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 Vedanga Jyotisha : III

In Nepal there is a reckoning, known as the Nwgr era and commencing in A.D. 879,
which superseded the Gupta and Harsha eras there. One tradition. attributes the
foundation of it to a king Raghavadeva; another says that, in the time and with
the permission of a king Jayadevamalla, a merchant named SflkhwCl paid off, by
means of wealth acquired from sand which turned into gold, all the debts then
existing in the country, and introduced the new era in commemoration of the
occurrence. It is possible that the era may have been founded by some ruler of
Nepal: but nothing authentic is known about the particular names mentioned in
connection with it. This era appears to have been discarded for state and
official purposes, in favor of the Saka era, in AD. 1768, when the GUrkhas
became masters of Nepal; but manuscripts show that in literary circles it has
remained in use up to at any rate AD. 1875.
Inscriptions disclose the use in Kgthiwgr and Gujart, in the 12th and 13th
centuries, of a reckoning, commencing in A.D. 1114, which is known as the
Sithha-sarhvat. No historical occurrence is known, on which it can have been
based; and the origin of it is obscure.
The eras mentioned above have for the most part served their purposes and died
out. But there are three great Three reckonings, dating from a very respectable
antiquity, great which have held their own and survived to the present Eras in
day. These are the Kaliyuga, Vikrama, and Saka eras. general It will be
convenient to treat the Kaliyuga first, though, use. in spite of having the
greatest apparent antiquity, it is the latest of the three in respect of actual
date of origin. -
The Kaliyuga era is the principal astronomical reckoning 01 the Hindus. It is
frequently, if not generally, shown in tht almanacs: but it can hardly be looked
upon as being The sCat!. now in practical use for civil purposes; and, as
regards yuga Era the custom of previous times as far as we can judge it of 3102
from the inscriptional use, which furnishes a good E.C.
guide, the position is as follows: from Southern India wc have one such instance
of A.D. 634, one of A.D. 770, three of thi roth century, and then, from the 12th
century onwards, bu:
more particularly from the 14th, a certain number of instances not exactly very
small in itself, but extremely so in comparisof with the number of cases of the
use of the Vikrama and Saka eras and other reckonings: from Northern India the
earliest known instance of is AD. 1169 or 1170, and the later ones number only
four. Its years are by nature sidereal solar years, commencing with the
Msha-sa1hkr~nti, the entrance of the sun into the Hindu constellation and sign
Msha, i.e. Aries (for this and other technical details, see above, under the
Calendar); i but they were probably cited as lunar years in the inscriptional
records which present the reckoning; and the almanacs appear to treat them
either as ?vIsh~di civil solar years with solar months, or as Chaitradi lunar
years with lunar months amanta (ending with the new-moon) or pur~zimanta (ending
with the full-moon) as the case may be, according to the locality. Its initial
point lies in 3102 B.c.; and the year 5002 began in A.D. 2900.2
This reckoning is not an historical era, actually running from 3102 s.c. It was
devised for astronomical purposes at some time I about A.D. 400, when the Hindu
astronomers, having taken over the principles of the Greek astronomy, recognized
that they required for purposes of computation a specific reckoning with a
definite initial occasion. They found that occasion in a conjunction of the sun,
the moon, and the five planets which were then known, at the first point of
their sign Msha. There was not really such a conjunction; nor, apparently, is it
even the case that the sun ~was actually at the first point of Msha at the
moment arrived at. But there was an approach to such a conjunction, which was
turned into an actual conjunction by taking the mean instead of the true
positions of the sun, the moon, and the planets. And, partly from the reckoning
which has come down to us, partly from the astronomical hooks, we know that the
moment assigned to the assumed conjunction was according to one school the
midnight between Thursday the 17th, and Friday the 18th, February, 3102 B.C.,
and according to another school the sunrise on the Friday.
The reckoning thus devised was subsequently identified with the Kaliyuga as the
iron age, the last and shortest, with a duration of 432,000 years, of the four
ages in each cycle of ages in the Hindu system of cosmical periods. Also,
traditional history was fitted to it by one school, represented notably by the
Pur~as, which, referring the great war between the Pgiilavas and the Kurus,
which is the topic of the Mahbhrata, to the close of the preceding age, the
Dvgpara, placed on the last day of that age the culminating event which ushered
in the Kali age; isamely, the death of Krishi~a (the return to heaven of Vishnu
on the termination of his incarnation as Krishi~ia), which was followed by the
abdication of the P~dava king Yudhishthira, who, having installed his
grand-nephew Parikshit as his successor, then set out on his own journey to
heaven. Another school, however, placed the Par4avas and the Kurus 653 years
later, in 2449 B.C. A third school places in 3102 B.c. the anointment of
Yudhishthira to the sovereignty, and treats that event as inaugurating the Kali
age; from this point of view, the first 3044 years of the Kaliyugathe period
from its commencement in 3102 B.c. to the commencement of the first historical
era, the so-called Vikrama era, in 58 B.c.are also known as the era of
The Vikrama era, which is the earliest of all the Hindu eras in respect of order
of foundation, is the dominant era and the The vik- great historical reckoning
of Northern Indiathat rama Era is, of the territory on the north of the rivers
Narbad af.58 and Mahanadito which part of the country its use B. C. has always
been practically confined. Like, indeed, the Kaliyuga and Saka eras, it is
freely cited in almanacs in any part of India; and it is sometimes used in the
south by immigrants from the north: but it is, by nature, so essentially foreign
to the south that the earliest known inscriptional instance of the use of it in
Southern India only dates from AD. 1218, and the very few later instances that
have been obtained, prior to the i5th century AD., come, along with the instance
of AD. 1218, from the close neighborhood of the dividing-line between the It is
always to be borne in mind that, as already explained, while the Hindu Mesha
answers to our Aries, it does not coincide with either the sign or the
constellation Aries.
