CURRENTLY, from April 15 to May 13, 2010 the extra month named Adhik Vaishakh has commenced and nij (normal) Vaishakh would later follow on May 14.
Lunar Solar based Hindu calendar system normally consists of 12 months. But it will have 13 months for every third year with extra month to be called Adhik, Mal or Purushottam Maas. For rare occasions it may have Kshaya (lost) month.
This foolproof calendar system has been in existence since ancient Vedic times. It has undergone certain variations due to regionalisation but the system is faultless and is inherited from Jyotish Vedanga (14th century BC). It has been standardised subsequently in Surya Siddhant by astronomers Aryabhatta (5th century), Varahmihira (6th century) and Bhaskara (12th century).
Once, Lord Narayana was immersed in meditation. Sage Narada interrupted and asked him about the reason of the extra month. The Lord replied, the 12 months complained to him that they are loaded with many sins done by the people and it has become unbearable to them. Since then Lord created the extra month (Mal Maas) to help share their one third load.
But it just happened that the people didn’t perform religious ceremonies during this intercalary month. Hence the Mal Maas itself lodged a protest with Sri Krishna about this humiliation. Sri Krishna therefore became kind enough to declare that Mal Maas is a Purushottam Maas and if anyone carries out any vrata or worship during the period it will satisfy Sri Krishna and the worship holder will achieve all kinds of happiness of healthy life, wealth and their descendents will be meritorious. The qualities of Purushottam are excellently explained in Bhagvat Gita chapter 15.
Hindu calendar system has five important parts named Panchang consisting of tithi, vasara, nakshatra, yog and karana.
Tithi duration is anticlockwise angular distance between the sun and moon as measured from the earth along the ecliptic (surveyor’s horizon). The lunar-based month is divided into 30 tithis of 120 each and the time taken by the moon for moving the angular distance is the duration of the tithi. The month has two pakshas (fortnights) shuddha or shukla (bright fortnight) and krishna or vadya (dark fortnight). The tithi names are in Sanskrit: pratipada, dwitiya, up to purnima or amavasya. The tithi in which the moon is located at the time of sunrise is to be tithi of the day.
Vasara or vara is the day of the week: ravivara up to shanivara (Sunday to Saturday). These names are brought out from that of the celestial bodies: Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn.
Nakshatras are the lunar houses or asterisms. The ecliptic is divided into 27 parts or co-ordinate axes naming ashvini, bharani up to revati. The starting nakshatra ashvini or mesha rashi is the point on the ecliptic opposite to the star chitra and the others are followed eastward accordingly. The rashis mesha up to meen (zodiac Aries to Pisces) are also axes of reference for locating celestial bodies appearing in ecliptic. One rashi is equivalent to 2.25 nakshatras. The nakshatra in which the moon located at the sunrise time is the nakshatra of the day.
Yog of any object in the sky is the sum of the longitudes (angular distance measured from mesha) of the Sun and the Moon. The yog that is active at the sunrise time is the yog for the day.
Karana is half of tithi distance. The karana active during the sunrise time is the karana of the day.
Months of the system: When a new moon occurs before sunrise on a day, the day is reckoned as the first day of the lunar month. The month may have 29 or 30 days. Sometimes two successive days have the same tithi or sometimes a day may jump into the next tithi because earlier tithi may have missed the sunrise. Normally the Sun transits one rashi for any month during the lunar year and in such cases the year has 12 months named as chaitra, vaishakh up to falgun.
Extra Month: When the sun doesn’t transit into any rashi, the month is considered as an extra or adhik and is named according to the upcoming transit. Such phenomena occurs every third year and that year will have 13 months. The Adhik Maas is generally out of chaitra to kartik and falgun.
Lost Month: When the sun transits two rashis during a particular month, it is labelled as kshaya (lost) month and will be named along with two separate months just as kartika-Margashirsha Kshaya Maas. Kshaya maas is out of Kartik, Margashirsha, and Pausha only. The lost month phenomena takes place rarely and there may be two Adhik Maasas before and after Kshaya Maas.
Although usual religious functions are not held during the Adhik Maas but it is considered important for a very special ritualistic donation.
During the month, 33 Anarse (sweet porous pancakes) are filled in a box of copper or pewter and wrapped seven times with a cotton thread, offered to the son-in-law or to any honourable.
A religious book on Lord Narayana is to be repeatedly perused during the month and offered to any ascetic or to any religious eminent institute at the end of the month.
Thus one shouldn’t miss such grandeur opportunity to acquire Punya (merits) during the Purushottam Maas.
(The author is a former ‘Project Management Consultant’ for local and abroad civil construction activities. He can be contacted at ’11, Sameepan, Bamanwada, Sahar, Vile Parle (E), Mumbai 400 099’, E-mail: [email protected].)