This is a paper presented to the International Seminar on Standardisation of Lunar Calenders which was held in the Science University of Malaysia, Penang in December, 1999. It was done on behalf of the Malaysian Hindu Sangam. (Hope they remember with gratitude).
The scope of this paper-
The scope of this paper is to examine :-
1.The types of Hindu calender systems that are used
by the Malaysian Indian Hindus.
2.The types of Almanacs that are used in the reckoning of
3.The pit-falls that occur in the reckoning
4.The problems created by the pit-falls.
5.The solutions to the problems.
6.Proposals for Improvisation, Rectification, Standardisation,
Implementation, and Regulation.
1.1 The types of Hindu/Indian calenders used in Malaysia:-
Malaysian Indians are made up of several racial and linguistic
groups. Of them, the prominent groups are the Tamils, Telugus, Keralites, Punjabi Sikhs, and other North Indians. The Tamil group includes the Tamils of North Ceylon Island.
All these groups universally accept the Julian calender. Since birth-days, anniveraries, salary, retirement, holidays, and other day-to-day
activities are governed by this system, this system is the predominent
one in their daily lives. It also forms the basis for numerology and Gem
The Indian calenders are the Tamil and Malayalam calenders
which follow the Solar Year pattern, called the Sauramaana.The Telugu calender adopts the Lunar Year called the Chaandramaana. Since the majority of the Hindus in Malaysia are Tamils, the Tamil calender has been broadly accepted all over the country. However, there is an increased inclination of the Telugu people to opt for a totally separate identity and recognition.
This has been reflected along several lines, one of them being the
Yugadhi or Telugu New Year's Day, which has come to herald a new awareness among them. The Sikhs have also been showing similar tendencies.
As far as this particular field is concerned it is best to leave things as they are, in the broader perspective of inter-linguistic harmony.
But there is unanimity among all the Hindus in the celebration of the major festivals, which are determined according to the Tamil calender.
Such being the case, one would expect no difficulties at all. Far from it. What we witness is utter confusion bordering on chaos. We will presently go into the details.
1.2. Main uses of the Hindu Calender-
What do the Hindus use their calender for? Not for day-to-day affairs. The Western calender takes care of that.
The Hindus use the calender for the following purposes-
1.2.1.Fixation of Festivals:-
Pongal, Tamil New Year and Malayalam New Year are all based on the Solar year.
Deepavali, Navaraathri,etc.,are based on the Lunar Year. There are problems in this area.
In this field we have problems. We will go into details later.
1.2.3. Fixing Muhurtha or Aspicious time:-
Same problems here.
1.2.4. Miscellaneous Astrological Purposes:-
Casting Prasna Tantra, Pancha Patchi Saastra, and Hora Sastra, etc.
2. The Almanac System-
The Hindu calenders are determined by ephemeris tables called the Panca Anga or Pancaanga or Almanacs.These are ready reckoners, provided that the user knows how to reckon with them in the first place.
2.1.These Alamanacs are based on two systems of calculation.
One based on the Precession of Equinox-Trik calculation.
The other without course corrections- Vaakya calculations.
2.2.The Different Alamanacs available in Malaysia.
2.2.1.The Trik Panchaanga of Jaffna.
This has a Malaysia/Singapore version also. The sun-rise and sun-set times have been rectified for Malaysian standards and given in hours and minutes. The reading can be done straight away without being converted. The language used is Jaffna dialect and the style is archaic.That makes it difficult to understand for many.
2.2.2.The Vaakya Panchaanga of Jaffa.
This is the Jaffna version. It has Indian Standard Time.
All the readings have to be coverted to Malaysian standards.
The language is Tamil of Jaffna with an archaic style. The
fore-cast is specifically for the people of Ceylon island.
2.2.3.THe Vaakya Panchaanga Sri Gaja Lakshmi.
This is locally produced. It claims that is computed for
Malysia/Singapore. Although it is claimed that it is Vaakya,
through experience, I have found that it is neither Trik nor
Vaakya. Also the reckonings do not conform to the norms. It is
best to leave it at that.
