The main purpose of creating this blog is to provide material and guidance to the students of Vedanga Jyotisha who are appearing for BA as well as MA level examinations of Kavi Kulaguru Kalidas Sanskrit University. I hope this effort will be welcomed by all the students of the Vedanga Jyotish and this effort will be useful to them. Dewavrat Buit dewavrat2000@yahoo.com

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


History of Vedic Astrology (Vedanga Jyotisha) I


The subject of Hindu chronology divides naturally into three
parts: the calendar, the eras, and other reckonings.

The Hindus have had from very ancient times the system of lunisolar cycles, made
by the combination of solar years, regulated by the course of the sun, and lunar
years, regulated by the course of the moon, but treated in such a manner as to
keep the beginning of the lunar year near the beginning of the solar year. The
exact manner in which they arranged the details of their earliest calendar is
still a subject of research. We deal here with their calendar as it now stands,
in a form which was developed from about AD. 400 under the influence of the
Greek astronomy which had been introduced into India at no very long time
The Hindu calendar, then, is determined by years of two kinds, solar and lunar.
For civil purposes, solar years are used in Bengal, including Orissa, and in the
Tamil and Malayal.am districts of Madras, and lunar years throughout the rest of
India. But the lunar year regulates everywhere the general religious rites and
festivals, and the details of private and domestic life, such as the selection
of auspicious occasions for marriages and for starting on journeys, the choice
of lucky moments for shaving, and so on. Consequently, the details of the lunar
year are shown even in the almanacs which follow the solar year. On the other
hand, certain details of the solar year, such as the course of the sun through
the signs and other divisions of the zodiac, are shown in the almanacs which
follow the lunar year. We will treat the solar year first, because it governs
the lunisolar system, and the explanation of it will greatly simplify the
orocess of exolainine the lunar calendar.
The civil solar year is determined by the astronomical solar year. The latter
professes to begin at the vernal equinox, The a~fro- but the actual position is
as follows. In our Western nomical astronomy the signs of the zodiac have, in
consequence solar of the precession of the equinoxes, drawn away to Y a large
extent from the constellations from which they derived their names; with the
result that the sun now conies to the vernal equinox, at the first point of the
sign Aries, not in the constellation Aries, but at a point in Pisces, about 28
degrees before the beginning of Aries. The Hindus, however, have disregarded
piecession in connection with their calendar from the time (A.D. 499, 522, or
527, according to different schools) when, by their system, the signs coincided
with the constellations; and their sign Aries, called Msha by them, is still
their constellation Aries, beginning, according to them, at or near the star ~
Piscium. Their astronomical solar year is, in fact, not the tropical year, in
the course of which the sun really passes from one vernal equinox to the next,
but a sidereal year, the period during which the earth makes one revolution in
its orbit round the sun with reference to the first point of M~sha; its
beginning is the moment of the Mesha-sartikranti, the entrance of the sun into
the sidereal sign Mesha, instead of the tropical sign Aries; and it begins, not
with the true equinox, but with an artificial or nominal equinox.
The length of this sidereal solar year was determined in the following manner.
The astronomer selected what the Greeks termed an exeligmos, the Romans an annus
nia gnus or mundanus, a period in the course of which a given order of things is
completed by the sun, moon, and planets returning to a state of conjunction from
which they have started. The usual Hindu exeligmos has been the Great Age of
4.320,000 sidereal solar years, the aggregate of the Kfita or golden age, the
Tret or silver age, the Dvapara or brazen age, and the Kali or iron age, in
which we now are; but it has sometimes been the Kalpa or aeon, consisting
according to one view of 1000, according to another view of IaoS, Great Ages. He
then laid down the number of revolutions, in the period of his exeligmos, of the
naks/iatras, certain stars and groups of stars which will be noticed more
definitely in our account of the lunar year; that is, the number of rotations of
the earth on its axis, or, in other words, the number of sidereal (lays. A
deduction of the number of the years from the number of the sidereal days gave,
as remainder, the number of civil days in the exeliginos. An(l, this remainder
being divided by the number of the years, the quotient gave the length of the
sidereal solar year : refinements, suggested by experience, inference, or
extraneous information, were made by increasing or decreasing the number of
sidereal days assigned to the cxelig~nos. The Hindus now recognize three
standard sidereal solar years determined in that manner. (1) A year of 365 days
6 hrs. 12 mm. 30 sec. according to the Aryabhatiya, otherwise called the First
Arya-Siddhdnta, which was written by the astronomer Aryabha~a (b. AD. 476): this
year is used in the Tarnil and Malayalam districts, and, we may add, in Ceylon.
