Monday, January 3, 2011
Friday, October 29, 2010
The Diwali / Deepavali post last year:
seems to be bringing in truckloads of traffic to your blog. As I happened to glance at the calendar to count the days left for the festival of light, I got the inspiration for this post.
The calendar that we follow today is the Gregorian calendar, which was introduced in 1582. This was after it was found that the calendar in use till then, the Julius version, accounted for 365.25 days in a year, when in effect it was 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds, thus slightly lesser than the assumed value. As a result, the equinox was moving steadily ahead in the year, and this was considered unacceptable.
As you know, in the current system, we have a leap year once every 4 years to compensate for the extra fraction of time taken by our beloved earth to revolve around the sun. In school, the unlucky individual whose birthday fell on 29th February was always urged to change his date of birth in order that he celebrate it ! The leap year problem is also an essential part of any quantitative aptitude test to ascertain the time period elapsed, etc.
Now, as the Gregorian calendar adds 1 day at the end of 4 years, it is not moving in synchronism with the sun. Spare the electrical jargon, but this is like a fixed step size, and does not vary smoothly taking into account the sun's variation.
Comparing the Gregorian with the Hindu calendar, generally referred to as the Panchang, we see that the Hindu version has a much more scientific relationship. While the former is based on the Solar variation and accounts for the earth's revolution around the sun as 12 months each having 30 days, the latter is based on the moon's revolution around the earth, where each month takes 28 days. To compensate for the loss of days, and extra month, called the Adhik Mas (mas is the word for month), is added every 30 months.
The Hindu counting of years generally concurs with the reign of a prominent king. For instance, the current year is the Vikram Samvat 2067, signifying that King Vikramaditya's reign started as many years ago (in 57 BC). There are many such Samvats known, but the Vikram Samvat is what is the most widely accepted and in use currently. The various months in the Vikram Samvat are listed below along with their approximate Gregorian Calendar counterparts:
Each of these months in the Hindu calendar (with 28 days) is subdivided into 2 cycles of moon waxing and waning. The 1st half is called the Krishna Paksha (dark period), where the moon wanes till Amavasya (new moon), and the Shukla Paksha (bright period), where the moon waxes till Purnima (full moon). This can be understood from the below image:
You can also check out my earlier post on the relevance of Ekadasi, the 11th tithi of the calendar:
The Hindu calendar in use is a combination of both solar and lunar inferences. The months are based on the moon, while the seasons are governed by the sun. A prominent example of a solar festival is that January 13-14 is celebrated as Pongal (in Tamil Nadu), Sankranti (north India) and Lohri (Punjab). All of these herald the entry of the sun into the Makar rashi, or the northward movement of the sun. Though the date is supposed to be somewhere between December 20th and 23rd, due to earth's tilt, it has kept sliding over years. Don't be surprised if in your future births, you find that Makar Sankranti is being celebrated in May, but that will take 1000s of years to come.
In fact, in certain temples, it is seen that on Sankranti day, sunlight graces the presiding deity. One of the temples that I can remember is the Sri Gavi Gangadhareshwara Temple in Bangalore, where the sunlight falls on the Shiva Lingam through Nandi's horns. Trust the ancients to establish the exact angle to honour God on the auspicious day !
Coming back to tithis, the days are calculated based on the actual longitudinal angular difference between the respective positions of the moon and the sun. Thus, it is common to see that the tithis vary in length, some shorter than our regular 24 hours, some extending beyond, and this leads to certain auspicious days being celebrated across 2 days of our Gregorian Calendar.
The Zodiac Signs or Rashis are another integral aspect of the Calendar, with 27 Nakshatras (Constellations) forming 12 Rashis, each of the latter accounting for 2.25 of the former. This is the basis of Indian Hindu Astrology, which again is a scientific art, and is very different from the general characterizations governing the Western Zodiac Date-of-birth based astrology. But more on that later, as it would requisite a separate post altogether...
