Hindu Months and Time Eras
The Hindu Months
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 as follows:
Hindu Time Eras
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 Samvat.
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.