(2) A year of 365 days 6 hrs. 12 mm. 3o915 see. according to the Rajam~iga ka, a
treatise based on the BrhmaSiddlidnia of Brahmagupta (h. AD. 598) and attributed
to king BhOja, of which the epoch, the point of time used in it for
calculations, falls in A.D. 1042: this year is used in parts of Gujarat (Bombay)
and in Rajputana and other western parts of Northern India. (3) A year of 365
days 6 hrs. 12 mm. 3656 sec. according to the present Surya-Siddlianta, a work
of unknown authorship which dates from probably about A.D. 1000: this year is
used in almost all the other parts of India. It may be remarked that, according
to modern science, the true mean sidereal solar year measures 365 days 6 hrs. 9
mm. 9-6 sec., and the mean tropical year measures 365 days 5 hrs.
48 mm. 46o 54440 sec.
The result of the use of this sidereal solar year is that the beginning of the
Hindu astronomical solar year, and with it the civil solar year and the lunar
year and the nominal incidence of the seasons, has always been, and still is,
travelling slowly forward in our calendar year by an amount which varies accord-
ing to the particular . authority.1 For instance, Aryabha~as year e~iceeds the
Julian year by 12 mm. 30 sec. This amounts to exactly one day in 115* years, and
five days in 576 years. Thus, if we take the longer period and confine
oursel~res to a time when the Julian calendar (old style) was in use, according
to Aryabhata the M~sha-sathkrgnti began to occur in AD. 603 on 20th March, and
in A.D. 1179 on 25th March. The intermediate advances arrange themselves into
four steps of one day each in 116 years, followed by one step of one day in 112
years: thus, the Msha-sarhkrgnti began to occur on 21st March in AD. 719, On
22nd March in AD. 835, On 23rd March in A.D. 951, and on 24th March in A.D. 1067
(whence 112 years take Ifs to 25th March in AD. 1179). It is now occurring
sometimes on 11th April, sometimes on the 12th; having first come to the 12th in
A.D. 1871.
The civil solar year exists in more varieties than one. The principal variety,
conveniently called the Msh~di year, i.e. the year beginning at the
M~sha-sathkr~nti, is the only one that we need notice at this point. The ~
beginning of it is determined directly by the astronomical solar year; and for
religious purposes it begins, with that year, at the moment of the
Mesha-sathkrgnti. Its first civil day, however, may be either the day on which
the sathkrnti occurs, or the next day, or even the day after that:
this is determined partly by the time of day or night at which the saikranti
occurs, which, moreover, of course varies in accordance with the locality as
well as the particular authority that is followed; partly by differing details
of practice in different parts of the country. In these circumstances an exact
equivalent of the Meshdi civil solar year cannot be stated; but it may be taken
as now beginning on or closely about the 12th of April.
The solar year is divided into twelve months, in accordance with the successive
sathkranlis or entrances of the sun into the (sidereal) signs of the zodiac,
which, as with us, are twelve in The solar number. The names of the signs in
Sanskrit are as month follows: Msha, the ram (Aries); Vtishabha, the hull
(Taurus); Mithuna, the pair, the twins (Geniini); Karka, Karkata, Karkataka, the
crab (Cancer); Sithha, the lion (Leo); Kany, the maiden (Virgo); Turn, the
scales (Libra); Vrilchika, the scorpion (Scorpio); Dhanus, the bow
(Sagittarius); ivlakara, the seamonster (Capricornus); Kumbha, the water-pot
(Aquarius); and Mba, the fishes (Pisces). The solar months arc known in some
parts by the names of the signs or by corrupted forms of them; and these are the
best names for them for general use, because they lead to no confusion. But they
have elsewhere another set of names, preserving the connection of them with, the
lunar months:
the Sanskrit forms of these names are Chaitra, Vai~kha,jyaishtha, Ashs4ha,
Srgva~a, Bhgdrapada, Mvina or Aivavuja, KSrttika, Mflrgaiira or Marga~irsha
(also known as Agrah6yana), Pausha, Magha, and Phnlguna: in some localities
these names are used in corrupted forms, and in others vernacular names are
substituted for some of them; and, while in some parts the name Chaitra is
attached to the month Masha, in other parts it is attached to the month Mba, and
so on throughout the series in each case. The astronomical solar month runs from
the moment of one sathkranti of the sun to the moment of the next sathkranli;
and, as the signs of the Hindu zodiac are all of equal length, 30 (legrees, as
with us, while the speed of the sun (the motion of the earth in its orbit round
the sun) varies according to the time of the year, the length of the month is
variable: the shortest month is Dhanus; the The disregard of precession, and the
cOnsequent travelling forward of the year through the natural seasons, is, of
course, a serious defect in the Hindu calendar, the principles of which are
otherwise good. Accordingly, an attempt was made by a small band of reformers to
rectify this state of things by introducing a precessional calendar, taking as
the first lunar month the synodic lunation in which the sun enters the tropical
Aries, instead of the sidereal Mesha; and the publication was started, in or
about 1886, of the S~yana-Panchgng or Precessional Almanac.
