January 15, 2012


[So a rational mind may ask – despite having so many older chronologies, why the shortest of them, the Christian chronology has been given the status of an international calendar? Why the 21st birth centenary of a person is to be observed as the 21st century of the entire world? If a genuine thought is given to the matter, without any racial, regional, political, sectoral or religious prejudice, the Indian alone deserves the right to be treated as the calendar of the world, since  it is the oldest and based entirely astronomical science. So, it carries much more scientific sense in saying that we have entered the 52nd century of Kalyabda in 1998, than in saying that we have entered the 21st century of the Christian calendar in 2001.]                                             

Abstract:                                       Dr Radhasyam. Brahmachari[1]

Image courtesy: India Zone Net
The paper discusses the Indian concept of time (kāla) and the units of its measurement. The smallest Indian unit of time is truţi, equal to 29.6296 micro-seconds and the biggest unit is the kalpa, equal to 4.32 billion years. The present practice of measuring time, dividing a day and night into 24 equal parts called hora, is also originated in India and English word hour has been derived from Sanskrit hora. Also it is India where the practice of counting a week of 7 days and the naming of these 7 days were originated. The paper also establishes the facts that counting of lunar and solar months as well as lunar and solar years and the process of  Triennial Intercalation, to make a compromise between the lunar and the solar calendars, originated in India as early as in the days of Ŗgveda.

The next higher unit in Indian chronology is the yuga, derived from the Sanskrit word yoga, or more perfectly from sayoga, which stands for conjunction of two or more heavenly bodies. In the Hindu system of time reckoning, starting from a mere 5 year Brāhaspatya yuga to a vastly large mahāyuga of 4,320,000 years are in vogue. The biggest unit of time conceived by the Hindu astronomers is kalpa and 1000 mahāyugas or 4.32 billion years make one kalpa. One kalpa. Is the day and the following kalpa. is the night of the creator Brahmā and hence 2 kalpas, or 8.64 billion years, make 1 day and night, or 1 Brāhma Divasa and 360 Brāhma Divasas make 1 year, or a Brāhmavarşa of Brahmā. The life span of Brahmā  is 100  Brāhmavarşas or 1 parayuga. It is believed that after the completion of a parayuga, this creation, along with its entire matter, resolves into its ultimate source and a new creation begins under the supervision of a new Brahmā.

According to the Indian tradition, the age of the present Brahmā, or the age of this Universe is 155 trilion, 521 billion, 971 million, 221 thousand and 111 years. Hence the era called Sŗşābda , which begins from the beginning of the present creation, can accommodate events older than 155 trillion years. At the same time, this chronology is based firmly on astronomical science and not on mundane events like the birth of a person, or the coronation of a king, or the military success of a race over another. From this viewpoint, it seems that Hindu chronology alone deserves the right to play the role of an international calendar.

Introduction :   
According to the Indian Tradition time is Mahākāla the lord of destruction and nothing can withstand the assault of time. At the same time, time is eternal (nitya and śāśvata) and without beginning and end (anādi and ananta). The Sanskrit word for time is kāla which has been derived from kalana or motion and it implies that, time manifests itself through motion.”Kālah kalayater-gatirgamanah”, says Ācārya Yāska,[1]  the most renowned commentator of the Ŗgveda. Or, in other words, time started manifesting (mūrttah) itself making its measurements possible, as soon as motion originated. Furthermore, since motion is intimately related with matter, it implies that time started manifesting itself from the very moment matter was created, or as soon as this universe came into being. So, kālah began with the very beginning of the movements of the basic elements of the cosmic creation, which, according to Hindu tradition, occurred 155 trillion, 521 billion, 971 million, 221 thousand and 106 years ago. Thus the Ŗgveda says, “The days and nights are representing the eternal flow of creation in terms of time and they came into being on the very first day of creation” (X/190/1-2).
According to Indian view, time is an independent entity and hence should be studied as an independent branch of knowledge. That is why the originator of the Vaiśeşika school of Indian philosophy, ŗşi Kanāda says, “pŗhivyāpastejo vāyurākāsam kāla digātmā mana iti dravyāņi”, or “Knowledge of the following is a must for emancipation and these are earth (pŗthivī), hydrosphere (apah), fire (tejah), atmosphere (vāyuh), ether (ākāśam), time (kālah), space (dik) soul (ātman) and mind (manas)” (VSu: XI/15). This reflects the importance the Indian wisdom has bestowed upon the knowledge of time and hence they studied time as a separate branch of knowledge. They studied time not with respect to other earthly events but, on the contrary, they studied all earthly events with respect to eternal flow of time.
There is another concept regarding time as well. According to the seers of India, time is absolutely static and motionless. Our mind moves and hence it seems that time is moving on. So, it is said that if anyone can acquire the art of controlling mind and make it absolutely static (manolaya), time in its entirely, including past, present and future, reveals unto him. It is believed that one can attain such a state of mind through tireless practice (sādhanā) and meditation (tapasyā) and the seer is then called trikālajňa’, the knower of past, present and future.[2]
From the above discussions it becomes evident that. Indian chronology or Hindu kālagaņanā does not depend on any mundane event like the birth of a person, coronation of a king or the military success of an emperor. But it depends only on the movements of various heavenly bodies in the cosmos, or in other words, on astronomical science. Judging from this viewpoint, the Indian chronology alone is scientific since all other current chronologies are based on mundane event like the birth of a person, or the victory of a race over the other, or the rule of a particular dynasty, or running away of a man from one city to another to save his life and so on. It should be mentioned here that in the year 1999 A.D. we have just entered the 52nd century of the Indian chronology Kalyabda.

Indian Units of Time 

It has been mentioned earlier that, according to the Indian notion, time is without beginning and end and hence, any part of it we undertake to survey is bound to be a mere fragment of the infinitely large time scale. However, one has to define units of lime, from very small to quite large, for measuring short as well as long intervals of time. The smallest Indian unit of time is truţi and it is the time one needs to pierce a lotus-leaf with a sharp needle. The next higher units are shown in Tables below.
Table - I
100    Truţis
30      Tatparas
45      Nimeşas
6       Prāņas
60      Vinādīs
60      Nādīs
=  1   Tatpara
=  1   Nimeşa
=  1   Prāņa
=  1   Vinādī
=  1   Nadī
=  1   Ahorātra

(Source-Sūrya  Siddhānta : I/11,12)                             

Table - II
100    Truţis
30        Tatparas   
18        Nimeşas
30        Kāşthās
30        Kalās
2        Ghatis
   30    Muhūrtas
=  1  Tatparas
=  1  Nimeşa
=  1  Kāşthā
=  1  Kalā
=  1  Ghati
=  1  Muhūrta
=  1  Ahorātra





(Source-Siddhānta Śiromaņī by Bhāskara :     I/19, 20). 