2 We select AD. 1900 as a gauge-year, in preference to the year in which we are
writing, because its figures are more convenient for comparative purposes. In
accordance with the general tendency of the Hindus to cite expired years, the
almanacs would mostly show 5001 (instead of 5002) as the number for the Kaliyuga
year answering to A.D. 1900-1901. And, for the same reason, this reckoning has
often been called the Kaliyuga era of 3101 B.c. There is, perhaps, no particular
objection to that, provided that we then deal with the Vikrama and Saka eras on
the same lines, and bear in mind that in each case the initial point of the
reckoning really lies in the preceding year. But we prefer to treat these
reckonings with exact correctness.
north and the south. The Vikrama era has never been used for astronomical
purposes. Its years are lunar, with lunar months, but seem liable to be
sometimes regarded as solar, with solar months, when they are cited in almanacs
of Southern India which present the solar calendar. Originally they were
Kgrttik~di, with pur~iimanta months (ending with the full-moon). They now exist
in the following three varieties: in Kgthigwar and Gujart, they are chiefly
Krttikdi, with amdnta months (ending with the new-moon); and they are shown in
this form in almanacs for the other parts of the Bombay Presidency:
but there is also found in Kgthiawar and that neighborhood an Ashalhadi variety,
commencing with Ashtidha iukla 1, similarly with amnta months; in the rest of
Northern India, they are Chaitrgdi, with prl.iimdnta. months. The era has its
initial point in 58 B.C., and its first civil day, Krttika ~ukla I, is 19th
September in that year if we determine it with reference to the Hindu
Tul-sathkrinti, or 18th October if we determine it with reference to the
tropical equinox. The years of the three varieties, Chaitrdi, Ashadhgdi, and
Karttikgdi, all commence in the same year A.D.; and the year 1958 began in AD.
Hindu legend connects the foundation of this era with a king Vikrama or
Vikramitditya of Ujiain in Mglwg, Central india: one version is that he began to
reign in 58 s.c.; another is that he died in that year, and that the reckoning
commemorates his death. Modern research, however, based largely on the
inscriptional records, has shown that there was no such king, and that the real
facts are very different. The era owes its existence to the Kushan king
Ka~ishka, a foreign invader, who established himself in Northern India and
commenced to reign there in s.c. 58. He was the founder of it, in the sense that
the opening years of it were the years of his reign. It was established and set
going as an era by his successor, who continued the reckoning so started,
instead of breaking it by introducing another according to his own regnal years.
And it was perpetuated as an era, and transmitted as such to posterity by the
Malavas, the people from whom the modern territory Mlwg derived its name, who
were an important section of the subjects of Kaoishka and his successors. In
consonance with that, records ranging in date from AD. 473 to 879 style it the
reckoning of the Mglavas, the years of the Malaya lords, the Malaya time or era.
Prior to that, it had no specific name; the years of it were simply cited, in
ord1nary Hindu fashion, by the term sainvatsara, the year (of such-and-such a
number), or by its abbreviations saivat and sash: and the same was frequently
done in later times also, and is habitually done in the present day; and so, in
modern times, this era has often been loosely styled the Sathvat era. The idea
of a king Vikrama in connection with it appears to date from only the 9th or
ioth century A.D.
The Saka era, though it actually had its origin in the southwest corner of
Northern India, is the dominant era and the great historical reckoning of
Southern India; that is, of the territory below the rivers NarhadS. and The ~aka
Mahanadi. It is also the subsidiary astronomical ~~078. reckoning, largely used,
from the 6th century A.D.
onwards, in the Kara~as, the works dealing with practical details of the
calendar, for laying down epochs or points of time furnishing convenient bases
for computation. As a result of that, it came to be used in past times for
general purposes also, to a limited extent, in parts of Northern India where it
was not indigenous. And it is now used more or less freely, and is cited in
almanacs everywhere. Its years are usually lunar, Chaitradi, and its months are
purtiimanta (ending with the full-moon) in Northern India, and amdnta (ending
with the new-moon) in Southern India; but in times gone by it was sometimes
treated for purposes of calculation as having astronomical solar years, and it
is now treated as having Mesh di civil solar years and solar months in those
parts of India wliefe that form of the solar calendar prevails. It has its
initial point in A.D. 78; and its first civil day, Chaitra ~ukla 2, is 3rd March
in that year, as determined with reference either to the Hindu M na-sathkrnti or
to the entrance of the sun into the tropical Pisces. The year 1823 began in A.D.
Regarding the origin of the ~aka era, there was current in the 10th and 11th
centuries All, a belief which, ignoring the difference of a hundred and
thirty-five years between the two reckonings, connected the legendary king
Vikramaditya of Ujjain, mentioned above under the Vikrama era, with the
foundation of this era also. The story runs, from this point of view, that the
Sakas were a barbarous people who established themselves in the western and
north-western dominions of that king, but were met in battle and destroyed by
him, and that the era was established in celebration of that event. The modern
belief, however, ascribes the foundation of this era to a king Salivahana of
Pratishthflna, which is the modern Paithaii, on the GOdavarI, in the Nizams
dominions. But in this case, again, research has shown that the facts are very
different. Like the Vikrama era, the Saka era owes its existence to foreign
invaders. It was founded by the Chhaharta or Kshaharata king Nahapana, who
appears to have been a Pahlava or Palhava, i~e. of Parthian extraction, and who
reigned from A.D. 78 to about 125.1 He established himself first in Kathiawar,
but subsequently brought under his sway northern. Gujarat (Bombay) and Ujjain,
and, below the Narbada, southern Gujarat, Nsik and probably Khndesh. His capital
seems to have been DOhad, in the Panch Mahals. And he had two viceroys: one,
named Bhumaka, of the same family with himself, in Kathiawar; and another,
Chashtana, son of Ghsamotika, at Ujjain. Soon after A.D. 125, Nahapana was
overthrown, and his family was wiped out, by the Satavahana-Satakar1~i king
GautamiputraSri-Stakarpi, who thereby recovered the territories on the south of
the Narbad, and perhaps secured for a time Kathiawar and some other parts on the
north of that river. Very soon, however, Chashtana, or else his son Jayadaman,
established his sway over all the territory which had belonged to Nahapana on.
the north of the Narbada; founded a line of Hinduized foreign kings, who ruled
there for more than three centuries; and, continuing Nahapanas regnal reckoning,
established the era to which the name Saka eventually became attached.