2.2.4.The Suddha Vaakya Panchaangam of Manonmoney Vilas.
It is also known as the Number 28 Panchaangam and Paambu
Panchangam. It is thus called because it contains a diagram of
triple snakes called the Rahu Paani Chakra. This is actually
a yantra which is used for finding suitable days for sowing
seeds. It also has another yantra for finding the auspicious day
for the initial ploughing of the land. This is totally India - orientated.
2.2.5. The Aarkkaadu Sarva Muhurtha Panchaangam-
This is another totally India-based almanec. This has the maximum number of features. As its name suggests it is very usual for computing uspicious dates and time.
This almanac has a lot of potentials if it can be converted
suitably to Malaysian environment and users.
2.2.6. The Kanchi Muttam Panchaangam
This is calculated, based on the coordinates of Kanchi.
Its sustem is Trik and computations are checked against Astrnomical observations. It has been given sanction and authorisation by the Sankaracharya of Kanchi. It is noted for its high accuracy and prestige.
This Almanac has potentials, if it can be Malaysianised.
2.2.7. The Sethu Samasthaana Panchaangam
This Almanaac has been computed by the royal order of the SethuPathi kings of Ramnad. It is totally India-based.
Problems arising from existing situation.
Problems in Fixing dates for Festivals:
1.There have been instances where the date of Deepavali was wrongly announced and then later on rectified. In certain instances, it was because of wrong assessment of the Lunar day called the thithi. This will be dealt with in the next section.
In some instances, Deepavali was pushed forward or backward by one month. Why was this? There is another factor that needs to be clarified here. The Hindu calender system incorporates both the Solar and Lunar years. If put in a simplistic manner, the underlying main frame-work is the Solar Year. The Lunar Year is layed along over it. As everybody here is already aware, the Lunar calender is 354 days and the Solar or Tropical Year is 365.24219 days in length. There will be a precession of the Lunar year by a difference of 10 days and a few hours per year. So we always see the Moon-day based festivals like Deepavali, moving forwards. It moves forward and backwards in 2nd half of October and 1st half of November. But Deepavali is never allowed to go beyond the month of Aippasi or Thula. This is done by the addition of an extra Lunar month. This extra Lunar month will be added once in three years. It is reckoned from one New Moon to another New Moon. Its either called "Adhiga Maadham" or "Suunya Maadham". Since its just an extra bit of arrears which has been paid back, it is declared as Taboo. No auspicious ceremonies or festivals take place. This is known as the "Inter-calary Month".
2.Starting and Ending of the NavaRathri Festival is another case in point. This is one of the major fetivals of the Hindus. Like Deepavali, it is universally celebrated by all Hindus. But in a way, it has got more weight because it is celebrated mainly by women and lasts for 10 days.
It is a festival which is dedicated to the Supreme Being in His Female Form, known as Shakthi. The importance is added to by the fact that the Temples dedicated to the Goddess are more than any other in this country.
The Navarathri is a festival celebrated at night-fall for nine continuous days and ends in a 10th day celebration - The Day of Victorious Glory called "Vijaya Dhasami".
But in some years the whole Navarathri lasts for a total of only 9 days.
Navarathri is based on the "thithi" or Lunar day. Due to the elliptical path of the Moon around the earth, the length of the Lunar day may last fron 22 to 26 hours.
If the Moon is at Apogee or approaching nearer to the earth, the orbital velocity of the moon increases, while there is a shortening in the arc of obital path, due to the decreased radius. Hence the moon transits fast in a shorter duration of time. As the Moon approaches maximum Apogee,
the time of the Lunar day gets steadily shorter by a few minutes everyday.
It will recede from 24 hours to 22 hours and then progress to 24 hours and on to 26 hours as the Moon nears the Perigee.
If the Apogee were to fall during the Navarathri period, the total span of Navarathri of 10 Lunar days will last only 9 and1/2 or 9.5 Solar days.