As, according to modern standards, 24 hours make 1 day and night, one finds that, 1 nādi or daņda is equal to 24 minutes, 1 vinādī is equal to 24 seconds, 1 asu or prāņa  is equal to 4 seconds, 1 nimeşa is equal to 88.889 milliseconds, 1 tatpara is equal to 2. 96296 milliseconds and finally 1 truţi is equal to 29.6296 microseconds or 33,750th part of second. It is really amazing that the Hindu astronomers, at such a long lime ago, could conceive and obviously could measure such a small interval of time like truţi. It should be mentioned here that, 1 unit of prāņa is the time an average healthy man needs to complete one respiration or to pronounce ten long syllables called guravakşara. 
From the succeeding table one finds 1 muhūrta equal to 48 minutes, 1 ghaţi equal to 24 minutes. 1 kalā equal to 48 seconds, 1 kāşţhā equal to 1.6 seconds and 1 nimeşa equal to 88.889 milliseconds as obtained above. In its  daily motion, the earth rotates around its axis at a speed of nearly 1660 Km per hour and its illuminated half is called ahh (day) and the dark half is called rātri (night). From the system of units of time given above, one finds that 60 ghaţis or nādīs make 1 day and    night. Indian astronomical texts divide the above units of time broadly into two categories; (i) mūrttakālah and (ii) amūrtakālah. The units of the former kind are manifested (mūrttah) by the nature while, those of the latter kind are created by man. From this view point, ahorātra, prāņa or asu. nimeşa are mūrttakālah and the rest are amūrttakālah.

From the Ŗgvedic verses (1/33/8 and IV/53/3), scholars conclude that the Vedic ŗşis were aware of the fact that the earth is spherical in shape (SS: Xll/321) and rests without support. Another Ŗgvedic verse (1/52/11) says, “Viśva tatananta Kŗsţayah”, or the universe is infinite. But the Indian astronomical texts including the Sūrya Siddhānta say that the universe is finite and spherical in shape. According to the Sūrya Siddhānta, this universe is oval (aņdākŗti) having an average radius equal to 18, 712, 080, 864, 000, 000 yojanas (SS: XJI/90), with the earth at its centre. Our astronomers further believed that all the planets are moving at an equal speed of 11, 858,717 yojanas per day (SS: I/25) and their apparent speeds, as observed from the earth, appear to be faster and slower according to their remoteness from the earth (SS: I/26). With the help of these two basic assumptions they estimated the distances of the planets from the earth as given in Table-III below.
Regarding yojana, the Indian unit of distance, the Paňca Siddhāntikā of Varāhamihira says that, if anyone moves 800 yojanas towards the east from a place where the sun is just rising, he will find the sun at his zenith (XIII/16). It implies that, a 90 degrees difference of longitude produces an arc of 800 yojanas on the surface of the earth and hence one finds the diameter of the earth equal to 1018.18 yojanas. The present accepted value for the equatorial diameter of the earth is 7,928 miles or 12,684 Km, and hence one finds 1 yojana equal to 7.786 miles or 12.458 Km. According to Āryabhaţţa I, the diameter of the earth is 1050 yojanas [3] and hence one finds 1 yojana equal to 7.55 miles or 12.08 Km.                    
                      Table – III

Distance in yojanas
  Distance in
  million Km
Approx Minimum Distance in  Million Km (Modern Value)


Source: (Sūrya Siddhanta: XII/85-90)

Indian units of length are. 12 angulis make 1 śanku, 2 śahkus make 1 hasta, 4000 hastas make 1 krośa and finally 8 krośas make 1 yojana. So one finds that, 32,000 hastas or cubits make 1 yojana. Taking 1 hasta equal to 18 inches, one obtains 1 yojana equal to 9.1 miles or 14.56 Km. On the other hand, according to the descriptions of Hiuen Tsang, particularly where he has compared Indian distances with the Chinese unit li, one finds that, 1 yojana varies from nearly 7.3 to 15.2 Km. Hence it appears that there are some anomalies regarding the actual measure of a yojana. Scholars believe that in those days different units of length were in vogue in various kingdoms of local Kings and hence the measure of a yojana varied.
From the discussions made above regarding the picture of the universe presented in Sūrya Siddhdānta, it may appear that Indian astronomers believed in a geocentric universe. But in fact, Hindu seers were aware of the fact this planetary system is heliocentric. Moreover, they believed in the existence of five rotating systems or maņdalas, namely (1) the Candramaņdala or the moon rotating round the earth, (2) Pŗthivī-maņdala or the earth moving round the sun, (3) Sūrya-maņdala or a the plantes moving round the sun, (4) Parimeşţhī-maņdala or the sun moving round the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy and finally (5) the Svayambhūva-maņdala or the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy moving round the centre of the universe.[4] They also believed that, all these maņdalas are being sustained by their respective motions (YV: XXII/47). The said geocentric picture presented above is according to a special branch of knowledge called the Khagola śāstra or positional astronomy, where a celestial sphere (khagola) is imagined for determining the positions of the heavenly bodies moving with respect to the static celestial sphere, placing the earth at its centre. 
In Table-III, one observes that the planets are arranged, according to their distances from the earth, in the sequence (Earth-Moon), Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn..... (1) and according to the heliocentric model, the sequence is Sun, Mercury, Venus, (Earth-Moon), Mars, Jupiter, Saturn..... (2)

One observes that the sequence (l) can readily be obtained from the sequence (2) by an interchange of the Sun and the Earth-Moon system.[4] Hindu scriptures provide 7 names for the atmospheres of these 7 planets, namely Bhūh. Bhūvah, Svah, Jana, Tapah and Satyam and furthermore, the ecliptics of these seven planets are described as seven paridhis : “Saptasyāsan paridhayah”, in the Yajurveda (III/1)
Seven Days of Week
Why seven days make a week? And wherefrom the names of these seven days have come? Every Indian will be pleased to know that it is also a gift of India to the entire world. We have seen earlier that, 60 ghaţis or daņdas make one day and night or ahorātra. Hindu astronomers dedicated each ghaţi of the day to a planet as its lord and derived the name of the day as per the lord of the first ghaţi of the day. Arranging the planets as given in Table-III, in a cyclic order and preserving their ascending sequence, one obtains the diagram as shown in the figure.  

The sun or Ravi being the most powerful among the planets, as well as the giver and sustainer of life, has been honoured to be the lord of first ghaţi of the first day of the week. Hence it is named Ravivāra or Sunday. So from Figure-1, one observes that the lords of second and third ghaţis of Ravivāra are Mars and Jupiter respectively. Proceeding in this manner, one observes that Saturn is the lord of the 60th ghaţi of Ravivāra. So, the moon or Soma becomes the lord of the first ghaţi of the following day and hence it is named Somavāra or Monday (Moonday). One may notice here that in counting 60 ghaţis along the circle of Firure-1, one has to make 8 complete revolutions and 4 more planets and hence starting from a particular planet, the 5th place gives the name of the following day. In this manner one finally arrives at Śanivāra or Saturday  (Saturnday) and starting from Śanivāra one observes that the next day is Ravivāra and thus the cycle is completed.