Inscriptions and coins show that, up to at least the second decade of its fourth
century, this reckoning had no specific appellation; its years were simply
cited, in the usual fashion, as varsha, the year (of such-and-such a number).
The reckoning was then taken up by the astronomers. And we find it first called
~akakala, the time or era of the Sakas, in an epochal date, the end of the year
427, falling in A.D. 505, which was used by the astronomer Varahamihira (d. A.D.
587) in his Panchasiddhntika. That this name came to be attached to it appears
to be due to the points that, along with some of the Pahiavas or Palhavas and
the XTavanas or descendants of the Asiatic Greeks, some of the Sakas, the
Scythians, had made their way into KA~hiwar and neighboring parts by about A.D.
100, and that the Sakas incidentally came to acquire prominence in the memory of
the Hindus regarding these occurrences, in such a manner that their name was
selected when the occasion arose to devise an appellation for an era the exact
origin of which had been forgotten. The name of the imaginary king Salivhana
first figures in connection with the era in a record of A.D. 1272, and seems
plainly to have been introduced in. imitation of the couplini of the name
Vikrama, Vikramaditya, with the era of B.C. 58.
That the Saka era, though it had its origin in the south-west corner of Northern
India, is essentially an era of Southern India is proved by its inscriptional
and numismatic history. During thi period before the time when it was taken up
by the astronomers it is found only in the inscriptions of Nahapana, arid in the
similai records and on the coins of the descendants of Chashtana. Aftei that
same time, it figures first in a record of the Chalukya king Kirtivarman I., at
BdSmi in the Bijapur district, Bombay, whirl is dated on the full-moon day of
the month Kflrttika, falling ii All. 578, when there had elapsed five centuries
of the years of thi anointment of the Saka king to the sovereignty. And from
date onwards the records of a large part of Southern India an mostly dated in
this era, by various expressions all of which includ -ec the j)rere(ling note.
the term Saka or Sgka. In Northern India the case is very different. We have a
record dated in the month Krttika, the Saka year 631 (expired), falling in A.D.
709: it comes from MultSi in the BtUi district, Central Provinces, that is, from
the south of the Narbada; but it belongs to GujarSt (Bombay), and perhaps to the
north, though more probably to the south, of that province. But, setting that
aside, the earliest inscriptional instance of the use of this era in Northern
India, outside Kathiawr and Gujart, is found in a record of A.D. 862 at Deogarh
near Lalitpr, the headquarters town of the Lalitpur district, United Provinces
of Agra and Oude; here, however, the record is primarily dated, with the full
details of the month, &c., in Sarhvat 919, that is, in the Vikrama year 919; it
is only as a subsidiary detail that the Saka year 784 is given in a separate
passage at the end of the record, a sort of postscript. From this date onwards
the era is found in other records of Northern India, but to any appreciable
extent only from AD. 1137, and to only a very small extent in comparison with
the Vikrama and other northern eras; and the cases in which it was used
exclusively there, without being coupled with one or other of the northern
reckonings, are still more conspicuously few. In short, the general position is
that the Saka era has been essentially foreign to Northern India until recent
times; it was used there quite exceptionally and sporadically, and in very few
cases indeed at any appreciable distance from the dividing-line between the
north and the south. That it found its way into Northern India, outside Kl4hiawr
and northern GujarSt at all, is unquestionably due to its use by the
astronomers. It also travelled, across the sea, by the 7th century A.D. to
Cambodia, and somewhat later to Java; to which parts it was doubtless taken in
almanacs, or in invoices, statements of account, &c., by the persons engaged in
the trade between Broach and the far east via Tagara (Ter) and the east coast.
It also found its way in subsequent times to Assam and Ceylon, and more recently
still to Nepal.
We come now to certain reckonings consisting of cycles, and will take first the
cycles of Guru or B~ihaspati, Jupiter. This planet, a very conspicuous object in
eastern skies, requires a period of 4332.6 days,=~5o~4 days ~~Ieso, less than
twelve Julian. years, to make a circuit of the J~jter.
heavens, and has provided the Hindus with two reckonings, each in more than one
variety; a cycle of twelve years, and a cycle of sixty years. The years of
Jupiter, in all their varieties, are usually styled saiizvaisara; and it is
convenient to use this term here, in order to preserve clearly the distinction
between them and the solar ~nd lunar years. The sazvatsaras have no divisions of
their own; the months, days, &c., cited with them are those of the ordinary
solar or lunar calendar, as the case may be.
The older reckoning of Jupiter appears to be that of the 52years cycle, which is
found in two varieties; in both of them the sailvatsaras bear, according to
certain rules which need not be explained here, the same names with the The
12lunar months, Chaitra, Vai~akha, &c. In one variety, ~
each sa~hvatsara runs from one of the planets heliacal risingsthat is, from the
day on which it becomes visible as a morning star on the eastern horizonto the
next such rising; and the length of such a sanjvatsara, according to the Hindu
data, is from 392 to 405 days, with an average of 39,9 days. Inscriptional
instances of the use of this cycle are found in six of the Gupta records of
Northern India, ranging from A.D. 475 to 528.
