Hinduism Calendar
by
Klaus Klostermaier
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0149

Introduction

The Indian name of the Hindu calendar is Pañcāngam (“five limbs”). It is of utmost practical importance for Hindus to determine the right time for the performance of vratas (vows) and the celebration of utsavas (feasts) and in order to find the proper times for religious rituals, upanayana (initiation), and marriage. The traditional Hindu calendar is lunar-solar. While the months (māsa) are defined by the moon-cycles, the beginning of the year (varşa) is fixed by either the solar spring––or fall––equinox. The difference between the year of twelve lunar months and the solar year (amounting to roughly 10.87 days every year) is made up by inserting an intercalary month every third year: the so-called ādhika māsa (additional month). At the time of India’s independence in 1947 about thirty different calendars were in use in India. To eliminate the confusion caused by the great variety of traditional calendars and to correlate the Indian calendar with the Gregorian, the government of India established in 1952 a Calendar Commission, which recommended the introduction of a “Reformed Indian Calendar,” valid for the whole of India for official purposes. It became effective with the spring equinox, 22 March 1957, which became New Year’s Day: Chaitra 1, 1879 Śaka era. The Reformed Indian Calendar unlinks the Indian months (whose old names have been preserved) from the moon phases and approximates the length of each month to those of the Gregorian calendar. In light of the great practical importance of the issue, a great many works deal with the calendar or some of its parts.

General Overviews

Since the calendar is of great public as well as personal relevance the Government of India provides every year official Pañcāngas. So do academic institutions like the Benares Hindu University. Akshay 2008 makes relevant calendric information for several regions in India available on the Internet. Chakravarty and Chatterjee 1985 summarize pre-1958 Indian calendars. Chatterjee 1988 discusses the background to the establishment of the official Indian calendar. The Drik Pancang allows Hindus living in the United States to find the correct time for the performance of rituals. Kane 1936–1982 is a universal source for everything connected with Hindu law including rituals and the time to perform these.

  • Akshay, Regulagedda. Pancanga-Tantra: “The Magic of the Indian Calendar System.” 2d ed. Singapore: University of Singapore, 2008.

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    A study and explanation of the workings of the Pañcānga, available on the Internet, dealing with a number of calendars used in different regions of India. Provides useful information on some practical issues such as decision on the days for the celebration of festivals.

  • Benares Hindu University. Viśva Pañcāngam (Universal Calendar)

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    In Hindi. This is a yearly calendar with ample astronomical/astrological information.

  • Chakravarty, Apurba Kumar, and Susil Kumar Chatterjee. “Indian Calendar from Post-Vedic Period to AD 1900.” In History of Astronomy in India. Edited by S. N. Sen and K. S. Shukla, 252–307. New Delhi: Indian National Science Academy, 1985.

    E-mail Citation »

    A survey of the history of the Indian calendar before the Calender Reform.

  • Chatterjee, Susil Kumar. Indian Calendric System, Publications Division Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Delhi: Government of India, 1988.

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    Informative study of the Indian calendar. It goes into the background of regional historic calendars and provides specimens of various local calendars.

  • Drik Panchang.

    E-mail Citation »

    This website (under the words Drik Pancang) offers ample astronomical/astrological detail relevant for the performance of Hindu rituals in the United States.

  • Kane, Pandurang Vaman. History of Dharmaśāstra. Poona, India: BORI, 1936–1982.

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    A monumental work: dealing with practically all aspects of traditional Hindu dharma. Vol. 5 (1958) offers in Section 1 an extensive background to the calendric aspects of Hindu religious festivals and vows. Section 2 describes the influence of astronomy/astrology on Dharmaśāstra and the calendar. It also gives a long list of Hindu vows and festivities, for whose correct performance the traditional Pañcāngam is indispensable.

  • The Indian Central Government. Rastriya Pancang (National Calendar).

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    Provides detailed astronomical information in connection with religious festivals but it has not been universally accepted by Hindus who prefer to follow Pañcāngas published by major religious centers, because it leaves many dates for the celebration of important festivals open. In English and in a variety of Indian languages. Obtainable through The Manager of Publications, Civil Lines, Delhi-6 and Government of India Kitab Mahal, Janpath, New Delhi.

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