“The study of the movements and relative positions of the celestial bodies interpreted as having an influence on human affairs and the natural world.”
The Hindu religion and prayers are based on the principles established by the Panchangam (Panchang). The Panchangam ascertains a good number of festivals and poojas. The data contained in the Panchangam provides for special pooja where observance on these days is more rewarding. If done with sanctity, faith and sincerity, the bhaktan (devotee) attains higher mental peace, health, wealth and happiness. These days for special pooja, as ascertained by the Panchangam, indicates days where the level of vibration is at its peak.
To be able to understand the Panchangam, one needs to understand the Hindu calendar system. The counting of a period of one calendar year in the Hindu calendar system is made in three different ways, namely the ‘sawramaanam’, ‘chandhramaanam’ and ‘nakshathram’.
In the sawranaanam, the calculation is done in relation to the position of the sun vis a vis the planet earth. However, under the chandhramaanam method, the calculation is done in relation to the position of the earth vis a vis the moon. The third method, Nakshathramaanam takes into account the position of the 27 stars vis a vis the earth.
According to the Sowramaanam system, the start of a month is determined by the position of the earth in relation to the Sun, whereas under the chandramaanam system, it starts after a new moon day and ends on the next moon day.
According to the Gregorian (international) calendar, a new day starts after midnight of the previous day and ends at midnight of the same day. While according to the Hindu calendar, a new day starts at sunrise and ends at the beginning of sunrise on the following day. The Gregorian calendar divides a day in 24 hours, an each hour into 60 minutes and each minutes into 60 seconds. However, the Hindu calendar divides a day into 60 ‘naazhigai’ (tamil term) and each naazhigai into 60 vinaadees. Each naazhigai is equal to 24 minutes.
So what is the significance of the panchangam? The Hindu calendar states that each day has five characteristics, synonym of these characteristics are ‘Thithi’, ‘Day’, ‘Nakshathra’, ‘Yoga’ and ‘Karanam’. When determining an auspicious day and time, these five characteristics are taken into account. The importance of these five elements of the Panchangam is considered vital in determining the following:
- Any task starting on an auspicious ‘Thithi’ brings Lakshmee Kataaksham.
- Any task starting on an auspicious ‘day’ gives long life.
- Any task starting an auspicious ‘nakshathra’ gives freedom of sin.
- Any task starting on an auspicious ‘yoga’ ensures freedom from illness, and,
- Any task starting on a good ‘karanam’ helps timely achievement of objective of the work.
The thithi relates to a period of 30 days from an Amaavasya or Pournami day to the next. Each days has an equivalent of 0.9483 days, in the same way as the lunar month is equivalent to around 29.53 days. The period of 15 days from an Amaavasya to the next Pournami (Purnima) is known as Suklapaksha, and the other period of 15 days from a Pournami to the next Amaavaasya is known as Krishnapaksha.
After a new moon period, the moon moves away from the sunray by multiples of 12 degrees. The completion of the first 12 degrees means that ‘Prathama’ ends. When it reaches a cumulated 24 degrees ‘Dwitheeya’ ends, and so it goes on. The intervening 14 days (known as thithis) are Prathama, Dwitheeya, Thriteeya, Chathurthi, Panchami, Shasti, Sapthami, Ashtami, Navami, Dhasami, Yekaadhasi, Dwaadhasi, Thrayodhasi, and Chathurdasi.
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