In the other variety of the 12-years cycle, which is mentioned in astronomical
works from the time of Aryabha~a onwardf (b. A.D. 476), the saihvatsaras are
regulated by Jupiters course with reference to his mean. motion. and mean
longitude: a sathvatsara of this variety commences when Jupiter thus enters a
sign of the zodiac, and lasts for the time occupied by him ir traversing that
sign from the same point of view; and the period taken by him to do thatthat is,
the duration of such a sctk vatsarais slightly in excess, according to the Hindu
data, o~ 36I~o2 days, which amount is very close to the actual fact 361 ~O5
days. Inscriptional instances of the use of this cycle arc perhaps found in two
records of Southern India of the Kadambr series, belonging to about A.D. 575.
The 12-years mean-sign cycle seems to be still used in somc parts. And the
heliacal risings of Jupiter, as also, indeed, thos of the other planets, are
shown in almanacs for astrologica purposes. In either variety, however, the I
2-years cycle is nov chiefly of antiquarian interest.
The cycle of Jupiter now in general use is a cycle of sixty years, the
saivatsaras of which bear certain special names, The 60 Prabhava, Vibhava,
Sukla, Pramoda, &c., again in accordance with certain rules which we need not
explain here. This cycle exists in three varieties.
According to the original constitution of this cycle, the sathvatsaras are
determined as in the second or mean-sign variety of the 12-years cycle: each
sai~nvatsara commences when Jupiter enters a sign of the zodiac with reference
to his mean motion and longitude; and it lasts for slightly more than 361.02
days. This variety is traced back in inscriptional records to AD. 602, and is
still used in Northern India.
Now, the sa2izvatsaras are calculated by means of the astrononiical solar year
commencing with the Mesha-sarhkrnti, the entrance of the sun into the sign Mesha
(Aries). The process gives the number of the saihvatsara last expired before any
particular Msha-sathkrnti, with a remainder denoting the portion of the current
saivatsara elapsed up to the same time; and the remainder, reduced to months,
&c., gives the moment of the commencement of the current sathvatsara, by
reckoning back from the Mesha-sathkranti. As the result, apparently, of
unwillingness to take the trouble to work out the full details, at some time
about AD. 800 a practice arose, in some quarters, according to which that
su~hva1sara of the 60-years cycle which was current at any particular
M~sha-sathkrgnti was taken as coinciding with the astronomical solar year
beginning at that sa,iikrdnti, and with the Chaitrdli lunar year belonging to
that same solar year. And this practice set up a lunisolar variety of the cycle,
in connection with which we have to notice the following point. While the
duration of a mean-sign sa?hvatsara is closely about 361 02 days, the length of
the Hindu astronomical solar year is closely about 365.258 days. It consequently
happens, after every 85 or 86 years, that a mean-sign sa,hvatsara begins and
ends between two successive Msha-sa1iikrntis. In the mean-sign cycle, such a
sa~invatsara retains its existence unaffected; and the names Prabhava, Vibhava,
&c., run on without any interruption. According to the lunisolar system,
however, the position is different; the sa,iivatsara beginning and ending
between the two Meshasarhkrantis is expunged or suppressed, in the sense that
its name is omitted and is replaced by the next name on the list. The second
variety of the 60-years cycle, thus started, ran on alongside of the mean-sign
variety, and, being eventually transferred, with that variety, to Northern
India, is now known as the northern lunisolar variety. It preserves a connection
between the sailsvatsaras and the movements of Jupiter: but the connection is an
imperfect one; and both in this variety, and still more markedly in the
remaining one still to be described, the saslivatsaras practically became mere
appellations for the solar and lunar years.
Meanwhile, just after AD. 900, another development occurred, and there was
started a third variety, which is now known as the southern lunisolar variety.
The precise year in which this happened depends on the particular authority that
we follow. If we take the elements adopted in the Surya-Siddhanta as the proper
data for that time and for the localityWestern India below the Narbadto which
the early history of the cycle belongs, the position was as follows. At the
Mesha-sathkrgnti in AD. 908 there was current, by the mean-sign system, the
sailivatsara No. 2, Vibhava: but No. 4, PramOda, was current by the same system
at the Mesha-sakrgnti in AD. 909; and No. 3, ~ukla, began and ended between the
two Mesha-sathkr~ntis. Accordingly, No. 2, Vibhava, was the lunisolar
sathvatsara for the Meshadi solar year and the Chaitradi lunar year commencing
in AD. 908; and by the strict lunisolar system, which was adhered to by some
people and is now known as the northern lunisolar system, it was followed in
A.D. 909 by No. 4, PramOda, the name of the intermediate sailivatsara, No. ~,
~ukla, being passed over. On the other hand, whether through oversight, or
whatever the reason may have been, by other people the name of No. 3, ~ukla, was
not passed over, but that sailivatsara was taken as the lunisolar sailivatsara
for the Meshadi solar year and the Chaitrdi lunar year beginning in AD. 909, and
No. 4, Pramoda, followed it in AD. olo. On subsequent similar occasions, also,
there was, in the same quarters, no passing over of the name of any sathva~sara.
And this practice established itself, in SOuthern India, to the exclusion there
of the mean-sign and the northern lunisolar varieties; the discrepancy between
the last-mentioned variety and the variety thus set up continuing, of course, to
increase by one sathvatsara after every 85 or 86 years. In this variety, the
southern lunisolar variety, all connection between the sathvatsaras and the
movements of Jupiter has now been lost.
