What is the Hindu Calendar (Vikram Samvat)

In most of the world people follow English Calendar system also known as Georgian Calendar. However in India, we follow both English as well as Hindu calendar which is a lunisolar calendar i.e. the dates are based on the moon phase and the time of the solar year. This calendar is known as Vikram Samvat Calendar where Vikram is the name of the king and samvat means year. Vikram Samvant calendar was established in the Vikram Era in 57 BC by Emperor Vikramaditya hence known as Vikram Samvant. Vikram Samvat Calendar is around 56-year ahead of Georgian calendar. This means if we are in the year 2015 as per Georgian Calendar, it will be 2015+56= year 2071 in the Vikram Samvat calendar. Vikram Samvat calendar starts with the first day after the new moon in the month of Chaitra (usually in March/April in English calendar).

This calendar is divided into 12 lunar months, each consisting 29 days 12 hours 44 minutes and 3 seconds. All together a lunar year of 354 days, 8 hours, 48 minutes and 36 seconds. To fix the lunar months into the solar year( because 60 solar months = 62 lunar months) there is a practice of adding an extra month which is called Adhik Mahino or Purushottam maas at interval of 30 months.

A month in the Hindu calendar is calculated from the day after full moon to full moon (Pratipada tithi after Purnima to Purnima). Its month name is taken from Sanskrit which is based on the twelve astrological rashis. Most Indian holidays are based on the Vikram Samvat calendar.

Names of the Hindu months and their correlation with the Gregorian calendar

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Each date in the Hindu calendar is divided into five elements:

  • Tithi (date)
  • Vāra (weekdays)
  • Nakṣatra (27 constellations)
  • Yoga (union)
  • Karaṇa (half of a tithi)

Each Hindu month is divided into two 15 days i.e Kṛiṣṇa-Pakṣa (dark half) & Śukla-Pakṣa (light half). Fifteenth day of krisna paksa is called Amavas, and fifteenth day of shukla paksha is called Poornima.

Some more information about the months:

  • Chaitra: It is the first month of the year. It is associated with the festivals like Holi, Ram Navami, Hanuman Jayanti.
  • Vaiśākha: The harvest festival of Baisakhi, Vaisakha Purnima, and Buddha Purnima is celebrated in this month.
  • Asadha: Guru Purnima and Shayani Ekadashi is celebrated in this month.
  • Sravana: This is the most auspicious month in the Hindu calendar when major festivals of Krishna Janmashtami, Raksha Bandhan, Nag Panchami, Shravani Mela Kanwar Yatra is celebrated.
  • Bhādrapada or Bhādra also Proṣṭhapada: Anant Chaturdashi is observed in this month.
  • Asvina: This is another big Hindu month when big festivals of Durga Puja, Dasehra and Divali are celebrated.
  • Kartika: Kartik Poornima, birth of the Sikh Guru Nanak Guru Nanak Jayanti.
  • Pausa: The harvest festival of Pongal/Makar Sankranti is celebrated on this month.
  • Magha: Vasant Panchami, Saraswati Puja, marking the start of spring and the Holi season.
  • Phalguna: Holi, marking the end of the winter season.

Gautam Trehan

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