Introduction to the Hindu Panchangam

A simple explanation of our panchangam
and how it was developed by Hindu monks

The characteristics of the planets and the stars and their effects are real and dramatic. We experience the effects of the changes and movements of celestial bodies, just as the tides are influenced by the gravitational attraction of the moon and the sun. We sense seasonal changes. We respond to the influence of the massive planet Jupiter as it passes through its 12-year cycle, though we may not be aware of it. Over a dozen factors, each of which moves in cycles through the year, month or day, are designated in this Hindu Calendar. Many are easy for the novice to understand and immediately incorporate as planning factors, just as one considers the weather before selecting a wardrobe for the day. Others require a bit more study and experience.

The International Hindu Calendar is no ordinary calendar or almanac. It is far more complex than the simple Gregorian calendar normally used in the West and far more useful. It is patterned after the traditional panchangams used throughout Sri Lanka and South India which employ the Nirayana (sidereal) zodiacal system. Panchanga, a Sanskrit word, means "five limbs," which refers to the fact that every panchangam includes the five basic elements of tithi (lunar day), nakshatra (the constellation the moon is aligned with), karana (half-day), yoga (a particular angle of the sun and moon) and vara or vasara (solar weekday). Panchangams furnish other astronomical information which is extensively used by astrologers, as well as the times of all forthcoming religious events. Most modern panchangams, such as the Internatinal Hindu Calendar, also include Gregorian (Western) calendar information, which has been adopted as the unified world standard.

The basic principles of both eastern and western calendars were originally conceived thousands of years ago by great masters in Hindu astronomy, a field of knowledge which they regarded as synonymous with Nirayana, or sidereal (fixed zodiac), astrology. Their plane of observation was quite different from that of modern astronomers and scientists, for they were adepts in the mystical art of yoga. They perceived the mysteries of the planets and stars from an inner perspective and brought forth several detailed astronomical texts. From these manuscripts modern Hindu calendars, such as this calendar, have evolved. Of course, inner truths are not confined to rishis of the past, and several aspects of this panchangam were unfolded in recent times by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami to assist humanity in the technological age.

This Hindu Calendar was developed over a thirty-six-year period at the secluded monastery/temple complex in Hawaii known as Kauai Aadheenam (or informally "Kauai's Hindu Monastery"), especially for use in the Kadavul Hindu Temple located there. It contains elements from a system of astrology peculiar to this monastery combined with the fundamentals of the traditional Hindu panchangam used in South India. It is also special in that it contains several mystical components not found in other panchangams.

At the Kauai monastery, the monks use the Hindu Calendar daily to plan activities and select the most suitable times for new innovations, creative work, retreats and routine activities. The top two lines in each day's designation are chanted daily in the Kadavul Hindu Temple at the start of each worship service, or puja. This chant, known as the sankalpam, informs the devas of all three worlds of the place, time and precise astrological conditions of the moment.

The study and daily use of the Hindu Calendar helps the conscientious individual to understand and monitor the prevailing forces of each day. With this knowledge, he or she is able to flow with the river of life, "creatively alive and in tune with the universe." We are all well aware of the concepts of "good timing" and "bad timing" and how at certain times everything seems to be flowing along smoothly, while at other moments things "just don't come together." The calendar provides knowledge to understand such phenomena, so that one can take advantage of auspicious moments and avoid new undertakings when the creative forces are on the wane.

If you glance through the calendar pages you will see that each day is denoted in a horizontal space bordered by a line above and below. In chapter one, "Divisions of Time," we offer an explanation of each of the many entries indicating increments of time for each day in the calendar. Chapter two, "Other Indicators," explains special listings, such as the color of the day, the gem of the day, festivals and more. Chapter Three, "Good Timing, Muhurtha," offers keys to determining the best activities on a given day and planning important events. In addition, for easy reference, at the end of chapter three you will find a chart briefly indicating the meaning of each entry used in the calendar. Most of the non-English entries are in Sanskrit. Definitions to most Sanskrit, Tamil and technical terms are given in the glossary at the back of the book.

"From tithi the stages of growth and decay, from varas the longer life, from nakshatra the seizure of bad actions, from yoga the cure of ill-health, from karana the result of the work, with all these the calendar or panchanga gives the required results."

Skanda Narayanan

The above introduction is from Vedic Hindu Calendar: The Kadavul Hindu Panchangam. To learn more about the calendar we use at our Hindu monastery in Hawaii, you can click here to download the full Introduction to the Hindu Calendar Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view and print the introduction and the calendars available below. NOTE: The files must be printed no higher than 92% on 8.5x11" paper.

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