Pahar (Hindi/Nepali: पहर, پہر), which is more commonly pronounced peher, is a traditional unit of time used in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. One pahar nominally equals three hours, and there are eight pahars in a day. In India, the measure is primarily used in North India and Urdu speaking communities throughout the Deccan in Southern India.
Pahar/pehar/peher is derived from Sanskrit word prahar which is an ancient unit of time in India.
Traditionally, night and day were each allocated four pahars, or "watches." The first pahar of the day (or din pahar) was timed to begin at sunrise, and the first pahar of the night (raat pahar) was timed to begin at sunset.
This meant that in the winter the daytime pahars were shorter than the nighttime pahars, and the opposite was true in summer. The pahars were exactly equal on the equinoxes. Thus, the length of the traditional pahar varied from about 2.5 hours to 3.5 hours in the Indo-Gangetic plains.
Each pahar of a 24-hour day-night cycle has a specific name and number. The first pahar of the day, known as pehla pahar (Hindustani: pehla, meaning first), corresponds to the early morning. The second pahar is called do-pahar (Hindustani: do, meaning second). In the common speech of North India, Pakistan and Nepal, dopahar (दोपहर or دوپہر) has come to be the generic term for afternoon or midday. The third pahar is called seh pahar (Persian:seh, meaning three) and has generically come to mean evening, though the term is less commonly used than shaam.
The poet-saint Kabir mentions pahar in one of his dohas:
पाँच पहर धंधे गया, तीन पहर गया सोय ।
एक पहर हरि नाम बिन, मुक्ति कैसे होय ॥
[You] went to work for five pahars, slept for the remaining three pahars. How will you attain salvation without chanting the names of Lord Hari for at least one pahar?
- Susan Snow Wadley (2005), Essays on North Indian folk traditions, Orient Blackswan, ISBN 81-8028-016-0,
... pahar (period of three hours) ...
- Amir Khusro Dihlavi, Mir Amman (1882), Bāgh-o-bahār; or, Tales of the four darweshes, W.H. Allen,
... pahars, or watches, of which the second terminated at noon; hence, do-pahar-din, mid-day ... do-pahar-rat, midnight ... in the north of India, the pahar must have varied from three and a-half hours about the summer solstice, to two and a-half in winter, the pahars of the night varying inversely ...
- J. Wilson (Settlement Officer) (1883), Final report on the revision of settlement of the Sirsa district in the Punjab,
... they vary in length at different times of the year, but at the equinox the pahars of the day and night are equal, each being three hours long. In traditional Hindu society(as in of time when Sanatan Dharma was only major religion in Indian Subcontinent), each prahar was associated with certain task or Karma, which were to be finished in that prahar only. Each varna had specified karma in which at least one prahar(mostly first or last day prahar) was dedicated to sadhna(God worship). Dopahar means midday; pahar din raha=3 PM; pahar rat gai=9 PM; pahar din charha=9 AM ...
- Arvind Kumar, Kusum Kumar (2006), अरविंद सहज समांतर कोश: शब्दकोश भी-थिसारस भी (Arvind Basic Dictionary and Thesaurus), Rajkamal Prakashan Pvt Ltd, ISBN 81-267-1103-5,
... पहला पहर = प्रातःकाल ...
- T. Warren, A shorter English-Nepali dictionary, Asian Educational Services, 1988, ISBN 978-81-206-0304-2,
... midday dopahar दोपहर् ...
- Richard Delacy (1998), Hindi & Urdu phrasebook, Lonely Planet, ISBN 0-86442-425-6,
... kal seh pahar ko : yesterday evening ...