and Time Eras
In Hindu astrology, as in Western astrology, the zodiac is divided
into twelve signs (rasis). Each of the twelve signs is in thirty
degree segment of the
full zodiac. In addition to the twelve signs, the Hindu zodiac is further divided
into twenty-seven naksatras or lunar mansions. Each naksatra is a thirteen
degree and twenty minute segment of the zodiac. Specifically, a naksatra is
the number of degrees the moon travels across the sky in a twenty-four hour
period. The degrees of the twenty-seven naksatras when totaled together equal
the three hundred and sixty degrees of the entire zodiac. The names of the
Indian months originated from the names of the naksatras where purnima (the
full moon) always takes place. Of the twenty-seven naksatras only twelve of
them have full moons.
The names of the Hindu months with their corresponding Western periods are
India has many time eras. In general there are two kinds of
eras: those named after prominent religious leaders and those
named after kings. In addition, there are two annual time periods
that mark the beginning of an era: the month of Caitra (March-April)
and the month of Karttika (October-November). In the north the
custom is to begin each year with Caitra (March-April) and each
month with the full moon. But in the south and in Gujarat the
years begin with Karttika (October-November) and the months with
the new moon. The two most important eras are the Sakabda and
The Sakabda or Salivahana era (AD 78), now used throughout India, is the most
important of all. It has been used not only in many Indian inscriptions but
also in ancient Sanskrit inscriptions in Indochina and Indonesia. The reformed
calendar promulgated by the Indian government from 1957 is reckoned by this
era. It is variously alleged to have been founded by the Hindu king Salivahana.
To reduce Saka dates to dates AD, 78 must be added for a date within the period
ending with the day equivalent to December 31 and 79 for a later date.
The Samvat or Vikrama era (58 BC) is said in the Jain book Kalakacaryakatha
to have been founded after a victory of King Vikramaditya over the Sakas. But
some scholars credit the Scytho-Parthian ruler Azes with the foundation of
this era. It is sometimes called the Malava era because Vikramaditya ruled
over the Malava country, but it was not confined to this region, being widespread
throughout India. The years reckoned in this era are generally indicated with
the word vikramasamvat, or simple samvat. To reduce Vikrama dates to dates
AD, 57 must be subtracted from the former for dates before January 1 and 56
for dates after.
The Bengali era is also known as the Laksmana era (AD 1119) said to have been
founded by the king Laksmanasena of Bengal and still used throughout Bengal
and preserved until modern times. To convert Bengali era to AD, 593 years must
be added. The Caitanya era starts from the appearance of Caitanya Mahaprabhu
in 1486. To convert the Caitanya era to dates AD add 1486 years to the Caitanya
date. The Caitanya dating system is only in use by Caitanya Vaisnavas.
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Religions Institute 2003.
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