Further, the Hindu sidereal solar year is in excess of the true mean sidereal
year by (if we use Aryabha~as value) 3 mm. 2o4 sec. If we take this, for
convenience, at 3 mm. 20 sec., the excess amounts to exactly one day in 432
years. And so even the sidereal M~sha-snthkrnti is now found to occur three or
four days later than the day on which it should occur. Accordingly, another
reformer had bgun, in or about 1865, to publish the Navin athav~ Patwardhani
Pafich~ng, the New or PatwardhaniT Almanac, in which he determined the details
of the year according to the proper Mesha-sathkr~nti.
longest is Mithuna. The civil solar month begins with its first civil day, which
is determined, in different localities, in the same manner with the first civil
day of the MshAdi year, as indicated above. The civil month is of variable
length; partly for that reason, partly because of the variation in the length of
the astronomical month. No exact equivalents of the civil months, therefore, can
be stated; but, speaking approximately, we may say that, while the month Mesha
now begins on or closely about 12th April, the beginning of a subsequent month
may come as late as the 16th day of the English month in which it falls.
The solar year is also divided into six seasons, the Sanskrit names of which are
Vasanta, spring; Grishma, the hot weather; Varsha, the rainy season; Sarad,
autumn; Hemanta, the cold S~S ~ weather; and ~iiira, the dewy season. Vasanta
begins at the Mina-sathkrflnti; the other seasons begin at each successive
second sathkranti from that. Originally, this scheme was laid out with reference
to the true course of the sun, and the startingpoint of it was the real winter
solstice, with Si~ira, as the first season, beginning then now, owing partly to
the disregard of precession, partly to our introduction of New Style, each
season comes about three weeks too late; Vasanta begins on or about 12th March,
instead of 19th or 20th February, and so on with the rest. It may be added that
in early times the year was also divided into three or four, and even into five
or seven, seasons; and there appears to have been also a practice of reckoning
the seasons according to the lunar months, which, however, would only give a
very valning arrangement, in addition to neglecting the point that the seasons
are naturally determined by the course of the sun, not of the moon. But there is
now recognized only the division into six seasons, determined as stated above.
The solar year is also divided into two parts called Uttarayat.ia, the period
durir.g which the sun is moving to the north, and Dakshin~i\ana, the period
during which it is moving to the south.
The Uttargyaija begins at the nominal winter solstice, The sol- as marked by the
Makara-sathkranti; and the day on stitlal which this solstice occurs, usually
12th January at diviSions present, is still a special occasion of festivity and
re ear joking; the Dakshiogyana begins at the nominal summer Y solstice, as
marked by the Karka-sa1hkranti. It may be added here that, while the Hindus
disregard precession in the actual computaaon of their years and the regulation
of their calendar, they pay attention to it in certain other respects, and
notably as regards the solstices: the precessional solstices are looked upon as
auspicious occasions, as well as the non-precessional soistices, and are
customarily shown in the almanacs; and some of the almanacs show also the other
precessional sathkrantis of the sun.
The civil days of the solar month begin at sunrise. They are numbered I, 2, 3,
&c., in unbroken succession to the end of the ~ month. And, the length of the
month being variable d e CVI for the reasons stated above, the number of the
civil ay. days may range from twenty-nine to thirty-two.
The civil clays are named after the weekdays, of which the usual appellations
(there are various synonyms in each case, and some of the names are used in
corrupted forms) are in Sanskrit The week- Adityavra or Ravivra, the day of the
sun, sometimes day. called Adivflra, the beginning-day (Sunday); Somavara, the
clay of the moon (Monday); Mangalavara, the day of Mars (Tuesday); Budhavgra,
the day of Mercury (Wednesda3~); Brihaspativra or Guruvgra, the day of Jupiter
(Thursday); SukravAra, the clay of Venus (Friday); and ~anivra, the day of
Saturn (Saturday). It may be mentioned, as a matter of archaeological interest,
that, while some of the astronomical books perhaps postulate an earlier
knowledge of the lords of the days, and other writings indicate a still earlier
use of the period of seven days, the first proved instance of the use of the
name of a weekday is of the year AD. 484, and is furnished by an inscription in
the Saugor district, central India.
