Hindu Calendar

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Hindu  calendar is a collective name for most of the luni-sidereal calendars and sidereal calendars traditionally used in Hinduism.

The Hindu calendars have undergone many changes in the process of regionalisation. Some of the more prominent national and regional Hindu calendars include the official Nepali calendar in the himalayan country Nepal and in India Punjabi calendar, Bengali calendar, Odia calendar, Malayalam calendar, Kannada panchanga, Tulu calendar, Tamil calendar, Vikrama Samvat and Shalivahana calendar in the Deccan states of  Karnataka , Telangana,  Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

The common feature of many regional Hindu calendars is that the names of the twelve months are the same (because the names are based in Sanskrit). However, the month which starts the year also varies from region to region.

Most of the Hindu calendars derived from Gupta era astronomy as developed by Āryabhaṭa and Varāhamihira in the 5th to 6th century. These in turn were based on the astronomical tradition of Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa.

Regional diversification took place in the medieval period. The astronomical foundations were further developed in the medieval period, notably by Bhāskara II (12th century). The Indian national calendar or “Saka calendar” was introduced in 1957 based on the traditional Hindu calendars.

The following is a general overview of the Hindu lunisolar calendar.


In the Hindu calendar, the day is the time between the sunrises. There’re five “concepts” (aṅgas). They are :

1) The Phase/Tithi

It refers to 1/30 synodic month, which coresponding to 12° longitudinal angle between the Moon and the Sun. Phase/Tithi varys from approximately 19 to approximately 26 hours. The phase decides the date of the day from the sunrise in the phase. If the there’re two sunrise in a phase, the second day is an extra day. If there’s no sunrise in a phase, the phase is a vancant date.

2) The Weekday/Vasara 

Vasara refers to the weekdays and the names of the week in many western cultures bear striking similarities with the Vāsara. The term vasara is often realised as vara or vaar in Sanskrit-derived and influenced languages. There are many variations of the names in the regional languages, mostly using alternate names of the celestial bodies involved.

Sanskrit Name : Ravivasara or Bhanu vasara
Hindi Name : Ravivār
English Name : Sunday
Celestial Body : Ravi, Aditya = Sun

Sanskrit Name : Maṅgalavāsara
Hindi Name : Mangalavar
English Name : Tuesday
Celestial Body : Mangala = Mars

Sanskrit Name : Somavāsara
Hindi Name : Somavar
English Name : Monday
Celestial Body : Soa = Moon

Sanskrit Name : Budhavasara
Hindi Name : Budhavar
English Name : Wednesday
Celestial Body : Budha = Mercury

Sanskrit Name : Brihaspativasara or Guruvasara
Hindi Name : Guruvar
English Name : Thursday
Celestial Body : Deva- Guru Brihaspati = Venus

Sanskrit Name : Sukravasara
Hindi Name : Sukravar
English Name : Friday
Celestial Body : Sukra = Venus

Sanskrit Name : Śanivāsara
Hindi Name : Sanivar
English Name : Saturday
Celestial Body : Sani = Saturn

3) The mansion/ Nakṣatra

The ecliptic is divided into 27 Nakṣatras, which are variously called lunar houses orasterisms. These reflect the moon’s cycle against the fixed stars, 27 days and 7¾ hours, the fractional part being compensated for by an intercalary 28th nakṣatra titled Abhijit. Nakṣatra’s computation appears to have been well known at the time of the Rigveda (2nd–1st millennium BC).The nakṣatras are not just single stars but are segments on the ecliptic characterised by one or more stars.

4) The Yoga (1/27 synodic month)

The Sanskrit word Yoga means “union”, but in astronomical calculations it is used in the sense of “alignment”. First one computes the angular distance along the ecliptic of each object, taking the ecliptic to start at Meṣa or Aries (Meṣādi, as defined above): this is called the longitude of that object. The longitude of the sun and the longitude of the moon are added, and normalised to a value ranging between 0° to 360° (if greater than 360, one subtracts 360). This sum is divided into 27 parts. Each part will now equal 800′ (where ‘ is the symbol of the arcminute which means 1/60 of a degree). These parts are called the yoga. The yoga that is active during sunrise of a day is the prevailing yoga for the day.