From the above discussions it becomes evident that the names of Sunday, Monday and Saturday have been derived from  Ravivāra, Somavāra and Śanivāra. In Rome, the planet Mars was the Lord of warfare and called Tiu, and from Tiu  Mangala vāra  has been named Tuesday. The other name of Mercury in Rome was Woden and from Woden, Budhavāra has been named Wednesday. In Rome, Jupiter was the Lord of thunder and lightning and called Thor, and from Thor the name Thursday has been derived. Venus was also called Freyja in Rome, and from Freyja the name Friday has been derived. So it is not difficult to understand that the process of counting seven days as a week and the naming of these seven days is a gift of the Hindus to the world. 
 Again, deleting the leading letter ‘a’ and the trailing ‘tra’ from ‘ahorātra’, one is left with the word horā, and from  this horā, another system of measuring time, the ‘Horā System’, introduced the celebrated Indian astronomer Varāha Mihira, by dividing a day and night into 24 horās. In fact, he conceived the idea that the time taken for a Zodiacal sign to rise in horizon equal to two horās. Many believe that from this Horā System the entire world has adopted the present practice of dividing a day and night into 24 hours and moreover, from Sanskrit horā, English hour, Latin hora and Greek ora (ωρα) have been derived. It is interesting to note here that, one can derive the names of the seven days of a week from this Horā System as well. One has to assume a lord for each horā of the day and Ravivāra is to be accepted as the first day of the week, but counting is to be made in the reverse or descending order and the fourth place gives the name of the following day.
Some Western scholars believe that the Horā System of reckoning time, by dividing a day and night into 24 equal parts as described above, was originated, not in India but in Greece. It is also important to note here that most of the Western scholars are inclined to discover Western influence in every aspect of Indian astronomy, though in most of the eases such a notion has been proved to be entirely baseless. The main reason for such an allegation lies in the fact that Indian astronomers of later period tried to determine the true positions of the planets by an approach very similar to that used by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy. Like Ptolemy they also took the help of epicycles to explain planetary movements.
The opinions of the Indian scholars in this regard is that, the astronomers of this country independently discovered all the basic laws of astronomy and particularly the astronomical facts discovered in Vedic times were purely Indian discoveries, since in those days there was no scope of being influenced by the so called Western ideas. So, many believe that the process of determining the true positions of the planets by the use of epicycles was independently discovered by the Indians as well as the Greek astronomers. Or, if the Indian astronomers had borrowed anything from the West, they took merely the idea and all other refinements and developments were carried out independently by themselves.
In this regard, Professor P.C. Sengupta, the renowned scholar of ancient Indian astronomy, writes, “In regard to the methods of spherical astronomy, Indian astronomers were in no way indebted to the Greeks. Thus, although scientific Indian astronomy is dated much later than the time of Ptolemy, barring the mere idea of an epicyclic theory coming from outside India, its constants and methods were all original”.[5]
The Romaka Siddhānta is one of the five principal texts of Hindu astronomy and since its name has been derived from the city of Rome, the Western scholars are bent on to prove that this treatise, in its entirety, is based on Western wisdom. But Sri Shankar Balakrishna Dixit, another renowned scholar of ancient Indian astronomy, has conclusively proved that most of the Hindu texts on astronomy, including the Romaka Siddhānta and the Pouliśa Siddhānta were written much earlier than the ‘Almagest’ of Ptolemy and says, “It follows then that the Paitāmaha, Vaśişţha, Pauliśa and Romaka are older than Ptolemy”.[6]
In the present context it would be relevant lo quote Rev. E. Burgess, the translator of Sūrya Siddhānta into English, in this regard. He writes, As regards the resemblances between the Greek and the Hindu methods of calculating the true places of planets, I think that only hints could have passed from one people to the other, and that at an early period; for on the supposition that the Hindus borrowed from the Greeks at a later period, we find difficult to see precisely what it was that they borrowed.....And in regard to the more important of such data and results, the Hindus are more nearly correct than the Greeks, and in regard to the times of revolutions of the planets they are very nearly correct. There has evidently been very little borrowing between the Hindus and the Greeks. ...I am inclined to think that the course of derivation was opposite to that supposed by Colebrooke — from East to the West rather than from West to the East. ...I should be disposed to conclude that Indians were, in this instance, teachers than learners”.[7]
So it is quite reasonable to admit that the system of counting a week consisting of seven days and the method of naming these seven days were discovered in India and gradually it spread over to the entire globe, and there is no doubt that, following Ravivāra the West has named the first day of the week as Sunday and in a similar manner, Monday from Moon-day or Somavāra and Saturday from Saturnday or Śanivāra. In the present context it would be relevant to mention here that the Western scholars, to designate the seven Julian days, use the symbols of planets and for Sunday they use the symbol of the sun and for the succeeding days they use the symbols of Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. Here one should also notice that the English word Venus has been derived from the Sanskrit Vena, the other name of the planet Śukra and the scholars believe that the Greek word “Kupros” for Venus has been derived from Sanskrit Śukra. It should also be mentioned here that the Webster’s dictionary says that, in the middle age, Friday was called Venus day.
One should also note here that the practice of naming the seven days of a week originated at a much later period and, in fact, one finds mentioning of vāra nowhere in the Vedas but only in the Mahābhārata (Ādi : 160/7). Some critics also argue that, since the word horā is not an original Sanskrit word but merely fabricated by Varāhamihira from ahorātra, the Horā System cannot be an Indian invention and came from outside India. For these reasons or other, some scholars, including Professor S. B. Dixit, believe that the Chaldean astronomers of Babylon, nearly 6000 years ago, probably invented the practice of measuring a day and night by dividing it into 24 smaller units. Many also believe that it is the Chaldeans who named the 12 signs of the zodiac. It is important to note here that the Chaldean astronomer Saros discovered the cycle of 18 years, 11 days and 8 hours, named after him, which is extensively used for predicting solar eclipses. But it is interesting to note that, despite all such counter arguments. Rev, E. Burgess is convinced that the practice of measuring a day and night by dividing in into 24 parts originated in India.[8]
It may be recalled that the Horā System is not essential for naming he seven days of a week and primarily it was done by our astronomers dividing a day and night into 60 ghaţis or 60 daņdas. Hence, we may conclude without doubt that, it is our astronomers who named the seven days of a week using the original Indian system of dividing a day and night into 60 ghaţis and hence it was absolutely an Indian approach without the scope of having any foreign influence whatsoever. And in their subsequent attempt they have shown that, one can arrive at the same results using 24 horās as well. In a verse (1/296) of Yājňavalkya Samhitā, the names of the planets are given exactly in the order of week days and hence there is every reason to believe that the names of the planets in that verse were mentioned particularly as the lords of the seven days of a week. This makes Professor S. B. Dixit to believe that the names of the seven days of a week were known in the times of Yājňavalkya Samhitā.[9]

