Article 1: Gudhi Padwa : An Astronomical Perspective
Living in a culturally diverse country such as India,Gudhi Padwa has special significance in various states. People of Telangana,Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka celebrate this day as Ugadi; in Maharashtra and Goa, it is celebrated as Gudhi Padwa while, Sindhis celebrate it as Cheti Chand. It is a festival of charm and delight all over the country.However,there is a fascinating reason why it is celebrated as the beginning of the New Year according to the luni-solar Hindu Calendar.Here it goes: The festivals that we celebrate in India are closely related to the astronomical phenomenon.
The calendar that we follow,Gregorian Calendar,is essentially based on Christian tradition.The Gregorian calendar is a derivative of the Julian calendar and Julian calendar is a derivative of the ancient Roman Lunar Calendar. The year began on the moon before the spring equinox when it comes to the ancient Roman calendar. One of the four cardinal positions of the Earth in its orbit around the sun is the vernal equinox [spring equinox]. Interestingly,the duration of the day and the night on the day of an equinox is virtually equal,that’s why ‘nox’[means night] in the term ‘equinox’.
The ancient Roman Calendar[which was originally based on a lunar calendar based on lunations]was under-corrected because it measured just 10 months,from March to December.Later,Emperor Numa modified this calendar in 753 BCE where he added two more months [11th and 12th months] as Januarius and Februarius along with a provision of intercalary months to keep it in sync with the seasons.In 49 BCE,Julius Caesar dumped the lunar calendar and installed a Solar calendar.When he created the Julian Calendar,he made January 1 the first day of the year thinking that it would be appropriate for January,Janus’s namesake month to be the flag bearer of the new year.
Janus is the god of beginnings,gates,transitions,time,duality,doorways, passages,frames and endings in ancient Roman religion and myth.In his depiction,he has two faces where one looks back in the past and the other looks to the future.Pope Gregory’s Papal Bull Inter Gravissimas introduced the Gregorian Calendar which we use today.In India,the Hindu calendar refers to various luni-solar calendars that are used in Indian subcontinent and South-east Asia for social and religious purposes.
The most studied and known Hindu calendars are Shalivahana Shaka[found in Deccan region of Southern India]; Vikram Samvat[found in Nepal,North and central regions of India] and the Tamil calendar[used in Tamil Nadu]. Their new year starts in Spring.However,the Malayalam calendar[in the regions of Kerala] starts in autumn where the solar cycle is emphasized.Astronomically speaking,the duration of the month depends on the lunations in the lun-isolar calendar.The two types of luni-solar calendars are the Purnimanta and the Amavastyanta.In the latter system,a month is measured between successive new moons. It means there is one full moon in between two successive New moons.So in this system,the Nakshatra in which the full moon of that month appears is used for naming that month.For example,the month in which the full moon occurs in Chitra Nakshatra was named Chaitra; if the full moon occurs in Magha Nakshatra then it is called Maagh.Chaitra is the first month of the Hindu calendar which is predominantly followed in India.And since the full moon occurs in Chitra,the preceding New moon will occur about 180 degrees opposite this Nakshatra and it is the Phalguni Amavasya[the last day of the year because Phalgun is the last month].
There is an astronomical reason for why Chaitra is treated as the first month. The transition of the Sun into the first point of Aries or Mesha had significance in the past because this point once coincided with the Vernal equinox point or Vasant Sampat Bindu which denoted the start of spring season.This transition of the Sun into Aries also called Mesha Sankranti was considered as the end of winter andthe beginning of spring and also the beginning of the new year.When the sun enters the first point of the Aries[Mesha Rashi],the corresponding full moon will be in Chitra Nakshatra i.e. 180 degree opposite the first point of Aries.When the full moon of Chaitra will be in Chitra,the first day of that month occurs when the Moon enters Ashwini Nakshatra in Mesha Rashi.But our calendar is based on the moon and the sun,we don’t consider the entry of the sun but the entry of the moon in Mesha Rashi.And that is why,Gudi Padwa is celebrated as the new year on the Pratipada of the Shukla Paksha of Chaitra.
This is the underlying astronomical aspect in the celebration of Gudi Padwa which we should be aware of.Keep reading and Keep exploring!
Article 2 : Vardhamaan Mahavir
by: Anushree Bodhale, April 25, 2021.
Article 3 : Origin and Evolution of Indian Astronomy
by: Bhargav Joshi, May 1, 2021.