The present position of the 60-years cycle in its three varieties may be
illustrated thus. In Northern India, by the mean-sign system the sailivatsara
No. 46, Paridhtivin, began, according to different authorities, in August,
September or October, A.D. i899. Consequently, by the northern or expunging
lunisolar system, that same sarnvatsara, No. 46, Paridhavin, coincided with the
Mshdi civil solar year beginning with or just after 12th April, and with the
Chaitrdi lunar year beginning with 31st March, AD. 1900. But by the southern or
non-expunging lunisolar system those same solar and lunar years were No. 34,
The treatment of the cycles of Jupiter in the Sanskrit books shows that it was
primarily from the astrological point of view that they appealed to the Hindus;
it was only as a secondary consideration that they acquired anything of a
chronological nature. For the practical application of any of them to historical
purposes, it is, of course, necessary that, along with the mention of a
sailwatsara, there should always be given the year of some known era, or some
other specific guide to the exact period to which that sailivatsara is to be
referred. But it is fortunately the case that the sarhvatsaras have been but
~rarely cited in the inscriptional records without such a guide, of some kind or
The Saptarshi reckoning is used in KashmIr, and in the Kiipgfa district and some
of the Hill states on the south-east of Kashmir; some nine centuries ago it was
also in use in the Punjab, The Sap. and apparently in Sind. In addition to being
cited by tars hi such expressions as Saptarshi-sarhvat, the year (so- reckon.
and-so) of the Saptarshis, and Sgstra-saihvatsara, ing.
the year (so-and-so) of the scriptures, it is found mentioned as Lokakflla, the
time or era of the people, and by other terms which mark it as a vulgar
reckoning. And it appears that modern popular names for it are PaharI-sathvat
and Kachchg-sathvat, which we may render by the Hill era and the crude era. The
years of this reckoning are lunar, Chaitradi; and the months are purs.nimanta
(ending with the full-moon). As matters stand now, the reckoning has a
theoretical initial point in 3077 B.C.; and the year 4976, more usually called
simply 76, began in A.D. 1900; but there are some indications that the
initial~oint was originally placed one year earlier.
The idea at the bottom of this reckoning is a belief that the Saptarshis, the
Seven Rishis or Saints, Marichi and others, were translated to heaven, and
became the stars of the constellation Ursa Major, in 3076 s.c. (or 3077); and
that these stars possessan independent movement of their own, which, referred to
the ecliptic, carries them round at the rate of ioo years for each nakshatra or
twenty-seventh division of the circle. Theoretically, therefore, the Saptarshi
reckoning consists of cycles of 2700 years; and the numbering of the years
should run from I to 2700, and then commence afresh. In practice, however, it
has been treated quite differently. According to the general custom, which has
distinctly prevailed in Kashmir from the earliest use of the reckoning for
chronological purposes, and is illustrated by Kalha9a in his history of Kashmir,
the Rajatararngini, written in AD. 1148-1150, the numeration of the years has
been centennial; whenever a century has been completed, the numbering has not
run on 101, 102, 103, &c., but has begun again with I, 2, 3, &c. Almanacs,
indeed, show both the figures of the century and the full figures of the entire
reckoning, which is treated as running from 3076 ii C., not from 376 B.C. as the
commei~ceme1it of a new cycle, the second; thus, an almanac for the year
beginning in A.D. 1793 describes that year as the year 4869 according tothe
course of the Seven I~ishis, and similarly the year 69. And elsewhere sometimes
the full figures are found, sometimes the abbreviated ones; thus, whmlea.
manuscript written in AD. 1648 is dated in the year 24 (for 4724), another,
written in A.D. 1224 is dated in the year 4300.
But, as in the Rajatarathgini, so also in inscriptions, which range from A.D.
1204 onwards, only the abbreviated figures have hitherto been found.
Essentially, therefore, the Saptarshi reckoning is a centennial reckoning, by
suppressed or omitted hundreds, with its earlier centuries commencing in 3076,
2976 s.c., and so on, and its later centuries commencing in A.D. 25, 125, 225,
&c.; on precisely the same lines with those according to which we may use, e.g.
98 to mean A.D. 1798, and 57 to mean A.~. 1857, and 9 to mean A.D. 1909. And the
practical difficulties attending the use of such a system for chronological
purposes are obvious; isolated dates recorded in such a fashion cannot be
allocated without some explicit clue to the centuries to which they belong.
Fortunately, however, as regards Kashmir, we have the necessary guide in the
facts that Kaihana recorded his own date in the ~aka era as well as in this
reckoning, and gave full historical details which enable us to determine
unmistakably the equivalent of the first date in this reckoning cited by him,
and to arrange with certainty the chronology presented by him from that time.
The belief underlying this reckoning according to the course of the Seven
l~ishis is traced back in India, as an astrological detail, to at least the 6th
century AD. But the reckoning was first adopted for chronological purposes in
Kashmir and at some time about A.D. 800; the first recorded date in it is one of
the year 89, meaning 3889, = A.D. 8 13814, given by Kalha~a. It was introduced
into India between AD. 925 and 1025.
The Grahaparivl-itti is a reckoning which is used in the southernmost parts of
Madras, particularly in the Madura district. It consists of cycles of 90 Mflshdi
solar The Grab- years, and is said, in conformity with its name, which ape
rivritt means the revolution of planets, to be made up by the sum of the days in
I revolution of the sun, 22 of Mercury, 5 of Venus, 15 of Mars, It of Jupiter,
and 29 of Saturn. The first cycle is held to have commenced in 24 B.C., the
second in A.D. 67, and so on; and, in accordance with that view, the year 34,
which began in AD. 1900, was the 34th year of the 22nd cycle.