Fortnight, Month and Year

Units of time larger than day and week are fortnight and month. The Ŗgveda says, “aruņo māsakdŗvikah’’ and Ācārya Yāska in his commentary over the verse says. aruņo arocano māsakŗņmāsānām cārddhamāsānām ca kartā bhavati” or the moon is the creator of months and fortnights. In Sanskrit the moon is called candramas and the word māsa has been derived from the parting syllable ‘mas’ of candramas. So it appears that, during the Vedic period people counted months and fortnights according to the phases of the moon. According to Professor S. B. Dixit, it was quite natural since one has to ascertain the duration of a solar month by tedious calculations, while lunar months arc visible to the naked eye and he writes, “Therefore it is clear that solar months came into being afterwards”.[10]
In India, usually the period from one full-moon to the next full-moon was counted as one (lunar) month and such a month was called a pūrņimānta-māsa. The names of these months were derived from the names of the asterisms at which the full moon occurred. The practice of counting a month from one new-moon to the next new-moon was also in vogue and such a month was called an amānta-māsa. Twelve lunar months make one lunar year and in Vedic times these 12 lunar months were also called Śukra, Śuci, Nabhas, Nabhasya, Iśa, Urja, Sahas, Sahasya, Tapas, Tapasya, Madhu and Mādhava (TS:IV/4/ll.V/6/7; VS; XXIl/30, 31). Out of these 12 months, Śukra and Śuci was the summer, Nabhas and Nahhasya was the rains. Iśa and Urja was the autumn, Sahas and Sahasya was the dry winter (Hemanta), Tapas and Tapasya was the winter and Madhu and Mādhava was the spring. One should note here that the duration of a lunar month never becomes shorter than 29 days and larger than 30 days, and in modern standards, it lies between 29 days. 5 hours. 54 minutes and 14.4 seconds (or 29. 245 days) and 29 days, 19 hours, 36 minutes and 23.3 seconds (or 29,817 days) and 355 days make one lunar year.
During the Ŗgvedic times, the year was called ‘samā’—samānām māsa ākŗtih” (RV: X/85/5). The verse (1/ 164/48) of Ŗgveda says, “dvādaśaprayodhaścakramekam triņī nabhyāni”, and Ācārya Sāyana in his commentary over the verse says that ‘dvādaśaprayodhah’ stands for 12 solar months and ‘triņī nabhyāni’ for three principal seasons namely summer, rains and winter. Another Ŗgvedic verse (I/164/11) says, “dvādaśāram na hi tajjarāya varvati cakram paridyāmŗtasya” or a wheel of Āditya with twelve spokes is relentlessly rotating in the sky that does not get tired of age. According to the commentary of Ācārya Sāyana, twelve spokes in the verse stand for twelve signs of the zodiac and the wheel stands for a solar year. Most of the scholars agree that the verse tells how 12 solar months are generated due to the sun’s annual journey through the 12 signs of the zodiac.
Some scholars, on the other hand, are of the view that Vedic people were not aware of the existence of the 12 signs of the zodiac and the origin of 12 solar months. The argument does not seem to be tenable since without the knowledge of 12 zodiacal signs it would not have been possible for them to count 12 solar months and in the absence of the knowledge of 12 solar months they would not have been able to make an adjustment between the solar and the lunar calendars with the invention of the process called Triennial Intercalation. Most of the scholars therefore agree that, though counting of lunar months and lunar days (tithis) were more common during the Vedic times, the year was counted solar. In this regard Pundit S. B. Dixit is of the view that the extensive use of the Sanskrit words samkramaņa and nişkramaņa, the former for sun’s entry into a zodiacal sign and the latter for sun’s exit from the same clearly indicates that the Vedic people were well aware of the existence of 12 zodiacal signs as well as the origin of 12 solar months.[11]
The earth in its annual journey around the sun moves at an enormous speed of nearly 106,000 Km per hour and completes one revolution in one solar year. But from the earth it seems that the sun moves round the earth along a particular path called the ecliptic, which lies inclined to the equator of the celestial sphere by nearly 23.5 degrees. In Indian astronomy the ecliptic is called the Vaiśvānarapatha. The 12 signs of the zodiac divide the ecliptic into 12 equal parts and hence each zodiacal sign covers a distance of 30 degrees of the ecliptic. The names of these 12 signs of the zodiac are Meşa (Aries), Vŗşa (Taurus), Mithuna (Gemini), Karkaţa (Cancer), Simha (Leo), Kanyā (Virgo), Tulā (Libra), Vŗścika (Scorpion), Dhanu (Sagittarius), Makara (Capricorn), Kumbha (Aquarius) and Mīna (Pisces).
In Indian astronomy there is another practice of dividing the ecliptic into 27 equal parts with the help of 27 asterisms and each part covering 13 degrees and 20 minutes of the ecliptic. The names of these 27 asterisms are Aśvinī (β  and γ  Arietis), Bharaņī (35, 39 and 41 Arietis), Kŗttikā (η Tauri). Rohiņī (α, ,, , Tauri), Mŗgaśira (λ,φ, Orionis). Ārdrā (α Orionis), Punarvasu ( and  Geminorum), Puşyā (,,Cancri), Aśleşā (ε, δ, η, σ Hydrae), Maghā (α, η, γ, ζ, μ, ε Leonis), Pūrva-Fālgunī (δ, θ Leonis), Uttara-Fālgunī (93 Leonis), Hastā (δ, γ, ε, α, β Corvi), Citrā (Virginis),  Svātī ( Bootis). Viśākhā, ( α Librae),  Anurādhā(δ, β, π Scorpionis),  Jyeşthā(α, σ, τ  Scorpionis), Mūlā(λ,ν,χ,θ,η,ζ,μ,ε Scorpionis), Pūrvaşādhā(δ,ε Sagittarii), Uttaraşādhā (σ,ζ Sagittarii), Abhijit (α,ε,ζ Lyrae), Śravaņā (Aquilae), Śrāvişthā (β,α,γ,δ Delphini), a.k.a. Dhanişthā, Śatabhişā (Aquarii), Pūrva-Bhādrapada (Pegasi) and Uttara-Bhādrapada (Pegasi and Andromadae).
The sun takes 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes and 10.8 seconds in passing through all the 12 signs of the zodiac and, according lo Indian astronomy, the duration for which it stays in a particular zodiacal sign is called a solar month. So the Indian astronomical texts say that, a solar month begins with a samkramaņa or sun’s entry into a zodiacal sign and ends with a nişkramaņa or its exit from that zodiacal sign (SS:I/13). The duration of such a solar month varies from 29.33 days to 31.5 days. But in naming these solar months the previous practice for the lunar months as mentioned above continued. For example, as soon as the sun enters the zodiacal sign Meşa (Aries) the month Vaiśākha starts, but the full-moon in this month occurs when the moon enters the house of Tulā (libra), or more precisely, when the moon is in conjunction with the asterism Viśākhā. So, from Viśākhā the name of the month Vaiśākha has been derived. In a similar manner the month Jyaisţha begins as soon as the sun enters the zodiacal sign Vŗşa (Taurus). But the full-moon in this month occurs when the moon reaches the asterism Jyeşthā in the zodiacal sign Vŗścika (Scorpion) and from Jyeşţhā the name of the month Jyaişţha has been derived. Similarly Āşādha from Pūrva-Şādhā, Śrāvaņa from Śravaņā, Bhādra from Pūrva-Bhādrapada, Āśvina from Aśvinī, Kārtika from Kŗttikā, Pauşa from Puşyā, Māgha from Maghā, Fālguna from Uttara-Fhālgunī and Caitra from Citrā. The scriptures say that the month Agrahāyaņa was originally called Mārgaśīrşa (BG. X/35) named after the asterism Mŗgaśirā. It is important to note here that, Indian solar months are directly connected to the positions of the sun on the ecliptic, but the months January, February etc. of the Gregorian calendar do not have any link with any astronomical event.
Another Ŗgvedic verse (I/25/8) says, “vedā māso dhŗtavrata dvādaśa prajāvatah vedā yā upajāyate” -or, those who know the secret of the origin of twelve months also know the secret of origin of the thirteenth month.  The scholars agree that the verse mentions the process of Triennial Intercalation for making a compromise between the solar and the lunar calendars. It has been pointed out earlier that a solar year, comprising 12 solar months, contains nearly 365 days, while a lunar year comprising 12 lunar months contains nearly 355 days. So three consecutive solar years contain 36 solar months but 37 lunar months and a compromise was made by counting a lunar year of 13 lunar months in very third solar year. This extra 13th month is called ‘in adhika māsa, malimluca-māsa or simply a mala-māsa (VS: X11/30). In English, it is called an intercalary month. To skip this 13th month, Hindu scriptures forbid performance of any religious rite in this month.
One should notice that in absence of a compromise through intercalation all Hindu festivals, generally observed according to lunar days (tithis), would have advanced every year by 10 days and there would not have any link between a religious festival and the season in which it is observed. In this context it may be pointed out here that, since the Hijri calendar followed by the Muslims does not have any provision for intercalation, their religious festivals advance by 10 days every year.
It is also important to note here that the adoption of a solar or a lunar calendar has an intimate bearing with the culture of the adopting society. An agricultural society has no other option but to follow solar calendar since the seasons of sowing and reaping are determined, not by a lunar but, by the solar cycle. So it becomes evident that quite a long ago, during the days of Ŗgveda, Indian society had advanced into the agricultural stage of human civilization and hence the need for a compromise between the lunar and solar calendars was arisen. But in Arabia, due to semi-desert character of land and paucity of rainfall, agriculture is an impossible task even today.  Due to these two geographical compulsions, it could not have been possible for the Arabian society to advance itself from the pastoral into an agricultural stage of civilization and that is the reason why the Arabs are being able to carry out their day to day life following a completely lunar Hijri calendar. It is also important to note here that if the Islamic Bangladeshi Government tries today to impose the lunar Hijri calendar there it would not be acceptable for the people of Bangladesh as because the Bangladeshi society is agricultural. In fact, Bangladeshis count, not Maharam, Safar, Rajab but Vaiśākha. Jyaiştha and so on, and observe New Year on the first day of Vaiśākha.
We should conclude this section with a few comments on the durations of the lunar and the solar months. The moon completes one revolution around the earth, or moves 360 degrees, in 27 days, 7 hours, 43 minutes and 11.5 seconds and it is called a sidereal lunar month. But within this period the sun advances by nearly 28.5 degrees along the ecliptic. So, between two successive full-moons, called a civil (sāvana) lunar month, the moon has to travel 360+28.5 degrees. The earth moves round the sun in an elliptic orbit with the sun at one or its foci. When the earth is at perihelion or at the position nearest to the sun, its speed, according to Kepler’s Laws of planetary motion, increases and hence from the earth the sun is seen to move faster taking nearly 29 days to cover a zodiacal sign. At present, this occurs in the winter season when the sun lies in the house of Dhanu (Sagittarius) and hence the solar month Pauşa contains only 29 days.
On the contrary, when the earth is at aphelion or farthest from the sun, it becomes slower and the sun takes nearly 32 days to cover a 30 degree path along the ecliptic. This occurs in the rainy season when the sun rests in the house of Mithuna (Gemini) and hence the month Āşādha contains 32 days. Furthermore, while the earth is at perihelion, the sun moves more than 28.5 degrees between two successive full-moons and hence the duration of the lunar month increases and due to opposite reason the duration of the lunar month decreases while the earth is at aphelion. One lunar month is one ahorātra in pitrloka, where the bright half of the moon is the day while the dark half is the night (MS: I/66).


