The ancient Hindu seers have had a comprehensive study of time. The minute details covered by those fantastic minds in reckoning time is bewildering. The Hindu calender is based on the age of Bramha, the Creator. The life span of Creator Lord Bramha is 100 years. His age now is 51 years. Each day of Lord Bramha is designated by a Kalpa. Each Kalpa comprise of 14 Manus and each Manu consist of 71 Mahayuga. 1000 such Mahayugs completes Lord Bramha's 1 day. At present, we are in the 28th Mahayug.
One Mahayuga comprises of :
1. Krutayug = (432,000 X 4) years
2. Tretayug = (432,000 X 3) years
3. Dwaparyug = (432,000 X 2) years
4. Kaliyug = (432,000 X 1) years
We are passing the Kaliyug today, which started in the year 3102 B.C.
The Yugas are further sub-divided into 60 year cycles. The current cycle began on March 30, 1987 and will end in April 2047. Each year (called the Samvatsar, Shaka or Samvat), normally consists of the 12 months except when there is a Adhik Maas (Additional Month).
The religious ritualistic activities are mainly based on the Lunar Calender.
However, some regions of Bharat follow the Solar Calender.
The Lunar Calender
Each month consists of 29 to 30 days, and is based on the phases of the moon. Each month is divided into two fortnights (paksha). Shukla Paksha (Sudi) ends with a Poornimaa (full moon), and Krushna Paksha (Vaadi) ends with a Amaavasyaa (New Moon). In some regions, (eg., Uttar Pradesh) the month starts with Krushna Paksha following Poornimaa, but for most regions of Bharat, the month starts with Shukla Paksha following Amaavasya.
The twelve months of the lunar year correspond to the following calender months and make up the six seasons (Rutu) :
2.Vaishakh (April-May) ............... Vasanta Rutu (Spring)
4.Aashaadh (June-July) ............... Greeshma (Summer)
6.Bhadrapad (August-September) ......... Varsha (Monsoon)
8.Kaartik (October-November) ......... Sharad (Autumn)
10.Paush (December-January) ......... Hemanta (Winter)
12.Phalgun (February-March) ........... Shishira (Dewey)
Adhika (Purushottam) Maas
Since the calender is based on the phases of the moon, the twelve as above take 354 days, 8 hours and 34.28 seconds. This creates a difference of 10 days, 21 hours and 35.16 seconds from the actual solar year (365 days, 6 hours, 9.54 seconds)
When the accumulated difference exceeds 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 2.865 seconds, an adjustment id made with a extra month (Adhika Maas), which carries the name of the previous or the next month, depending on the proximity of the month. Normally, seven extra months occur in 19 years.
The Shalivahan Shaka is based on the lunar calender and the new year starts with Chaitra Maas (Shukla Paksha). The current year (1914) started on April 2, 1992. This calender is believed to have been initiated by King Shalivahan in the year 78 A.D.
The Vikram Era started with Raja Vikramaditya of Ujjain, following his victory over the Saka in 56 B.C. The new year begins with the first day of Kartik following Deepawali Amaavasya. The current Vikram Samvat is 2048. The Yudhisthir Shaka, which started approximately around 5500 B.C, is not very popular today.
The Solar Calender
This begins with Vernal Equinox, on or about March 21. The twelve months, known as the Saur Maas, correspond to the entry of the Sun into the signs of the Zodiac Rashi.
The Twelve Rashi (Zodiac Signs)
1.Maysha (Aries) The Ram
2.Vrushabha (Taurus) The Bull
3.Mithuna (Gemini) The Twins
4.Karka (Cancer) The Crab
5.Simha (Leo) The Lion
6.Kanya (Virgo) The Maiden
7.Tula (Libra) The Scales
8.Vrushchika (Scorpio) The Scorpion
9.Dhanu (Saggitarius) The Bow
10.Makar (Capricon) The Crab
11.Kumbha (Aquarius) The Pot
12.Meena (Pisces) The Fish
The first month of the lunar calender, Chaitra, corresponds to the solar month Maysha. Maysha begins on or close to 12th day of April, and this day is celebrated as the New Year Day known as Vaishakhi or Yugadhi. Makar Sankranta, which corresponds to the entry of the Sun into Makar Rashi, occurs on January 14 every year.