The fundas of Yugadi – and Chaitra Navaratri.

Death of Krishna. Public domain image from Wikipedia.


The Indian calendar can be baffling to many people.

The significant difference between the Indian calendar and the Western calendar (or the Gregorian calendar)  is that our calendar follows the phases of the moon. The Western calendar follows the revolution of the Earth around the Sun.

That is why Indian festivals seem to fall on different days each year, with reference to the Gregorian calendar.

In the Indian calendar, there are certain days that are especially important, since they mark epochal events in Indian history.

The death of Krishna marks the end of an era. Kaliyuga, the age of Evil, began from the moment of Krishna’s death, and according to the scriptures that day was during end-March in 3102 BC. Hence, this day is called Yugadhi, the first day of an Era.

Yugadhi also marks the beginning of a new year. Unlike the Gregorian calendar that calculates the passage of each year based on the Earth’s annual revolution around the Sun, the Indian calendar is based on the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn. As these two planets move through the heavens, they seem to transit across the twelve Zodiac constellations, starting with the constellation of Aries (Mesha rashi). Jupiter takes one year to move from one Zodiac constellation to the next and therefore takes twelve years to complete one round of the Zodiac. Saturn takes thirty years to complete one round. And once in sixty years, both planets wind up at the starting point, i.e. Mesha rashi, at the same time.

Hence, the Indian calendar follows a cycle of sixty years. Each year is called a Samavatsara and is assigned a specific name, like in the Chinese calendar. Last year was Hevilambi Samavatsara, and it began on March 28, 2017.

The 32nd year in the cycle begins today, i.e., March 18, 2018. The new year is named Vilambi. This is not predicted to be a good year!

Yugadhi falls on the first day of the first half of the first month in the Hindu calendar, i.e. the month of Chaitra. The official Indian calendar, that was adopted by India on March 22, 1957, and starts from that day, is based on the Shalivahana Saka.


Shalivahana, also known as Gautamiputra Satakarni, was a mighty king from the Satavahana dynasty, that ruled much of South India for about four hundred years, from 230 BC to 220 AD.

Shalivahana was the greatest of them, and the date of his coronation is the beginning of Shalivahana Saka. This was during the year 78 AD. The month of Chaitra is reckoned from that date.

Therefore, the Indian national calendar officially began on Chaitra 1, 1879 (Saka era) i.e. March 22, 1957 (Gregorian era).

And therefore today, March 18, 2018 is Yugadhi, Prathami (first day), Shukla Paskha (Bright half), Chaitra (first month of the year), Vilambi naama Samvatsara, Shalivahana Saka 1940, Kaliyuga (age of Kali).

Also, Chaitra Navaratri starts on this day.  This nine-day festival is dedicated to the goddess Durga, just like the Navaratri festival we celebrate during October each year.

The ninth day of Chaitra Navaratri is Rama’s birthday, i.e, Rama Navami, hence it is also known as Rama Navaratri.

Happy Yugadhi everyone!

Cheers … Srini.


Jai Jai Shiv Shankar …

If you know where to look, you’ll find a lot of science buried in our mythology.

Our Vedic rituals have evolved over centuries and were designed to codify and preserve our country’s intellectual property, especially our vast herbal wealth.

A fine example of this Vedic wisdom is the festival of Mahashivartri.

The tithi and nakshatra of each festival, that is the date and the star, mark the specific positions of stars and planets. At a time when the people of America and Europe were living in savagery, Indian astronomy was a fully developed science. The Hindu calendar that we follow today began way back in the beginning of Kaliyuga, around 3100BC.

Contrary to what many people think, Mahashivartri is not Shiva’s birthday. Shiva is without beginning or end, and hence is neither born nor unborn. Mahashivaratri is Shiva’s favorite day of the year, as defined by Shiva himself. It falls on the 13th day of the second half of the month of Maagha. This corresponds to end-Feb/early March, and is the day before the second new moon of the month.

Certain herbs and rituals are associated with the worship of Shiva.

Homa: The term ‘homa’ refers to Vedic rituals in which offerings are made to a sacred fire.  Homa goes back to the early Rigveda. Homa is derived from the Persian word ‘soma’, a herb that was used to make somarasa, a hallucinatory drink that priests drank before and during Vedic rituals. Modern day Parsis, who also have descended from the Aryans, have fire-based homa rituals that are similar to ours.

Samagri: A specific mixture of woods and herbs that is burnt during a homa. The fumes emitted by samagri are an ancient form of aromatherapy. The smoke fumigates the house and removes germs and pests.  Unfortunately, authentic samagri for Shiva Homa is rarely available these days, and the original ingredients are either lost or no longer grown in India.

Rudraksha: Believed to have sprung from the tears of Shiva, hence the name.  The technical name is Elocarpus ganitrus.  Rudraksha seeds occur in several varieties depending on how many grooves and facets they have. The most common one is the five-faced rudraksha, called panchmukhi.

Each variety is believed to have different mystical powers and electromagnetic properties, not one of which has been conclusively proven. However, there is considerable evidence that rudraksha extract is good for hypertension and inflammation. It is also a strong antioxidant.

Bael:  Also known as bilva, wood apple, and officially as Aegle marmelos. 

Shiva is particularly fond of the fruits and leaves of the bilva tree. The leaves have a peculiar shape that closely resemble Shiva’s trident and the fruit has several medicinal properties. Bael is considered sacred in Ayurveda. It is especially useful for gastro-intestinal ailments like dysentery and dyspepsia.

