark. This indicates that there is a change from the first to the second during that day. (The actual time of the change is found in column four.) The first is the 6AM calculation and the second is the 6PM calculation. For example, if the tithi reads “shasthi/saptami,” shasthi is the morning calculation and saptami is the evening calculation. Only one entry is shown in the calendar when both the morning and evening calculations are the same.
EIGHT DAYTIME PERIODS—THE KALAS
The period between sunrise and sunset each day is divided into eight periods. Each period, or kala, lasts approximately one and one-half hours, depending on the total duration of sunlight. Three of the eight kalas are considered most important— Rahu Kala, Yama Kala and Gulika Kala—known collectively as the trini samayam. Rahu Kala is considered malefic for commencing new undertakings. Yama is also an interfering current, but is less influential than Rahu. Yama Kala is considered an auspicious time for antyesti (funeral) rites. Gulika is the most auspicious time of the day for commencing new activities. Each kala occurs at approximately the same time on each particular day of the week. Thus, Gulika Kala occurs at approximately 7AM every Friday. If you’ve ever wondered why Monday mornings are so infamous, note that Rahu Kala is generally between 7:30 and 9AM every Monday. The trini samayam are listed at the top of column three for each day.
THE YOGAS — THE TWENTY-SEVEN YOGAS
A yoga is a planetary configuration, union or relationship. In Vedic Calendar, two types of yogas are listed. The first yoga is listed in the sankalpam (the two lines at the top of each day’s entries). It is the second item in the second line. This particular yoga, like the tithi, is an angle of the sun and the moon (the earth being the point of the angle). Yogas are another factor in determining the auspiciousness of the day. Just as there are twenty-seven nakshatras, there are twenty-seven yogas, known as the Yoga Taras of Nakshatras. They are: Vishakambha, Priti, Ayushman, Saubhagya, Sobhana, Atiganda, Sukarma, Dhriti, Sula, Ganda, Vriddhi, Dhruva, Vyaghat, Harshana, Vajra, Siddhi, Vyatipatha, Variyan, Parigha, Siva, Siddha, Sadhya, Subha, Sukla, Brahma, Indra and Vaidhriti.
ROUTINE OR CREATIVE WORK DAYS—AMRITADI YOGAS
The resultant of the waves propagated by the planets and the stars on the human psyche are indicated in four degrees. In the Vedic Calendar, this esoteric yoga is listed in bold type in the left column of each day’s designations.
AMRITA YOGA—CREATIVE WORK : Very good for creative types of work and auspicious undertakings.
SIDDHA YOGA—CREATIVE WORK : Good for creative types of work and auspicious undertakings.
MARANA YOGA—ROUTINE WORK : Should be avoided for new undertakings and beginning travel. Routine work only.
PRABAL ARSHTA YOGA—ROUTINE WORK: Should be absolutely avoided for new undertakings and beginning travel. Routine work only.