The units of time larger than a year are called yugas. The word yuga has been derived from yoga and yoga from samyoga, or conjunction of heavenly bodies. So one finds the origin of every unit of yuga to a specific conjunction of the heavenly bodies in the sky. In Indian astronomy, starting from a mere 5 year yuga to a vast Mahāyuga of 4,320,000 years are in vogue. Every 5 year, a conjunction of the sun and the moon occurs at the asterism Dhanişthā in the zodiacal sign Makara (Capricorn). The sun enters Makara, in the month of Māgha. Hence the conjunction recurs every 5 year on the new-moon day in the month of Māgha and that is the basis of counting a 5 year yuga. The Vedānga Jyotisa provides special names for these five years and they are Samvatsara, Parivatsara, Idāvatsara. Anuvatsara and Idvatvatsara [VS: 26/45, 30/16; TB: 1/4/10;111/4/1-4).
The planet Vŗhaspati (Jupiter) takes 1 year to cover a zodiacal sign and hence takes 12 years to complete its journey through all the 12 signs of the zodiac. This is the basis for counting a 12 year yuga and since it originates from the motion of Vŗhaspati, it is often called the Vrāhaspatya-yuga. It would be relevant to mention here that the Kumbha-Mela is held when Vŗhaspati enters the house of Kumbha (Aquarious) and hence the festival recurs every 12 years.
From the facts narrated above, one observes that a conjunction of the sun and the moon at Dhanişthā, while the Vŗhaspati (Jupiter) at makara (Capricorn), occurs every 60 years and that is the basis for counting a 60 year yuga. Hindu scriptures provide separate names for all the sixty years of a 60 year yuga.[4] The rare occasion when the sun, the moon and Vŗhaspati (Jupiter) meet at dhanişt repeats at an interval of 865 million years. Such a conjunction occurs five times in a Kalpa.

Divine and Demoniacal Day and Year

From the Ŗgvedic verse (X/89/4) scholars believe that the Vedic seers were aware of the fact that the axis of the earth’s diurnal motion rests inclined to the plane of its annual motion around the sun. It is really surprising that they also knew that due to this reason a day and a night in the polar region continue for 6 months each. The Hindu scriptures mention the north polar region as the abode of the goods or Devaloka, the south polar region as the abode of the demons or Asuraloka and the equatorial region as the dwelling place of human beings or Mānavaloka (SS:XII/35; PS:XJH/2). So one day and night in Devaloka or one  Deva-ahorātra is equal to 1 human year or Mānava-varşa. Furthermore, 360 Deva-ahorātras make 1 divine year or Devavarşa and hence one Deva-varşa is equal to 360 human years or Mānava-varşas (SS: 1/4).

Four Yugas and Mahāyuga

According to the Hindu astronomical texts, 1200 divine years or 1200 X 360 = 432,000 human years make 1 Kaliyuga. The basis for this lies in the fact that nearly 1.97 billion years ago (at the beginning of the present kalpa) a precise conjunction of all the planets occurred at the asterism Aśvinī in the zodiacal sign Meşa (Aries) and it is believed that the phenomenon recurs every 4,320,000 years. In between two such major conjunctions, nine minor conjunctions occur at a regular interval of 432,000 years. Since a single conjunction occurs every 432,000 human years or 1200 divine years, the period is called a Kali (one) yuga (conjunction). The time Interval for two such conjunctions or 864,000 years (2400 divine years) is a Dvāparayuga, the time interval for three such conjunctions or 1,296,000 years (3600 divine years) is a Tretāyuga and the same for four such conjunctions or 1,728,000 years (4800 divine years) is a Kŗtayuga or Satyayuga. Adding up all the four yugas mentioned above, one obtains a Mahāyuga of 4,320,000 years or 12,000 divine years which is ten times as large as one Kaliyuga (SS:I/15-17; MS:I/68-72), One may find mentioning of yugas elsewhere (RV:I/158/6,V/52/4, V/73/3; VS: 30/15: AB:33/15; TB:III/4/1) and in Mahabharata (Vana/3/23; Bhisma/100/37; Drona/73/22; Karna/37/ 8; Gada/27/10).
For every four yugas mentioned above, there are periods called dawn (ūşā) and twilight (sandhyā). For example, the Kaliyuga comprising of 1200 divine years, 100 divine years are its dawn and the same number of divine years make its twilight. The Table IV below gives a detailed description of this aspect. It should be mentioned here that the names Kŗta and Kali have been derived from the game of dice. Kŗta or made won is the side of the dice marked with 4 dots, while the Kali is the side marked with a single dot. In fact, Kŗta stands for winning or lucky one while Kali for the unfortunate or losing one.[12] 
The Manu Samhitā (Vl/92) defines ten codes of dharma and these are dhŗti (contentment), kşamā (forgiveness), dama(restraint), asteya (not to take anything stealthily), śauca (cleanliness), indriya-nigraha (control of sensuality), dhīh(intelligence to ascertain good and bad), vidyā (knowledge of the Self), satyam (truthfulness) and akrodha (un-wrathfulness). It is said that, in Kŗtayuga people observe at least four codes of dharma and in Tretā and Dvāpara it declines to three and two codes respectively and finally in Kali people observe only one code of dharma. It implies that people are most ethical in Kŗtayuga and they become most unethical and dishonest in Kaliyuga. Hence it is said that, dharma stands on four pillars in Kŗtayuga, three pillars in Tretāyuga, two pillars in Dvāparayuga and finally on one pillar in Kaliyuga (MS: 1/ 81, 82). It is also believed that, due to this ethical degeneration the expected human life span follows a downward trend. It is 400 years in Kŗtayuga and decreases to 300 and 200 years in Tretā and Dvāpara and finally to 100 years in Kaliyuga (MS:1/83). In other words, both physical and intellectual ability of humans is highest in Kŗtayuga and gradually degrades and becomes worst in Kaliyuga.

