Panchangam and the Next Festival Date

Panchangam is the Hindu calendar. In what aspects does it vary from the 'english' calendar? We will explore time spans that go into it.

The Sun and the Moon are the most prominent entities in the sky. So, it is natural to track time by following their positions.

Each Panchanga tradition uses Moon and Sun to organize time. It combines variables based on the movement of both. How much of the Lunar and Solar parameters that get used, varies from tradition to tradition.

Panchangam or Panchanga or Panchang?

Panchanga is the Sanskrit word. The southern traditions added an "m" sound at the end, to get Panchangam. So, we have Telugu Panchangam, Tamil Panchangam.

The northern traditions removed the final "a" sound, to use Panchang. We then have Hindi Panchang, Gujarati Panchang

Lunar and Solar

map of India with regions following Sauramaana (solar) calendarAssamese, Bengali, Odiya, Tamil, Malayalam, Haryanvi, Punjabi regions (in brown) use the Sauramaana (solar) calendar. Rest follow the Chaandramaana (lunisolar)

Assamese, Bengali, Odiya, Tamil, Malayalam, Haryanvi, Punjabi traditions use the Sun as the primary entity for day to day usage (called the Sauramaana calendar). However, they use the Moon attributes for majority of the festivals.

Most of the traditions use the Moon as the primary time marker with a provision to sync with the Solar cycle. These traditions are said to use the Chaandramaana calendar.

Panchanga vs 'English' Calendar

I grew up being exposed to two calendars. One was the 'English' calendar.

That's the term we used to denote the Gregorian calendar. The calendar we use in our daily life.

The other was the Panchangam. (Tamil) Pambu Panchangam, to be precise.

My mother would refer to it, to find:

Following the two calendars, it was interesting to note that the (Tamil) New Year starts on Apr 13 or 14.

Then, I heard a calendar story. That made me wonder - the two calendars must have been the same at some point in the past.

The story was about a French king changing the New Year start from around April to 1 January. So, April was the New Year start for some of the European traditions too.

Differences between the two calendars:

Sauramaana Calendar

Gregorian Calendar

Year Start

Sun enters Mesha Rashi (13/14 Apr)

1 January

Days in Month

Time Sun crosses a Rashi(28-32 days)

Fixed for each month (Jan 31, Feb 28, ...)

Day Starts at

Sun rise

12 midnight

Day divided into

60 ghati/ naadi

24 hours

Time Elements

Panchanga implies an annual calendar, the year being part of the larger kali yuga and shashti samvatsara (60 year cycle).

Each year is divided into two halves - uttarayana and dakshinayana. Each year is also divided into six ritu (season) and twelve maasa (month).

Then we have variables that change daily.

Five Parameters

Panchang has come to mean the calendar as a whole. However, Panchanga literally means five parameters.

The five parameters that change on a daily basis. Those five are:

Depends on Sun/Moon

What is it ?

Both

Moon phase

Vaara

Sun

Day of the week

Nakshatra

Moon

Moon position

Yoga

Both

Moon & Sun angle

Karana

Both

Half of Tithi

Variations in each traditional calendar hinge on the mix. The mix that results from picking some variables that depend on the Moon. And some from that of the Sun.

This constitutes the Panchanga (or Panchang or Panchangam).

› Panchangam

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