5) The half phase, Karaṇa (1/60 synodic month)

A karaṇa is half of a tithi. To be precise, a karaṇa is the time required for the angular distance between the sun and the moon to increase in steps of 6° starting from 0°.

Since the tithis are 30 in number, and since 1 tithi = 2 karaṇas, therefore one would logically expect there to be 60 karaṇas. But there are only 11 such karaṇas which fill up those slots to accommodate for those 30 tithis. There are actually 4 “fixed” (sthira) karaṇas and 7 “repeating” (cara) karaṇas.

The 4 fixed karanas are : –

  • Śakuni
  • Catuṣpāda
  • Nāga
  • Kiṃstughna

The 7 “repeating” karaṇas are : –

  • Vava or Bava
  • Valava or Bālava
  • Kaulava
  • Taitila or Taitula
  • Gara or Garaja
  • Vaṇija
  • Viṣṭi (Bhadra)

Now the first half of the 1st tithi (of Śukla Pakṣa) is always Kiṃtughna karaṇa. Hence this karaṇa’ is “fixed”.

Next, the 7-repeating karaṇas repeat eight times to cover the next 56 half-tithis. Thus these are the “repeating” (cara) karaṇas. The 3 remaining half-tithis take the remaining “fixed” karaṇas in order.

Thus these are also “fixed” (sthira) and one gets 60 karaṇas from those 11 preset karaṇas.

The Vedic day begins at sunrise. The karaṇa at sunrise of a particular day shall be the prevailing karaṇa for the whole day. Together 5 limbs or properties are labelled under as the pañchāṅgas.

Hindu Month/Zodiac

The astronomical basis of the Hindu lunar day. Also illustrates Kshaya Tithi (Vaishaka-Krishna-Chaturdashi (i.e. 14th)) and Adhika Tithi (Jyeshta- Shukla-Dashami(i.e. 10th)) There are two traditions being followed with respect to the start of the month. Amavasyant (Amanta) tradition followed mainly in the western and southern states of India (namelyAndhra Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka,Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu) considers a new moon occurring before sunrise on a day to be the first day of the lunar month. Purnimant tradition, on the other hand, considers the next day of a full moon to be the first day of the lunar month. This tradition is chiefly followed in the northern and eastern states of India (Bihar, Himachal Pradesh,Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh). Having the two active traditions in practice would also mean that while the month names of the Hindu lunar calendar remains the same, there is on an average 15 days’ difference in starting and ending of the month between the two traditions. This has its effects in the dates of recurring annual events such as the holy month of Śrāvaṇa.

A month contains two halves(pakṣas), the waxing half and the waning half. Each half is 15 phases long. There are two different systems for making the lunar calendar :

Amāvāsyanta or mukhya mana system – a month begins with a new moon and ends at new moon(the waning half follows the waxing half), mostly followed in south India.

Pūrṇimānta or gauna mana system – a month begins with a full moon and ends at full moon(the waxing half follows the waning half), followed more in north India. Pūrṇimānta is also known as Śuklānta Māsa and this system is recommended byVarāhamihira.

The zodiac decides the number of the month which the zodiac enters. If there’s no zodiac enters a month, the month is an extra month. If there’re two zodiacs enter a month, the second zodiac decides a vacant month.

Hindu Month Names

There are 12 months in Hindu lunar calendar :

  • Chaitra
  • Vaiśākha
  • Jyeṣṭha
  • Āṣāḍha
  • Śrāvaṇa
  • Bhādrapada, Bhādra or Proṣṭhapada
  • Ashvin
  • Kārtika
  • Agrahāyaṇa, Mārgaśīrṣa
  • Pauṣa
  • Māgha
  • Phālguna

Names of months are interesting. It depends on the aster-ism name, the moon is in at full moon day of the month. for e.g. Chaitra month is when full moon is in Citrā nakṣatra , Ashvin month is when full moon is in Aśvinī nakṣatra.