Precession of Equinoxes

It has been mentioned above that, from the Ŗgvedic verse (X/89/4) both Indian and Western scholars, including the German scholar Professor Ludwig, agree that the Vedic ŗşis were aware of the fact that the axis of the earth rests inclined to its plane of annual motion by an angle of 23.5 degrees. Due to this reason when the earth is at perihelion, the sun shines normally on the tropic of Capricorn. These days, it occurs on 23rd December and on that day night becomes longest and the day shortest in the northern hemisphere. The sun’s position on the ecliptic on that day is called the winter solstice. The sun then starts moving northwards till it reaches the point called the summer solstice. It occurs on 22nd June when the sun shines normally on the tropic of Cancer and in the northern hemisphere day becomes longest and night shortest. This northward movement of the sun is called Uttarāyaņa or Devayāna. The sun then starts moving southward till it reaches the winter solstice and this southward motion of the sun is called Daksiņayana or Pitŗyāņa.

    Table - IV
Division of
Divine Years
   Human years














        (Source: SS-I/15-17)

During Uttarāyaņa the sun shines normally on the equator on 23rd March and the sun’s position on that day is called the vernal equinox (Mahāvişuva) and similarly during Daksiņayana the sun shines normally again on the equator on 22nd September and the position of the sun on that day is called the autumnal equinox (Jalavişuva). While die sun is on the equinoctial points, the day and night becomes of equal duration in both northern and southern hemispheres. The sun at the vernal equinox initiates the spring in the northern and autumn in the southern hemisphere. Conversely, the sun at the autumnal equinox initiates spring in the southern and autumn in the northern hemisphere:
In other words, the vernal equinox initiates the day in the north polar region and night in the south polar region. Hence it is said that the sun at Mahāvişuva is the dawn in Devaloka and twilight in Asuraloka. On the contrary, when the sun is autumnal equinox, it is twilight in Devaloka and the dawn in Asuraloka. The Paňca Siddhāntika gives a more detailed description in this regard and says that, while the sun is in zodiacal signs of Vŗścika, Dhanu. Makara and Kumbha (or from the month of Agrahāyaņa to the month of Fālguna), Devaloka experiences night and Asuraloka experiences day. When the sun is in the zodiacal signs of Vŗşa, Mithuna. Karkata and Simha (or from the month of Jyaiştha to the month of Bhādra), day prevails in Devaloka and night in Asuraloka. While the sun is in Kanyā and Tulā (or for the months of Āśvina and Kārtika) it is twilight in Devaloku and dawn m Asuraloka, and when the sun is in Mīna and Meşa (or for the months of Caitra and Vaiśākha), it is twilight in Asuraloka and dawn in Devaloka (PS:XII/9).
The above descriptions reveal that during the time of Varāhamihira, the vernal equinox was lying between Mīna and Meşa, while the atumnal equinox was lying in between Simha and Tulā. But due to precession of the equinoctial points (ayana-calana) the above picture alters with the passage of lime. The equinoctial points move 360 decrees in 25,920 years or one degree in 72 years. At present the vernal equinox is lying at nearly 8 degrees inside Mīna and hence it has shifted by nearly 22 degrees towards the west from the point where it was during the time of Varāhamihira. So, it can roughly be estimated that, Varāhamihira lived nearly 22X72=1584 years ago. Similarly, during the time of Vedānga Jyotisa, the vernal equinox was lying at the asterism Kŗttika and hence it has shifted today by nearly 40 decrees to the west. So it can roughly be said that the time of Vedānga Jyotisa prevailed nearly 2880 years ago.
One should note here that, due in this shifting of the equinoctial points, today Fālguna and Caitra is the dawn in Devaloka and twilight in Asuraloka, while Bhādra and Āśvina is the dawn in Asuraloka and twilight in Devaloka. This aspect of ayana-calana deserves a fairly detailed discussion since the phenomenon is extensively used for estimating the antiquity of the older events of Indian History.

Manvantara and Kalpa

The largest unit of time conceived by the Indian astronomers is a kalpa and 1000 Mahāyugas or 4.32 billion years make 1 kalpa. Hindu scriptures provide names of 30 kalpas and first few of them are Svetavārāha, Nīlalohita, Vāmadeva, Gāthāntara, Raurava, Prāņa, Vŗhatkalpa and so on. Seventy-one Mahāyugas plus one Kŗtayuga or 308,448,000 years make 1 Manvantara (Manu+ antara) of which 71 Māhayugas is a Manu and 1 Kŗtayuga is its twilight (MS:I/79). It is believed that. within 1 manvantara the sun completes one revolution around the Parimeşţhī-maņdala, or the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy, and after every manvantara a universal annihilation of life takes place and the life-process begins again through procreation by a new Manu (MS: I/79,80). Hindu scriptures provide names of 14 manvantaras and they are Svāyambhūva, Svaraşica, Uttamaja, Tāmasa, Raivata, Cākşusa, Vaivasvata, Sāvarņī, Daksasāvarņī, Brahmasavarņī, Dharmasavarņī, Rudra-savarņī. Raucya and Bhautyaka (MS: 1/61, 62). One should notice here that, 14 manvantaras plus 1 Kŗtayuga make 1 kalpa (SS: I/79).
 One kalpa is the day and the following kalpa is the night of creator Brahmā and hence 2 kalpas make 1 Brāhma- divasa (MS: I/72,73). 360 Brāhmadivasas or 3110,400,000.000 human years make 1 Brāhmavarşa and the life span of Brahmā is 1 para-yuga or 100 Brāhmavarşas (MS: I/ 12) or 311,040,000,000,000 human years. On the other hand, 1 parayuga is only a day of Visnu and a twinkle of Kŗşņa or Śiva .[13]  The 50 years life span of Brahmā is called 1 parārddha  (para + arddha), while the first 50 years is called prathama parārddha and the rest 50 years is called dvitīya parārddha. At the end of Brahmā’s life the entire creation containing all matter is believed to be resolved into its ultimate source and creation begins afresh under the supervision of a new Brahmā (SS:1/20-22). Observing the vastness of Mahāyugas, manvantaras and kalpas, one may apprehend that the entire concept is simply a mythological fantasy and far from reality.[14] So, it would be relevant here to say a few words in this regard. The usual practice in the West is to calculate the time for one complete revolution or time period of revolution for the planets.  But the Hindu astronomers followed a completely different course. Since all the planets meet at Aśvinī at a regular interval of 1 Mahāyuga, they calculated the number of complete revolutions the planets make within a Mahāyuga, and hence one can easily calculate the time period of revolution of a planet by dividing the Mahāyuga by the integral number of complete revolutions it makes. The results are shown in Table-V, along with modern accepted values for a comparative study.
The excellent agreement between the results of the Indian astronomers and that of the modern Western astronomers, as shown in the Table above, may not escape one’s notice. One should also notice that for Mercury, agreement is up to the third place of decimal. The accuracy of calculations of the Indian astronomers has also been well reflected on another study. Astronomers throughout the world tried their best lo determine the duration of the solar year and their results are presented in Table-VI, below.  