This might be 9 full-days and a day-time. That wil be 9 nights and a day-time.
Under the circumstances, the 10th Day of Victory has to be celebrated
on the final day., the 9th day itself.
But the temple decides otherwise and continues. The Agama and Saastra
may say anything. The temple has already got 10 days of Ubayam or 10 sponsors.
It has to go on.
And so it goes on.
The Vijaya Dhasami is celebrated on the 11th thithi - whether the Goddess likes it or not.
There was one year, the Navarathri was begun on the New Moon's Day.
It happened because the high priest did not know when the 1st thithi
We find certain temples declaring the festivals on certain days while others declaring on other days. We find certain high priests announcing rather imperiously, at what time Hindu New Year begins. With all his imperiousness he manages to miss the correct time by 6 hours!
The Problem of setting Auspicious Times;
Here, the situation created horrendously insane.
This is caused because of:
The useage of Indian and Jaffna Vaakya Almanacs without converting the Indian Standards to Malaysian standards.
Certain beleifs and fallacies.
According to Indian Standards, all those Almanacs follow the Indian Standard Time. Indian Standard Time is based on the coordinates of Ujjaini in Central India.
The Almanacs are compiled according to thae coordinates of Jaffna and other places in India.
In India, the sun-rise time is at 6-00a.m. on the average.
Normally you have to add, for example, 1hour and 19 minutes to whatever sun-rise time is given for any day of the year. This is for Penang.
We know as a fact, that sunrise is between 7-15a.m.and 7-45a.m.
These variances are from December/January to July/August. This rectification has to be done.
The other, is the time of Asterisms(Nakshatra), Thithi(phases of Moon/Lunar Day) and several other readings. To this we have to add
2 hours and 30 minutes for rectification to Malaysia.
For this, a preamble has to be given regarding the process.
(i) The fixing of auspicious time is determined by several factors.
Certain taboo and forbidden days and months are summarily rejected-
the months of Aadi, Maargalzhi, KariNaaL days etc.
(ii) Bad inauspicious time periods are avoided.
(iii) The best suitable time is chosen according to astrological calculations. For this a very suitable "Lagna" is chosen.
The Zodiacal path has 12 divisions. Each mansion is governed by a
constellation called Raasi. At any part of the day, a particular sign will be rising in the east together with all its stars and the planets which happen to be there at that time. It takes two hours on an average for a sign to complete its rising and give place to the next one.
The chosen Lagna has to be free from malefic effects and has many criteria to fulfill. Thus a Lagna is screened.
The computation for a lagna is anchored to the sunrise of the particular
day. If you miscalculate the sun-rise, your Lagna computation goes wrong.
(iv)Apart from it, certain malefic periods have to be avoided.
Case in Point:
A most important factor is the Raahu Kaalam period. It occurs for a peroid of 1.5 hours daily during the day-time. Ditto for night. It does not
daily come at a uniform time. And it is also anchored on to the sunrise.
It occurs in a weekly cycle.
Friday- Take sun-rise at 7-15a.m.
Raahu Kaalam would be lasting from 4hrs.30min. to 6th hour after sun-rise.
That would be 11-45a.m. to 1-15p.m.(Sun at zenith).
Tuesday- Raahu Kaalam would be from 9th hour to 10hrs.30min. after sunrise.
That would be 4-15 p.m. to 5-45 p.m.
It can be caused when the sunrise is not calculated correctly.
A wedding is to take place on a Friday morning. Everybody knows that
there is a Raahu Kaalam during the Friday morning. It has to be avoided
at all costs!!!
The ignorant priest or the half-baked astrologer would take 6-00a.m.
as the sun-rise for granted and add 4hrs 30min. to it.
That will make it - 10-30a.m.
So he avoids the one and a half hour peroid from 10-30a.m. until 12-00noon.
He thinks that, that is Raahu Kaalam and avoids it.
He fixes the marriage to take place between 12-00noon and 1-30p.m.
The wedding party is immensely pleased with the arrangement because the function takes place at lunch-time on a Friday. Its either a long
lunch-break or week-end. Ceremony followed by a sumptuous mid-day feast!