No inscriptional use of this cycle has come to notice. There seems no
substantial reason for believing that the reckoning was really started in 24
B.C. The alleged constitution of the cycle, which appears to be correct within
about twelve days, and might possibly be made apparently exact, suggests an
astrological origin. And, if a guess may be hazarded, we would conjecture that
the reckoning is an offshoot of the southern lunisolar variety of the 60-years
cycle of Jupiter, and had its real origin in some year in which a Prabhava
samvatsara of that variety commenced, and to which the first year of a
Grahaparivritti cycle can be referred: that was the case in AD. 967 and at each
subsequent i8oth year.
In part of the Gajm district, Madras, there is a reckoning, known as the Oflko
or Aflka, i.e. literally the number or Th ~ ~k numbers, consisting of lunar
years, each commencing ~ with Bhadrapada Sukla 12, which run theoretically in
cycles of 59 years. But the reckoning has the peculiarity that, whether the
explanation is to be found in a superstition about certain numbers or in some
other reason, the year 6, and any year the number of which ends with 6 or 0
(except the year 10), is omitted from the numbering; so that, for instai~ce, the
year 7 follows next after the year 5. The origin of the reckoning is not known.
But the use of it seems to be traceable in records of the Ganga kings who
reigned in that part of the country and in Orissa in the 12th and following
centuries. And the initial day, Bhadrapada ~ukla 12, which figures again in the
Vilayati and Amli reckoning of Orissa (see farther on), is perhaps to be
accounted for on the view that this day was the day of the anointment, in the
7th century, of the first Ganga king, Rajasithha-Indravarman I.
In the Chittagong district, Bengal, there is a solar reckoning, known by the
name Maghi, of which the year 1262 either began - or ended in A.D. 1900; 50 that
it has an initial point The Maghi in AD. 639 or 638. It appears that Chittagong
was conquered by the king of Arakan in the gth century, and remained usually in
the possession of the Maghs the Arakanese or a class of themtill A.D. 1666, when
it was finally annexed to the Mogul empire. In these circumstances it is plain
that the Magh reckoning took its name from the Maghs; its year, which is Mshadi,
from Bengal; and its numbering from the Sakkaraj, the ordinary era of Arakan and
Burma, which has its initial point in AD. 638.
The Hijra (Hegira) era, the reckoning from the flight of Mahomet, which dates
from the 16th of July, A.D. 662, is, of Hlndulzed course, used by the
Mahommedans in India, and is offshoots customarily shown, with the details of
its calendar, of the in the Hindu almanacs. An account of it does not IfIjra
fall within the scope of this article. But we have era, to mention it because we
come now to certain Hinduized reckonings which are hybrid offshoots of it. We
need only say, however, in explanation of some of the following figures, that
the years of the Hijra era are purely lunar, consisting of twelve lunar months
and no more; with the result that the initial day of the year is always
travelling backwards through the Julian year, and makes a complete circuit in
thirty-four years. The reckonings derived from it, which we have to describe,
have apparent initial points in A.D. 591, 593, 594, and 600. They had their real
oiigin, however, in the ,4th, 16th, and 17th centuries.
The emperor Akbar succeeded to the throne in February, AD. 1556, in the Hijra
year 963, which ran from 16th November 1555 to 3rd November 1556. Amongst the
reforms aimed at by him and his officials, one was to abolish, or at least
minimize, by introducing uniformity of numbering, the confusion due to the
existence of various reckonings, both Mahommedan and Hindu. And one step taken
in that direction was to assign to the Hindu year the same number with the Hijra
year. It is believed that this was first done by the Persian clerks of the
revenue and financial offices at an early time in Akbars reign, and that it
received authoritative sanction in the Hijra year 971 (21st August 1563 to 8th
August 1564). At any rate, the innovation was certainly first made in Upper
India; and the numbering started there was introduced into Bengal and those
parts as Akbar extended his dominions, but without interfering with local
customs as to the commencement of the Hindu year. The result is that we now have
the following reckonings, the years of which are used as revenue years: In the
United Provinces and the Punjab, there is an Aivingdi lunar reckoning, known as
the Fasli, according to which the year I308 began in A.D. f900; so that the
reckoning has an apparent initial point in A.D. 593. The name of this e Fast!
reckoning is derived from fa$l, a harvest, of which reckoning there are two; the
fa~l-i-ral or spring harvest, of Upper commencing in February,and thefasl
ยท i-khar~f , or autumn fl ia.
harvest commencing in October. The years of this reckoning begin with the
pr~1imdnta Mvina krishna I, which now falls in September. A peculiar feature of
it is that, though the months are lunar, they are not divided into fortnights,
and the numbering of the days runs on, as in the Mahommedan month, from the
first to the end of the month without being affected by any expunction and
repetition of tithis; and, for this and other reasons, it seems that in this
case a new form of Hindu year was devised, of such a kind as to enable the
agriculturists to realize their produce and pay their assessments comfortably
within the year. The Hijra era has, of course, now drawn somewhat widely away
from this and the other reckonings derived from it; the Hijra ~ear commencing in
A.D. 1900 was 1318, ten year.s in advance of the Fasli year.
In Orissa and some other parts of Bengal, there is a reckoning, or two almost
identical reckonings, the facts of which are not quite clear. According to one
account, the term Amli-san, the official year, is only another name of the
Vilgyati- The Vilesan, the year received from the vitayat or province Y~~~ii of
Hindustgn. But we are also told that the Vilyati- an Awl!. san is a Kanyadi
solar year, whereas the Amli-san, ~issa though it too has solar months, changes
its number on the lunar day Bhadrapada iukla 12 (mentioned above in connection
with the Onko cycle of Orissa), which comes sometimes in Kanya, but sometimes in
the preceding month, Sirhha. Elsewhere, again, it is the Vilayati-san which is
shown as changing its number or. Bhdrapada fukla 12. In either case, the year
1308 of this reckoning, also, began in AD. 1900; and so, like the Fasli of Upper
India, this reckoning, too, has an apparent initial point in AD. 593. The day
Bhadrapada iukla 12 now usually falls in September, but may come during the last
three days of August. The first day of the solar month Kanyff now falls on 15th
or 16th September.