For now, advanced wishes for a very Happy and Safe Diwali / Deepavali !
29th October 2010
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
I am a big fan of our Hindu traditions and our calender, simply because there is no month devoid of festivities! The basic background of celebrating so many times a year is that these festivals give us reasons to meet our relatives, interact with
them and share our joys and sorrows. Thus, we are forever in touch with our friends and family, and thus these festivals create a sense of bonding that unites us.
This month (August) witnesses 2 biggies - The Krishna Janmashtami (celebrated earlier on the 14th of August), and the Ganesh or Vinayak Chaturthi, which falls tomorrow.
Lord Ganesha, also known as Ekdanta (one with a single tooth), Vinayaka, Vignaharta (remover of obstacles), etc., is the only mainstream God to have a non-human face. Legend has it that Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva, created a boy out of the cosmetic paste applied before her bath. The boy was beautiful and strong, and she instructed him to guard her home while she was bathing. Presently, Lord Shiva came and wanted to talk to his wife. The boy, unaware of who Lord Shiva was, refused to allow him inside. Even though Lord Shiva explained his relation, the young boy stood his ground, unwilling to waver from his mother's orders. Agitated, Lord Shiva ordered his army to attack him, but so brave was he that each of his Ganas bit the dust.
Unable to bear further humiliation, Lord Shiva resorted to a trick, where he confronted the boy from the front, while Lord Vishnu sliced off his head from behind with his Sudarshan Chakra. When Goddess Parvati came out, she was enraged to find her son dead. And when the mother Goddess, the source of all energy itself is angry, the world falls in a pall of gloom. The Devas realised that they had committed a huge crime, and tried to pacify her. But she would just not listen to them.
Finally, the Devas decided that the only way to create harmony was to bring back the child to life. But as the head had been mutilated, they could not use the same one. Thus, they went east, brought the head of the first baby elephant they encountered, affixed it on the boy's body, and brought him back to life. As an icing on the cake, the Devas agreed that from that day onwards, Lord Ganesha would always be the first God to be worshipped, and all Pujas would begin with him being venerated first.
Coming to the scienctific part, this legend indicates the first ever surgery/transplant taking place in history, with the head of the elephant being made a substitute for the slain boy's head. This would have involved a unique surgery, and we already know that our ancient Indians had a great knowledge of surgery from the books of Sushruta (More about his surgical brilliance in the future).
Another scientific connection related to Lord Ganesha is a legend associated with one of his early birth anniversaries and the waxing/waning of the moon. Baby Vinayaka, dressed up in all his finery was welcoming the various Devas for a grand celebration on his birthday. But he had not even touched a morsel of food since morning, and was feeling extremely hungry. On getting the first opportunity, he started eating all the dishes excitedly. This amused Chandradev (Moon), who openly ridiculed Lord Ganesha by laughing, thus making fun of his way of eating and his pot belly. All the Devas were shocked, as they knew that however childish Ganesha was, he was extremely knowledgeable, powerful and brilliant. Thus, the moon had incurred Ganesha’s wrath by insulting him like this.
Lord Vinayaka grew angry, and wanted to punish the moon for being proud and vain of his handsomeness. But Lord Shiva intervened and requested his son to be mild in his judgement. Ganesha then decreed that the moon would be confined to the night only, and would also lose some of its beauty. He added that the moon would not be visible in its full glory all the time, and would be waxing and waning in cycles. The moon, humbled by his offence, agreed to abide by these conditions. And Lord Ganesha went back to his merry eating.
Thus, we notice that the concept of the moon’s blemished surface (as seen from earth due to craters) have been mentioned in the texts of yore through this legend. Moreover, the phenomenon of the waxing and waning cycle of the moon has also been mentioned using this legend relating Lord Ganesha and the Moon.
Ganapati Bappa Moriya! Wishing all of you a Happy and Prosperous Vinayak Chathurthi.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Though this post is slightly off-topic, it is related to the Dasavathars.