The divisions of the civil day, as far as we need note them, are 60 l-Zpalas i
pala 24 seconds; 60 palas = igha(ika = 24 minutes; 60 ghatikas = 24 hours = I
day. There is also the muhrta Divisions =2 gha(ikaS=48 minutes: this is the
nearest approach of the to the hour. The comparative value of these measures da.
of time may perhaps be best illustrated thus: 24 rnuloirtas =2 hours; 2l
gha(ikas=i hour; 24 palas=i minute; 24 vipalas= i second.
As their civil day begins at sunrise, the Hindus naturall~ count all their
times, in gha4ikas and palas, from that moment. But the moment is a varying one,
though not in India to Clvii anything like the extent to which it is so in
European time, latitudes; and under the British Government the Hindus have
recognized the advantage, and in fact the necessity, especially in connection
with their lunar calendar, of having a convenient means of referring their own
times to the time which prevails officially. Consequently, some of the almanacs
have adopted the European practice of showing the time of sunrise, in hours and
minutes, from midnight; and some of them add the time of sunset from noon.
The lunar year consists primarily of twelve Iunations or lunar months, of which
the present Sanskrit names, generally used in more or less corrupted forms, are
Chaitra, Vaiigkha, &c., to Phalguna, as given above in connection with the solar
months. It is of two principal varieties, according as The lunar it begins with
a certain day in the month Chaitra, or year.
with the corresponding day in Kgrttika: the former variety is conveniently known
as the Chaitrgdi year; the latter as the Krttikdi year. For religious purposes
the lunar year begins with its first lunar day: for civil purposes it begins
with its first civil day, the relation of which to the lunar day will be
explained below. Owing to the manner in which, as we shall explain, the
beginning of the lunar year is always shifting backwards and forwards, it is not
practicable to lay down any close equivalents for comparison: but an indication
may be given as follows. The first civil day of the Chaitr~di year is the day
after the new-moon conjunction which occurs next after the entrance of the sun
into Mina, and it now falls from about I3th March to about 11th April: the first
civil day of the Kgrttikgdi year is the first day after the new-moon conjunction
which occurs next after the entrance of the sun into TuI, and it now falls from
about 17th October to about 15th November.
The present names of the lunar months, indicated above, were derived from the
nakshatras, which are certain conspicuous stars and groups of stars lying more
or less along the neighborhood of the ecliptic. The nakshatras are regarded The
lunar sometimes as twenty-seven in number, sometimes as month. twenty-eight, and
are grouped in twelve sets of two or three each, beginning, according to the
earlier arrangement of the list, with the pair Kfittika and Rhii~i, and
including in the sixth place Chitrg and Svgti, and ending with the triplet
Rvati, Afvinl and Bhara9i. They are sometimes styled lunar mansions, and are
sometimes spoken of as the signs of the lunar zodiac; and it is, no doubt,
chiefly in connection with the moon that they are now taken into consideration.
But they mark divisions of the ecliptic: according to one system, twenty-seven
divisions, each of 13 degrees 20 minutes; according to two other systems,
twenty-seven or twenty-eight unequal divisions, which we need not explain here.
The almanacs show the course of the sun through them, as well as the course of
the moon; and the course of the sun was marked by them only, before the time
when the Hindus began to use the twelve signs of the solar zodiac. So there is
nothing exclusively lunar about them. The present names of the lunar months were
derived from the nakshatras in the following manner: the full-moon which
occtirred when the moon was in conjunction with Chitr (the star a Virginis) was
named ChaitrI, and the lunar month, which contained the Chaitri full-moon, was
named Chaitra; and so on with the others. The present names have superseded
another set of names which were at one time in use concurrently with them; these
other names are Madhu (=Chaitra), Mgdhava, ~ukra, ~uchi, Nabhas, Nabhasya, Isha,
Urja (=Kgrttika), Sahas, Sahasya, Tapas, and Tapasya (=Phalguna): they seem to
have marked originally solar seasonmonths of the solar year, rather than lunar
months of the lunar year.