In Bengal there is in more general use a Mshdi solar reckoning, known as the
Bengali-san or Bengal year, according Tb B
to which the year 1307 began in AD. 1900; so that this e enreckoning has an
apparent initial point in A.D. 594. The g San. initial day of the year is the
first day of the solar month Msha, now falling on 12th or 13th April.
The system of Fasli reckonings was introduced into Southern India under the
emperor Shah Jahn. at some time in the Hifrayear 1046, which ran from 26th May,
AD. 1636, to 15th Tb F 11 May, A.D. 1637. But the numbering which was current of
Bornin Northern India was not taken over. A new start was ba d made; and, as the
year of the Hijra had gone back, Mis during the intervening seventy-three Julman
years, by two years and a quarter (less by only five days) from the date of its
commencement in the year 971, the Fasli reckoning of Southern India began with a
nominal year 1046 (instead of 971 +73 = i044~, commencing in A.D, 1636. The
Fasli reckoning of Southern India exists in two varieties. The years of the
Bombay Fash are popularly known as Mrigasal years, because they commence when
the sun enters the nakshatra Mrigaiiras, which occurs now on 6th or 7th June:
during ten days at the time of the autumnal equinox, in commemoration of her
victory over the buffalo-headed demon Mahishasura; when the image of the
ten-armed goddess, holding a weapon in each hand, is worshipped for nine days,
and cast into the water on the tenth day, called the Dasahara, whence the
festival itself is commonly called Dasara in western India. Kali, on the other
hand, the most terrible of the goddesss forms, has a special service performed
to her, at the Kali-puja, during the darkest night of the succeeding month; when
she is represented as a naked black woman, four-armed, wearing a garland of
heads of giants slain by her, and a string of skulls round her neck, dancing on
the breast of her husband (Mahakala), with gaping mouth and protruding tongue;
and when she has to be propitiated by the slaughter of goats, sheep and
buffaloes. On other occasions also Vamacharis commonly offer animal sacrifices,
usually one or more kids; the head of the victim, which has to be severed by a
single stroke, being always placed in front of the image of the goddess as a
blood-offering (bali), with an earthen lamp fed with ghee burning above it,
whilst the flesh is cooked and served to the guests attending the ceremony,
except that of buffaloes, which is given to the low-caste musicians who perform
during the service. Even some adherents of this class have, however,
discontinued animal sacrifices, and use certain kinds of fruit, such as
coco-nuts or pumpkins, instead. The use of wine,which at one time was very
common on these occasions, seems also to have become much more restricted; and
only members of the extreme section would still seem to adhere to the practice
of the so-called five ms prescribed by some of the Tantras, viz. mainsa (flesh),
matsya (fish), rnadya (wine), mait/zuna (sexual union), and mudra (mystical
finger signs)probably the most degrading cult ever practised under the pretext
of religious worship.
In connection with the principal object of this cult, Tantric theory has devised
an elaborate system of female figures representing either special forms and
personifications or attendants of the Great Goddess They are generally arranged
in groups, the most important of which are the Mahavidyas (great sciences), the
8 (Or 9) Mataras (mothers) or Mahamataras (great mothers), consisting of the
wives of the principal gods; the 8 Nayikas or mistresses; and different classes
of sorceresses and ogresses, called Yoginis, Dakinis and Sakinis. A special
feature of the Sakti cult is the use of obscure Vedic man/ras, often changed so
as to be quite meaningless and on that very account deemed the more efficacious
for the acquisition of superhuman powers; as well as of mystic letters and
syllables (-ailed bija (germ), of magic circles (chakra) and diagrams (yantra),
and of amulets of various materials inscribed with formulae of tancied
mysterious import.
This survey of the Indian sects will have shown how little the character of
their divine objects of worship is calculated to exert that elevating and
spiritualizing influence, General so characteristic of true religious devotion.
In all :i~ but a few of the minor groups religious fervour is only too apt to
degenerate into that very state of sexual excitation which devotional exercises
should surely tend to repress. If the worship of Siva, despite the purport of
his chief symbol, seems on the whole less liable to produce these undesirable
effects than that of the rival deity, it is doubtless due partly to the real
nature of that emblem being little realized by the common people, and partly to
the somewhat repellent character of the great god, more favorable to evoking
feelings of awe and terror than a spirit of fervid devotion. .~iJl the more are,
however, the gross stimulants, connected with the adoration of his consort,
calculated to work up the carnal :nstincts of the devotees to an extreme degree
of sensual frenzy. In the Vaishnava camp, on the other hand, the cult of
Krishna, md more especially that of the youthful Krishna, can scarcely (au to
exert an influence which, if of a subtler and more in~inuating, is not on that
account of a less demoralizing kind. Indeed, it would be hard to find anything
less consonant with godliness and divine perfection than the pranks of this
juvenile god; and if poets and thinkers try to explain them away by (lint of
allegorical interpretation, the plain man will not for all their refinements
take these amusing adventures any the less ~u pied de la lettre. No fault, in
this respect, can assuredly be found with the legendary Rama, a very paragon of
knightly honor and virtue, even as his consort Sita is the very model of a noble
and faithful wife; and yet this cult has perhaps retained even more of the
character of mere hero-worship than that of Krishna. Since by the universally
accepted doctrine of herman (deed) or karmavipaka ( the maturing of deeds ) man
himselfeither in his present, or some future, existence enjoys the fruit of, or
has to atone for, his former good and bad actions, there could hardly be room in
Hindu pantheism for a belief in the remission of sin by divine grace or
vicarious substitution. And accordingly the descents or incarnations of the
deity have for their object, not so much the spiritual regeneration of man as
the deliverance of the world from some material calamity threatening to
overwhelm it. The generally recognized principal Avatars do not, however, by any
means constitute the only occasions of a direct intercession of the deity in