 Table V 
No, of Revolutions
Within a Mahāyuga
            Periods of Revolutions
  Sūrya Siddhanta          Modern Values
    (in civil days)             (in civil days)
 (In civil days*)
     4,320, 000
     365.258757                    365.256375
       87.969703                      87.969258
     224,698571                    224,700787
     686,997494                   686,979645
   4332.320652                  4332,584821
 10765.773074                10759.219817
   - 0.26417
       *Time from one sunrise to the next sunrise is one civil (sāvana) day. (Source : Sūrya Siddhānta, op. cit., p-19)
Table - VI
      Solar Year (Sidereal*)
  Days       Hours     Min     Sec
  Days    Hours    Min    Sec
Sūya Siddhanta
Pauliśa āiddhanta
Parāśara āiddhanta
Ārya āiddhanta
Laghu Ārya āiddhanta
Siddhanta Śiromaņī
Greek (Ptolemy)
 365         06        12       36.56
 365         06        12       36.00
 365         06        12       31.50
 365         06        12       30.84
 365         06        12       30.00
 365         06        12       09.00
 366         12        09       48.60
 365         06        09       10.80
    0          0        3     25.76
    0          0        3     25.20
    0          0        3     20.70
    0          0        3     20.04
    0          0        3     19.20
    0          0        2     58.20
    1          6        0     37.80
    0          0        0     00.00
 *Time for sun’s one complete revolution w. r. to a fixed star. (Source: Sūrya āiddhanta, op. cit., p-26)

The Table shows that the value calculated by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy is horribly inaccurate in comparison to those calculated by the Indians and this thoroughly rejects the notion that the Indian astronomers had borrowed ideas and methods from the Greeks. Had Indians borrowed ideas from the Greeks then their results would have been inferior to that calculated by Ptolemy, As a matter of fact, it confirms Rev. Burgess’ apprehension that, if there was any borrowing between the Greeks and the Indians, it was from the Indians to the Greeks, rather than from Greeks to the Indians.[14]

The Present Kaliyuga:

When did the present Kaliyuga begin? Scrutinizing the information given in the Sūrya Siddhānta and other Hindu texts, both Indian and Western scholars, including Mr. Le Verrier, the discoverer of the planet Neptune, concluded that the present Kaliyuga commenced at the midnight of 17th and 18th February, in 3102 B.C. The positions of the planets on that moment of time as given in Sūrya Siddhānta, are shown in Table-VII below, along with the results calculated by the astronomers Bently and Bailly, for a comparative study.
Data shown in Table-VII are in European or Sāyana (vernal equinox equal to 0° longitude) system. According to the Hindu Nirāyaņa system, (the star Revatī or Zeta Pisciam in the asterism Aśvinī, just at the beginning of Mesa (Aries) as 0° longitude), one can estimate the position of the planets by considering that in 3102 B.C., the vernal equinox was lying 50°22’29" in the west of Hindu zero. So, one obtains the positions of the planets in Nirāyaņa by adding 50°22’29" to the data given in Table-VII. Converting the data given in Sūrya Siddhānta in this manner one obtains the figures as shown in Table-VIII below.                          
From the data shown in Table-VIII, one observes that on that day the sun was at 22o 08’ inside the zodiacal sign Pisces (Mīna) and hence it was probably the 22nd day of the month of Caitra. The data also show that, on that day the moon had advanced the sun by 6°18' and hence it was the first day of the bright half or śukla pratipada. The Table also shows that the moon’s ascending node or Rāhu was in Tulā (Libra) and hence the descending node or Ketu was in Mesa (Aries). So there was no possibility of occurrence of a solar eclipse on that day. The Table shows that, on that day all the planets came closer within 66°02’25”. According to Prof, S. B. Dixit, it was a new moon day and Thursday.

Time Elapsed from Beginning of this Creation

How old is this universe? Or how old this creation is? One can ascertain this from the Samkalpa mantra which every Hindu priest utters at the beginning of any yajňa or religious performance. The intention of this Samkalpa mantra is to specify the place and time of the yajňa and to give a detailed description of the individual (yajmāna) on whose behalf he is to perform the yajňa. But we shall pay our attention only to that part of the mantra where time is being specified and in this year (2006 A.D.) it reads “Adya Brahmaņo dvitīya parārddhe Svetavārāhakalpe saptame Vaivasvate manvantare astāvimśatitame Kaliyuge Kali-prathama-caraņe ekaśata-paňcādhika-paňcasahasra-varşa gatabde”.
Table – VII       [Positions of Planets at the midnight of 17th & 18th February, 3102 B.C.]
      Sūrya Siddhanta

Degree      Min       Sec             

 Degree      Min      Sec
Baily (Astronomy Indienne)

Degree     Min      Sec
 301           45          43
 268           34          05 
334            36          30
289            48          05
318            16          07
281            36          18
308            03          50
148            02          16
 301            01         01
 267            35         26
  333            44         37
 288            55         19
 318            03         54
 280            01         58
 306            53          42
 144            38          32
 301           05         57
 261           14         21
334            22         18
288           55         56
 310           22         10
293           08          21
 300           51          16
 144           37          41

*Moon’s ascending node. ( Source: Sūrya Siddhanta, op. cit., p-20 )


           Positions in
   Degrees       Minutes     Seconds
   Positions in Hindu 
   Astrological Style*
    352           08          12
    318           56          34
    024           58          59
    340           10          34
    008           38          36
    331           58          47
    358           26          19
    198           24          45   
*Raśi/degree/min/sec; {Meşa-0, Vŗşa-1, Mithuna-2, Karkaţa-3,  Kumbha-10, Mīna-11}

The mantra says that the first 50 years (prathama-parārdha) of Brahmā’s life have gone and the first day (Svetavārāha Kalpa) of his 51st year is in currency. Out of this first day, 6 manvantaras have gone and the 7th Vaivasvata isin currency. Out of this Vaivasvata manvantara, 27 Mahāyugas have gone and out of the running 28th Mahāyuga, Kŗtayuga, Tretāyuga and 1 Dvāparayuga have gone and the Kaliyuga is in currency. Finally, out of this present Kaliyuga, 5105 years   have passed and 5106th year (5107th year is to commence on 30th March, 2006) is in currency. One finds exactly similar accounts in the Sūrya Siddhānta (I/21, 22). Adding up one finds that 155 trillion, 521 billion, 971 million, 221 thousand and 106 years have elapsed since the beginning of this creation. In this context, one may recall that, according to modern science, Big-Bang occurred 10 to 20 billion years ago, the earth attained its present shape and size nearly 4 to 5 billion years ago, life appeared on earth 4 to 2.5 billion years ago in the Precambrian Age and the appearance of man took place only 1.6 million years ago.  So, according to Hindu chronology, all these are very recent phenomena and can easily be accommodated in it.