There are 12 rāśi names, there are twelve lunar month names. When the sun transits into the Meṣa rāśi in a lunar month, then the name of the lunar month is Chaitra which has both Mīna rāśi and Meṣa rāśi . When the sun transits into Vṛṣabha rāśi, then the lunar month is Vaiśākha which has both Meṣa rāśi and Vṛṣabha rāśi.

Seasons in Hindu Calendar

If the transits of the Sun through various constellations of the zodiac (Rāśi) are used, then we get solar months, which do not shift with reference to the Gregorian calendar.

The Sanskrit derivation of the lunar month names Chaitra etc. is seen for example in the (lunar) month which has its central full moon occurring at or near the Citrā nakṣatra. This month is, hence, called Chaitra.

Another example is when Pūrṇimā occurs in or near Viśākha nakṣatra, this in turn results in the initiation of the lunar month titled Vaiśākha Māsa.

Similarly, for the nakṣatras Viśākha, Jyeṣṭhā,(Pūrva) Āṣāḍhā, Śravaṇa, Bhādrapadā, Aśvinī, Kṛttikā, Mṛgaśiras, Puṣya, Meghā and (Pūrva/Uttara) Phalguṇī, the names Vaiśākha etc. at pūrṇimā, the other lunar names are derived subsequently.

Adhika Māsa in Hindu Calendar

When the sun does not at all transit into anyrāśi but simply keeps moving within a rāśi in a lunar month (i.e. before a new moon), then that lunar month will be named according to the first upcoming transit. It will also take the epithet of adhika or “extra”. For example, if a lunar month elapsed without a solar transit and the next transit is into Meṣa, then this month without transit is labelled Adhika Chaitra Māsa. The next month will be labelled according to its transit as usual and will get the epithet nija (“original”) or Śuddha(“unmixed”). In the animation above, Year 2 illustrates this concept with Bhadrapada repeating; the first time the Sun stays entirely within Simha rashi thus resulting in an Adhika Bhadrapada.

Extra Month, or adhika māsa (māsa = lunar month in this context) is also known as puruśottama māsa, it is said that the name has been given by Lord Vishnu as his name to this month.

This is been done for bridging of the lunar and solar calendars. Twelve Hindu mas (māsa) are equal to approximately 354 days, while the sun passes through the sidereal zodiac in 365 1/4 days. This creates a difference of about eleven days, which is offset every (29.53/10.63) = 2.71 years, or approximately every 32.5 months. No adhika māsa falls during Kārtika to Māgh.

A month-long fair is celebrated in Machhegaun during adhika māsa. It is general belief that one can wash away all one’s sins by taking a bath in the Machhenarayan’s pond.

Kṣaya Māsa in Hindu Calendar

If the sun transits into two rāshis within a lunar month, then the month will have to be labelled by both transits and will take the epithet kṣaya or “loss”. There is considered to be a “loss” because in this case, there is only one month labelled by both transits. If the sun had transited into only one raashi in a lunar month as is usual, there would have been two separate months labelled by the two transits in question.

For example, if the sun transits into Meṣa and Vṛṣabha in a lunar month, then it will be called Chaitra-Vaiśākha kṣaya-māsa. There will be no separate months labelled Chaitra andVaiśākha.

A Kṣaya-Māsa occurs very rarely. Known gaps between occurrence of Kṣaya-Māsas are 19 and 141 years. The last was in 1983. 15 January through 12 February were Pauṣa-Māgha kṣaya-māsa. February onwards was (Adhika) Phālguna.

  • Special Case:

If there is no solar transit in one lunar month but there are two transits in the next lunar month, the first month will be labelled by the first transit of the second month and take the epithet Adhika andthe next month will be labelled by both its transits as is usual for a Kṣaya-Māsa. This is a very very rare occurrence. The last was in 1315.

8 October to 5 November were Kārtika Adhika-Māsa.

6 November to 5 December were Kārtika-Mārgaśīrṣa Kṣaya-Māsa.

6 December onwards was Pauṣa.