worldly affairs, butin the same way as to this day the eclipses of the sun and
moon are ascribed by the ordinary Hindu to these luminaries being temporarily
swallowed by the dragon Rahu (or Graha, the seizer )so any uncommon occurrence
would be apt to be set down as a special manifestation of divine power; and any
man credited with exceptional merit or achievement, or even remarkable for some
strange incident connected with his life or death, might ultimately come to be
looked upon as a veritable incarnation of the deity, capable of influencing the
destinies of man, and might become an object of local adoration or superstitious
awe and propitiatory rites to multitudes of people:
That the transmigration theory, which makes the spirit of the departed hover
about for a time in quest of a new corporeal abode, would naturally lend itself
to superstitious notions of this kind can scarcely be doubted. Of peculiar
importance in this respect is the worship of the Pitris ( fathers ) or deceased
ancestors, as entering largely into the everyday life and family relations of
the Hindus. At stated intervals to offer reverential homage and oblations of
food to the forefathers up to the third degree is one of the most sacred duties
the devout Hindu has to discharge. The periodical performance of the
commemorative rite of obsequies called Sraddhai.e. an oblation made in faith
(sradd/ia, Lat. credo)is the duty and privilege of the eldest son of the
deceased, or, failing him, of the nearest relative who thereby establishes his
right as next of kin in respect of inheritance; and those other relatives who
have the right to take part in the ceremony are called sapinda, i.e. sharing in
the pindas (or balls of cooked rice, constituting along with libations of water
the usual offering to the Manes)such relationship being held a bar to
intermarriage. The first Sraddha takes place as soon as possible after the
antyeshti ( final offering ) or funeral ceremony proper, usually spread over ten
days; being afterwards repeated once a month for a year, and subsequently at
every anniversary and otherwise voluntarily on special occasions. Moreover, a
simple libation of water should be offered to the Fathers twice daily at the
morning and evening devotion called sandhya ( twilight ). It is doubtless a
sense of filial obligation coupled with sentiments of piety and reverence that
gave rise to this practice of offering gifts of food and drink to the deceased
ancestors. Hence also frequent allusion is made by poets to the anxious care
caused to the Fathers by the possibility of the living head of the family being
afflicted with failure of offspring; this dire prospect compelling them to use
but sparingly their little store of provisions, in case the supply should
shortly cease altogether. At the same time one also meets with frank avowals of
a superstitious fear lest any irregularity in the performance of the obsequial
ritei should cause the Fathers to haunt their old home and trouble the peace of
their undutiful descendant, or even prematurely draw him after them to the
Pitri-loka or world of the Fathers, supposed to be located in the southern
region. Terminating as it usually does with the feeding and feeing of a greater
or less number of Brahmans and the feasting of members of the performers own
caste, the Sraddha, especially its first performance, is often a matter of very
considerable expense; and more than ordinary benefit to the deceased is supposed
to accrue from it when it takes place at a spot of recognized sanctity, such as
one of the great places of pilgrimage like Prayaga (Allahabad, where the three
sacred rivers, Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvati, meet), Mathura, and especially Gaya
and Kasi (Benares). But indeed the tirthayatra, or pilgrimage to holy
bathing-places, is in itself considered an act of piety conferring religious
merit in proportion to the time and trouble expended upon it. The number of such
places is legion and is constantly increasing. The banks of the great rivers
such as the Ganga (Ganges), the Yamuna (Jumna), the Narbada, the Krishna
(Kistna), are studded with them, and the water of these rivers is supposed to be
imbued with the essence of sanctity capable of cleansing the pious bather of all
sin and moral taint. To follow the entire course of one of the sacred rivers
from the mouth to the source on one side and back again on the other in the
sun-wise (pradakshina) directionthat is, always keeping the stream on ones
right-hand sideis held to be a highly meritorious undertaking which it requires
years to carry through. No wonder that water from these rivers, especially the
Ganges, is sent and taken in bottles to all parts of India to be used on
occasion as healing medicine or for sacramental purposes. In Vedic times, at the
Rajasuya, or inauguration of a king, some water from the holy river Sarasvati
was mixed with the sprinkling water used for consecrating the king. Hence also
sick persons are frequently conveyed long distances to a sacred river to heal
them of their maladies; and for a dying man to breathe his last at the side of
the Ganges is devoutly believed to be the surest way of securing for him
salvation and eternal bliss.
Such probably was the belief of the ordinary Hindu two thousand years ago, and
such it remains to this day. In the light of facts such as these, who could
venture to say what the future of Hinduism is likely to be? Is the regeneration
of India to be brought about by the modern theistic movements, such as the
Brahma-samaj and Arya-samaj, as so close and sympathetic an observer of Hindu
life and thought as Sir A. Lyall seems to think? The Hindu mind, he remarks, is
essentially speculative and transcendental; it will never consent to be shut up
in the prison of sensual experience, for it has grasped and holds firmly the
central idea that all things are manifestations of some power outside phenomena.
And the tendency of contemporary religious discussion in India, so far as it can
be followed from a distance, is towards an ethical reform on the old
foundations, towards searching for some method of reconciling their Vedic
theology with the practices of religion taken as a rule of conduct and a system
of moral government. One can already discern a movement in various quarters
towards a recognition of impersonal theism, and towards fixing the teaching of
the philosophical schools upon some definitely authorized system of faith and
morals, which may satisfy a rising ethical standard, and may thus permanently
embody that tendency to substitute spiritual devotion for external forms and
caste rules which is the characteristic of the sects that have from time to time
dissented from orthodox Brabminism.


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