The Christian Chronology

From the days of British colonial rule we have developed a habit of following the Christian, or rather the Gregorian calendar. The main difficulty of this chronology is that, it originated only nearly 2000 years ago and hence incapable of accommodating events of long past as stated above. The geological time-frame invented by the scientists can take care of events which happened not earlier than 4 billion years ago. Most importantly, the origin and the process of counting months and years in Gregorian calendar are in no way linked to astronomical events. That is the reason why it was a matter of dispute whether the month February in 2000 A.D. would contain 29 days or 30 days.
Some texts try to establish a link between the birth of Jesus and the beginning of this Christian or Gregorian calendar and say that a bright star then appeared in the sky. According to the famous German astronomer Johannes Kepler, it was a conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn in the zodiacal sign Pisces and the incident look place in 7 B.C. Most of the historians and researchers on Jesus believe that he was born somewhere in between 6 B.C. and 4 B.C.[15] Moreover, the people who are connected with the origin of this calendar, possess entirely childish and amusing ideas about the creation of this universe and its antiquity. The Irish prelate James Ussher in 17th century openly declared, without giving any thought to the possible repercussions of his statement that this universe originated on February 26, 4004 B.C. at 9 a.m. Even today most of them believe that God created this earth and heaven within six days from nothingness and finished His task on that day.[4]
In fact, the present Christian chronology originated in 753 B.C., the year of foundation of the city of Rome. In its original form, 304 days divided into 10 months made a year and its present form bears the testimony of this fact. At that time the parting 4 months, namely September, October. November and December were the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th months of the year and their names were coined from septem, octo, novem and decem, the Latin words for 7.8.9 and 10. This shows the colossal lack of knowledge the Romans of that time had about the solar cycle and one can easily imagine the frightening disharmony it had with the solar cycle. Here one should also notice the striking similarity between the Latin words for 7, 8, 9 and 10 as mentioned above and the Sanskrit words saptam, astam, navam and dasam. This shows that the Romans learned the art of counting from India. However, in 46 B.C. emperor Julius Caesar introduced, quite arbitrarily, the month July after his name and then emperor Augustus Caesar introduced the month August after his name and made 12 months or 355 days a year. Then onwards it was called the Julian calendar.
In 1582, Pope Gregori XIII, in his endeavour to make it in harmony with the solar cycle, introduced some vital revisions. He introduced the practice of counting a year normally of 365 days and, a leap year of 366 days every fourth year. Furthermore, he made the rule that, a centesimal year will be treated as a leap year only when it is divisible by 400. Despite all such efforts it was seen that, a discrepancy of 11 days had crept in the year 1700 A.D. A compromise was made in that year by skipping those 11 days and in fact, 4th September was counted as 15th September in that year. In the Eastern Europe the said correction was done in 1917, when the discrepancy reached 13 days. According to the old calendar the Bolshevik revolution in Russia took place in October, but in November after correction. That is the reason why the Communists some times call it the Great October Revolution and some times the Great November Revolution. It is important to note here that, there is no scope of occurrence of such a discrepancy in Hindu calendar because months and years are counted here according to actual position of the sun in the sky. However, in 1752, only 5 years before the battle of Palāśī, this Gregorian calendar was adopted as the royal calendar of Britain and with the gradual expansion of the British Empire, it ultimately acquired the present status of an international calendar. So, one should notice that the Gregorian calendar has achieved the status of an international calendar not due to its superior scientific basis but due to military success of its followers.

According to Indian tradition or Hindu Kālagaņanā, three chronologies are in currency. Firstly, the Kali era or Kalyabda, which has begun from the present Kaliyuga and hence it is 5107 years old.  Secondly, the Kalpābda which has begun with the present Svetavārāha Kalpa, and hence it is 1,971,221, 107 years old. And thirdly, the Sŗsţābda, which has begun with the creation of this universe and hence it is 155,521,971,221,107 years old. One should notice that. Kalyabda is fit for narrating historical events of recent past while Kalpābda and Sŗstābda are suitable for narrating much older cosmological, geological, geographical, biological and other events such as the creation of this earth, creation of the sun, beginning of life on earth and so on. So the scientists may find in them the most suitable alternative to the geological time frame which they are now extensively using for describing such older events. Today, there are many chronologies, much older than the Christian chronology, extant in the world, as shown in Table-IX.

            Antiquity in years
Turkish (new)
Chinese (new)
Hindu (Kalyabda)
Iran (new)
Turkish (old)
Iran (old)
Chinese (old)
Hindu (Kalpābda)
Hindu (Sŗşābda)

So a rational mind may ask – despite having so many older chronologies, why the shortest of them, the Christian chronology has been given the status of an international calendar? Why the 21st birth centenary of a person is to be observed as the 21st century of the entire world? If a genuine thought is given to the matter, without any racial, regional, political, sectorial or religious prejudice, the Indian alone deserves the right to be treated as the calendar of the world, since  it is the oldest and based entirely astronomical science. So, it carries much more scientific sense in saying that we have entered the 52nd century of Kalyabda in 1998, than in saying that we have entered the 21st century of the Christian calendar in 2001.


[1] . Nirukta (II/25)
[2] . Preface by Mr. P. B. Mukherji: Bharate Jyotish Carccā O Koşţhī Vicārer
       Sūtravalī (in Bengali) by Mr. N.N. Bagal, (1992).  Sanskrita Pustak Bhandar,  Calcutta.
[3]. Sūrya Siddhanta, Tr. By Rev. Ebenezer Burgess, Motilal Banarasidass
      Publishers, Delhi (1997), p-44.
[4] . Ravi Prakash Arya, Itihas Darpan, Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana, New
       Delhi, Vol-V (1999), April, p-5.
[5] . Astronomy in Ancient India, The Cultural Heritage of India, R.K.M. Institute
       of Culture, Calcutta, Vol-VI (1991).
[6] . Bhāratiya Jyotiş Śāstra, By Mr. Sankar Balakrishna Dixit, Tr. By R.V. Baidya,
       Meteorological Department, Government  of India, (1969), Part-II, p-395.
 [7] . Bhāratiya Jyotiş Śāstra, op. cit., Part-II, p-390.
[8] .  Sūrya Siddhanta, op. cit., p-293.
[9] . Bharatīya Jyotiş Śāstra, op. cit., Part-I, p-105.
[10]. Bhāratīya Jyotiş Śāstra, op. cit., Part-I, p-17.
[11]. Bhāratīya Jyotiş Śāstra, op. cit., Part-I, p-156.
[12]. Sūrya Siddhanta, op. cit., p-10.
[13]. Sūrya Siddhanta, op. cit., p-12.
[14]. Regarding this Mahayuga, the Encyclopedia of Astrology, edited and published by the  New York  based Astrological Research Society, says, “This Mahayuga of the Hindus is a period of approximately 4, 320, 000 years, in which , they say, that all the planets recur at nearly the same position. The astronomer  Stuart  showed  that  this  is  correct and the period  is  4, 319, 936.8663 years at the end  of which  Mercury,  Venus,  Earth,  Mars,  Jupiter  and  Saturn return to a position in the fixed Zodiac about 20O behind where they started. He found this also Applies  to  new  planets  Uranus  and Neptune; and that an increase in the period of Pluto by one part in 100,000 or 0.001 per cent, will also bring it into recurrence” (p-231).
[15]. Holger Kersten, Jesus Lived in India, Element Books Limited (1994), p-60.

SS – Sūrya Siddhānta                         
VSu - Vaiśeşika Sūtram                   
VS – Vajasaneyi Samhita
PS – Paňca āiddhantikā                        
YV – Yajurvada                               
TB – Taittirīya Brāhmana
MS – Manu Samhita                               
TS – Taittirīya Samhita                  
 AB – Aitareya Brāhmana

[1] Professor, Department of Applied Physics, University of Calcutta,
  University College of Science & Technology,
  92, Acharya Prafulla Chandra Road,
  Calcutta-700 009, INDIA