Sunday, March 15, 2015

Pańcâňga - An Introduction

नारायणं नमस्कृत्य नरं चैव नरोत्तमम्।
देवीं सरस्वतीं व्यासं ततो जयमुदीरयेत्॥
नारायण समारम्भां व्यास शङ्कर मध्यमाम्।
अस्मदाचार्य पर्यन्तां वन्दे गुरु परम्पराम्॥
वन्दे गजेन्द्रवरदम् वामाङ्कारूढवल्लभाश्लिष्टम्।
कुङ्कुमपरागशोणं कुवलयिनी जारकोरकापीडम्॥
लक्ष्म्यम्बासमेत-नारायणाख्या परदेवतायै नमः॥

     Going from one country to another is called Deśântara, from one village to another is called Grâmântara and similarly moving from one time to another is called Kâlântara. Does that word sound familiar? Kâlântara is the knowledge of change in time. How do we identify Date and Time? What is the tool we use for it? Calendar! The astronomical knowledge of Bhârata Varsha, from the Arabs, got transferred to the Europeans like Greeks, Romans, and others. The European languages doesn’t have separate syllables like ‘Ka,’ ‘Ţa,’ and ‘Ďa.’ So, the word Kâlântara went through changes and became Calendar.

     The European calendar is only based on the movement of the sun – it is a Sun Calendar. Usage of Calendar in Europe had started in the BCs. The first Roman calendar (around 653 BCE) – Romulus Calendar contained 304 days, divided almost equally among 10 months – 6 months having 30 days and 4 months having 31 days in them. This method of counting the time didn’t fit in properly. Later Numa Pompilius, a Roman King (715 – 673 BC), added two new months of January and February to it, making January the first month and February the last month. In 153 BC, February was made the second month of a year, making changes in the order of the months as we now see it and making a year consisting of 355 days; the number of days from January to December as follows: 29, 28, 31, 29, 31, 29, 31, 29, 29, 31, 29, and 29. The Months were named after the Gods, Goddesses, and Kings.

     January got its name from Janus. February got its named from the Goddess Februtis, as it was the month of purification to Romans and the festival is called Februa. Next month was given the name God of Farming and Warfare, Mars. June getting its name from Goddess Juno, July from the King Julius Caesar who was born in that month, and August from King Augustus Caesar. September, October, November, and December retained their names from the original Calendar of ten months. September is the seventh month which is said to have gotten its name from the Latin word, septem for seven – same applicable for other months as well. Here, is it a mere coincidence that September sounds similar to Sapta-Ambara, literally meaning seventh astrological mansion; similarly, Ashţa-ambara, Nava-ambara, Daśa-ambara?

     When the year with 355 days was short, King Numa the calendar was altered by adding an intercalary month in between, once every two years. This Intercalation was the duty of Pontifices and the reasons for their decisions was kept a secret. During Julius Caesar’s reign the Solar Calendar was introduced. Without any solid reasoning, the Calendar underwent constant changes upon the orders of the Kings and festivities fell in different seasons – this happened for about 1500 years.

     During the time of Pope Gregory, in the year 1582 AD, there was an error of 10 days in the calendar being used back then. The Pope gave a strange order that the day followed by 4 October 1582 should be 15 October 1582. The days in between were taken away, isn’t that a weird decision!

     A similar, strange decision was again made by British parliament where there was an error of 11 days. So, the day followed by 2 September 1752 was changed to 14 September 1752!  Can this be called a powerlessness born out of ineptitude? There are many such weird changes that this calendar has gone through, which we shall not go in detail, as there are detailed articles on this in Wikipedia, which you shall lookup if you are interested in the same.
The European calendar is devised solely based on the movement of sun, Arabs depended on that of the moon, and Farsis on that of the constellations.
     The Ŗshis of Bhârata, with their divine knowledge, devised the calendar based on the movement of sun, moon, and constellations (Zodiac, if you may) together, but since it’s all weaved, it seems complex to understand. The Ŗshis made (when we say ‘made’ they realized what’s true measurement from the divine knowledge of Vedas) every month consisting 30 days, making a year of 360 days. Based on the position and movement of the heavenly bodies and calculating the time accordingly has been a practice from ages past. Eventually, this came to be known as Pańcâňga. A science that has been difficult to comprehend by many has been understood by the people of Bhârata and others have adopted parts of it to devise their own calendars.

     As the word indicates, Pańcâňga means five limbs – it shows Tithi, Vâra, Nakshatra, Yoga, and Karaņa. All the five are required to perfectly define time. Tithi (a lunar day) is dependent on the movement of the moon, Vâra on that of the sun, Nakshatra on that of the constellations, Yoga on that of sun and moon, and Karaņa on the division of Tithi. These days Pańcâňga is published in the form of a book that contains many tables but in the olden days this was written on a small and thin wooden board covered by a cloth. Whenever one had to look up the date they would unwrap the cloth and wrap is back safely. Unique details would be given about a date in this Pańcâňga, along with this, messages of kings would be written on it and distributed to the citizens. Apart from the five main details, other subtle divisions of time would be mentioned in it like the Ayana, Ŗtu, Paksha, Prahara, Hora, Muhûrta, to name a few.

Sarvam Śrî Laksmî-Nâârâyaņa-parabrahmârpaņamastu