A lunar month may be regarded as ending either with the newmoon, which is called
amvasya, or with the full-moon, which is called prnamasi, prtlima: a month of
the former kind is termed amnla, ending with the new-moon, or .iuktdi, beginning
with the bright fortnight; a month of the latter kind is termed puirpimnta,
ending with the full-moon, or krishpadi, beginning with the dark fortnight. For
all purposes of the calendar, the amnta month is used in Southern India, and the
pur~firnanta month in Northern India. But only the amanta month, the period of
the synodic revolution of the moon, is recognized in Hindu astronomy, and for
the purpose of naming the lunations and adjusting the lunar to the solar year by
the intercalation and suppression of lunar months; and the rule is that the
lunar Chaitra is the amnta or synodic month at the first moment of which the sun
is in the sign Mina, and in the course of which the sun enters Mesha: the other
months follow in the same way; and the lunar Krttika is the amdnla month at the
first moment of which the sun is in Tul, and in the course of which the sun
enters Viichika. The connexiori between the lunar and the solar months is
maintained by the point that the name Chaitra is applied according to one
practice to the solar Mina, in which the lunar Chaitra begins, and according to
another practice to the solar Msha, in which the lunar Chaitra ends. Like the
lunar year, the lunar month begins for religious purposes with its first lunar
day, and for civil purposes with its first civil day.
One mean lunar year of twelve lunations measures very nearly 354 days 8 hrs. 48
mm. 34 sec.; and one Hindu solar year measures 365 days 6 hrs. 12 mm. 30 sec.
according to Aryabha~a. or slightly more according to the other two authorities.
Consequently, the beginning of a lunar year pure and simple would be always
travelling backwards through the solar year, by about ereven days on each
occasion, and would in course of time recede entirely through the solar year, as
it does in the Mahommedan calendar. The Hindus prevent that in the following
manner. The length j,~tercaJa- of the Hindu astronomical solar month, measured
by the Uon and sathkrantis of the sun, its successive entrances into the SUpPr~S
signs of the zodiac, ranges, in accordance with periodical bIQflOf variations in
the speed of the sun, from about 29 days months 7 hrs. 38 mm. up to about 31
days 15 hrs. 28 mm The length of the amnta or synodic lunar month ranges, in
accordance with periodical variations in the speed of the moon and the sun, from
about 29 days 19 hrs. 30 mm. down. to about 29 days 7 hrs. 20 mm. Consequently,
it happens ftom time to time that there are two new-moonconjuoctions, so that
two lunations begin, in one astronomical solar month, between two sa,hkrntis of
the sun, while the sun is in one and the same sign of the zodiac, and there is
no sathkrnli in the lunation ending with the second new-moon: when this is the
case,, there are two lunations to which the same name is applicable, and so
there is an additional or intercalated month, in the sense that a name is
repeated: thus, when two new-moons occur while the sun is in Msha, the lunation
ending with the first of them, during which the sun has entered Mesha, is
Chaitra; the next lunation, in which there is no sa~ikranti, is Vaiiakha,
because it begins when the sun is in Mesha; anti the next lunation after that is
again Vaiikha, for the same reason, and also because the sun enters V~ishabha in
the course of it: in these circumstances, the first of the two Vaiikhas is
called AdhikaVail~kha, the additional or intercalated VaiiI~kha, and the second
is called simply Vaii~Lkha, or sometimes Nija-Vaiskha, the natural Vaiikha. On
the other hand, it occasionally happens, in an autumn or winter month, that
there are two sathkrdntis of the sun in one and the same amnta or synodic lunar
month, between two new-moon conjunctions, so that no lunation begins between the
two sa8thrntis: when this is the case, there is one lunation to which two names
are applicable, ,and there is a suppressed month, in the sense that a name, is
omitted: thus, if the sun enters both Dhanus and Makara during one synodic
lunation, that lunation is M~rgaiira, because the sun was in Vriichika at the
first moment of it and enters Dhanus in the course of it; i the next lunation is
Magha, because the sun is in Makara by the time whed it begins and will enter
Kumbha in the course of it; and the name Pausha, between Margaiira and Magha, is
omitted. When a month is thus suppressed, there is always one intercalated
month, and sometimes two, in thesame Chaitriidi lunar year, so that the lunar
year never contains less than twelve months, and from time to time consists of
thirteen months. There are normally seven inter- I calated months, rising to
eight when a month is suppressed, in 19 solar years, which equal very nearly 235
luhation~2 and there is never less than one year without an intercalated month
between two years with intercalated months, except when there is only one such
month in a year in which a month is suppressed; then there is always an
intercalated month in the next year also. The suppression of a month takes place
at intervals of 19 years and upwards, regarding which no definite statement can
conveniently be made here. It may be added that an i,ntercalated Chaitra or
Karttika takes the place of the ordinary month as the first. month of the year;
an intercalated month is not rejected for that purpose, though it is tabooed
from the religious and auspicious points of view.


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