Reasons to follow a lunar calendar
In the Vaisnava calendar the times for various celebrations are determined by the tithi, sometimes with naksatra and other elements of the calendar taken into account.
Most scholars who have analyzed the old Indian calendar systems, both lunar and solar, have concluded that the lunar system is the more ancient.
The lunar phases are known to influence agriculture, and according to scriptures like Manu-samhita (The Law of Manu) they also influence more subtle aspects of human life.
Traditional and modern methods of calculation
Traditionally the astronomical calculations needed to make a Pancanga were done according to one of the astronomical texts such as Surya Siddhanta. The methods described in Surya Siddhanta are basically quite similar to modern astronomical methods for ascertaining the positions of the planets. The main difference is that Surya Siddhanta has a simpler model. Such a model is needed if the calculations are to be done by hand in a practical way.
All that was needed were some observatory instruments that could be built without a high technology. These instruments were used regularly to check that the calculations tallied with observable reality. When a difference appeared after some time, corrections were made to the astronomical constants in the formulas. With this system, fairly good results were obtainable even though the astronomical model was simple. Its accuracy cannot be compared to that obtained by modern methods, but for the purpose of astrology and creation of calendars it sufficed.
Currently a computer program is used to provide formulas that give an accuracy of 1 minute of arc for the longitude of the sun and 2 minutes of arc for the longitude of the moon. When determining ending times of tithis these errors can result in a maximum error of 5 minutes of time. The average error is about 3 minutes. Such an error will report an Ekadasi (the eleventh tithi) on the wrong date roughly once every 20 years.
Names of years and months
Following Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition, the years are counted from the appearance of Krishna's incarnation as Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Lord Caitanya is also known as Gaura, so the year is called "Gaurabda," "the year of Lord Caitanya."
Each month, or "masa," is known by a name of Visnu. The months, the Sanskrit names by which they are commonly known in India, and their rough equivalents according to the Gregorian calendar are listed as follows:
|Presiding Deity||Month name||Period|
- When to observe Ekadasi
Ekadasi, the eleventh tithi, has special importance. In the scripture Caitanya-caritamrta (Madhya-lila, chapter 24), Caitanya Mahaprabhu instructs Sanatana Goswami regarding the Vaisnava regulative principles. In text 342 Lord Caitanya says:
"You should recommend the avoidance of mixed [viddha] Ekadasi
and the performance of pure Ekadasi. You should also describe the fault in not observing this. One should be very careful as far as these items are concerned. If one is not careful, one will be negligent in executing devotional service."
As described in Hari Bhakti Vilasa, viddha (mixed) Ekadasi takes place when the eleventh tithi starts before sunrise but the tenth tithi still presides at the beginning of brahma muhurta (the auspicious period that starts an hour and a half before sunrise).
On Ekadasi it is traditional to fast. But under certain conditions, called mahadvadasi, one fasts not on the Ekadasi but on the next day, the dvadasi, even though the Ekadasi is suddha, or pure, and not viddha, or mixed. There are eight mahadvadasis.
The calendars produced by this program make it easy to see when to observe Ekadasi. The Ekadasi fast should be observed on the day called suddha (pure) Ekadasi, or alternatively on Mahadvadasi, even if the previous day is called Ekadasi. All this is clarified by the asterisk (*), which indicates a fast, at the right margin of the printed computer generated calendar.
"Break fast 05:18 - 09:34" and "Daylight-savings not considered"
To complete the proper observance of Ekadasi, the next morning one should end the fast after the first time given in the calendar and before the second time. The calendar gives these times according to the standard time of the place for which the calendar is made.
During the summer, many locations do not follow standard time, but instead move their clocks an hour ahead (or sometimes more) to make more use of the hours of daylight.
Links and terminology
- "Vaishnava Calendar-glossary and terminology". www.salagram.net. Retrieved 2008-05-17.
- "iskcon.com - Culture - International Calendar Download". www.iskcon.com. Retrieved 2008-05-17.[dead link]
- "ISKCON GBC - Vaisnava Calendars.". vcal.iskcongbc.org. Retrieved 2008-05-17.
- Vaishnava Calendar Online
- "Vaisnava Calendar Reminder Services - Vaishnava Calendar Information Service". www.vaisnavacalendar.info.