But in reality, the Raahu Kaalam was at 11-45a.m. to 1-15 p.m.on
a Friday morning.
So, they fall into that which they wanted so much to avoid.
Problem of Astrological Computations:
Naming new-born babies
Current readings of horoscopes.
In most of the cases, the birth lagna is missed. The Lunar
Mansion or Raasi can be missed by anything of about 2hrs.30min.
But it can cause greater degrees of difference in an Asterism(Nakshatra)
or the Paadha(one quarter)of an Asterism concerned.
It is customery to name babies according to the Quarter of Asterism concerned. Each Paadha has its corresponding syllable or "Maatrikaa VarNa". When the Paadha goes wrong, the syllable goes wrong also.
Certain evil effects called "Dhosha" are determined mainly by
the Lagna. A mistaken lagna will cause misinterpretation and it will be
thought that the individual has an affliction. But in truth it might not
On the other hand, a subject may have some afflictions. But the
miscalculated lagna does not reveal it.
When a current reading is done, the subjest might be subjected
to abject terror by declaring that he/she is having impending bad periods
when there is actually none!
Then the poor individual's misfortunes are made worse by making
him/her poorer by a few hundreds to a few thousands. He/she is made
to do a lot very expensive, time-consuming, elaborate, and complex rituals to satisfy the already satisfied planetary over-lords for Dhoshas that never really existed.
There are many unmarriable maidens in this country. A large number
of them could not get suitable matches because some muddle-headed nitwitted nincompoop goofed and said that Rahu the Black Serpent afflicted them with a Dhosha. They would surely attain early widowhood! Which well-wishing mother would venture to marry her to her son? To lose him?
Just think of how many a poor unmarried maiden, past marriable life,
living lives of sorrowful solitude in silence, ever-longing, eagerly waiting
for that glorious day when the respective Prince Charming would step out of the gloom, to grasp her hand to put the golden knot!
Just because of Raahu or Sani Dhosha which never really existed!!!
Solutions to the Problems:
The situation is so very deplorable and is affecting the lives of millions of Indian Hindus in malaysia. So it becomes necessary to solve the problems.
The problem-solving approach has to be multi-pronged.
1. Regulation of the Calender:
There has to be a genuine, fool-proof, easy-to-use, user-friendly Almanac for Malaysia/Singapore.
The present Jaffna Trik Almanac is quite good. But it has to be modified to suit the Malaysian Hindus. Some factors need to be incorporated.
The important festivals in the Hindu Temples of Malaysia; market forecast; economy report, etc. The language should be the one that Malaysian Hindus use. Since many Hindus do not read Tamil nowadays, it becomes necessary to have an English or a Romanised version.
The Almanac should have explanatory notes in it. It should also have directions or guidelines for useage.
2.Proper Training Sessions/Courses:
These have to be organised for priests/newbie astrologers.
Old astrologers must have the system explained to them. Hard-core perpertrators should be subjected to turn-over.
3.Education for the Public:
This will be very important componet. True knowledge increases
awareness and deucation is a key to knowledge. This will go a long way
in forcing the astrologers and priests to follow the correct order.
4.Education on the use of Computers:
Programmes must be made available for Calender reckoning and
Astrology. Standardised Ephemeris must be used in the programme.
5.Determination and Validation of on-coming Hindu Festivals
This should be done by a learned panel.
6.Checks and Balances:
There is a misbeleif among the Hindus that the priestly class
knows everything. So whatever a priest says passes off as Divine Decree and Declaration. Nobody checks the veracity, capacity, competency or
quality of the priest.
The whole corrective regulatory efforts can be undermined if such a sentiment persists. They will finally be totally nullified if false pretenses and favouritism and vested interests predominate.
So a panel of three persons with a very sound knowledge in
Astrology/Astronomy are to be the Regulators and Moderators.
It is doubly stressed that it should be based on knowledge
and capabilty alone and not on representation or delegation or position.