Bhang (marijuana, Cannnabis sativa): Known in the North as Shivji ka prasad, bhang is actually a pretty useful herb, if used as prescribed in the scriptures.

In India, Bhang has been in use since three thousand years. It relieves stress, promotes alertness, reduces pain and fatigue, improves the digestion and in higher doses, it can induce euphoria that might seem like a spiritual experience to some people.


Ayurveda has several formulations that include bhang, and the Indian government officially sells bhang through authorised shops.

Bhang is best taken in the form of thandai, a refreshing milk drink with several interesting ingredients. It’s just the right drink to keep you cool and alert during the long night of Shivaratri. If you drink enough of it, you might see Shiva himself!

Nothing wrong in enjoying Shivji’s prasad, if you do so in moderation.

Join the voluptuous Mumtaz as she guzzles bhang and gyrates to ‘Jai Jai Shiv Shankar’, the hit song from Aap ki Kasam. This song topped the charts on Binaca Geetmala through 1974. Please disregard Rajesh Khanna as he tries to dance with Mumu. Kaka was a fine actor, but he never could dance.

Happy Shivaratri.

Bham bham Bhole!

Monkeys farting from the ceiling …

When a reporter visited him for an interview, he took her to his garden and introduced her to each of his friends, Janardhan, Raghunandan, Gangadhar, Jagannath, Budhuram and Jhatpatjhatpat-jhatpat. Problem was, all these ‘friends’ were trees in his garden.

And then he took her to his bedroom, to meet some more of his ‘friends’ –  a collection of human skulls.

During a hilarious interview in 1985 with Pritish Nandy for the now-defunct Illustrated Weekly of India, he spoke about the famous interior decorator whom he had called to his home. He told the decorator to design a moat in his living room instead of a sofa, live crows hanging from the walls instead of paintings, and instead of an air-conditioner, he wanted ‘monkeys farting from the ceiling‘. The decorator ran for his life.

He hung a huge notice board outside his house that read, “This is a lunatic asylum.”

When a producer paid him only half his promised fee, he turned up for shooting with half his head and moustache shaved off, and told him, “Aadha paisa, tho aadha make-up.”

He would turn up for song recordings in an old lungi, and refuse to start singing until his secretary called him up to confirm that he had received his payment from the producer. Once, when he did not receive that call, he called up his secretary, and asked him if his payment for the movie had been received. “But Sir, it is your own movie, and you are the producer”,  the secretary told him. “So what?”, was the retort.

A film director got a court order against him, for refusing to listen to him on the sets. The next day, the director forgot to say ‘Cut’ after a car chase scene, and so he continued driving for 100 kilometers more, right upto Khandala!

Only one man could get away with behaviour like that, and still be one of the highest paid stars in Bollywood.

Wild, wacky, unpredictable and uniquely gifted, Abhas Kumar Kanjilal Ganguly, or Kishore Kumar Khandwewallah as he called himself, was quite simply one of a kind. There never was another like him, and never will be.

Today, August 4th, is his birthday.

Kishore Kumar started out to be a hero, like his elder brother Ashok Kumar. He had no intention of being a playback singer. He was a huge fan of KL Saigal. One day, he was loudly singing a Saigal song in his bathroom, and was overheard by SD Burman. Burman had come to visit Ashok Kumar and he was impressed by Kishore Kumar’s singing. He took Kishore under his wing and trained him in the art of playback singing.

Kishore Kumar was the only leading playback singer of his time who never had formal classical training. That didn’t come in the way of his becoming an all-time great in Indian cinema.

From his film debut in 1948 till his sudden death in October 1987, Kishore Kumar excelled in every sphere – he was a hero, comedian, singer, music director, composer, lyricist, film maker and producer. His versatility as a film maker was amazing.  On one hand, he made badtki naamzany movies like Chalti Naam Gaadi and Badti ka Naam Daadi, that had audiences rolling on the floors. On the other, he made serious and thought-provoking movies like Door gagan ki chaaon mein and Door ka rahi, that were acclaimed by film critics. The last movie he made, Door wadiyon mein kahin, did not have a single song in it.

As controversial as he was in his public life, he was equally unconventional in his personal life. He was unabashed about the fact that he married four times. His first wife, Ruma Ghosh, was a famous playback singer and leading actress of her time. So was his second wife, the beautiful Madhubala, who died due to a hole in her heart. Yogita Bali, his third wife, was a well-known actress too.

She left him after a brief marriage, allegedly since she could not stand his habit of sitting awake each night and counting his money! Leena Chandavarkar, another beautiful actress of the nineteen-sixties and seventies was his fourth wife, and remained his wife until his death.


For all his weird behaviour and eccentricity, Kishore Kumar was a political activist in his own right. He stood up against the government during the Emergency, by refusing to sing at a political function. As a result, he was banned from All India Radio and TV for two years, but Kishore Kumar didn’t bother. After the Emergency was lifted in 1977, he promptly bounced back.

His sudden death on October 13, 1987 due to a massive cardiac arrest came as a total shock to everyone. Kishore Kumar was cremated in Khandwa, his native village.

For die-hard fans like me, Kishore Kumar will never die. Along with Mohammad Rafi, he is one of the immortals of Indian cinema.

Enjoy this rare song from Half-Ticket (1961), a freaked-out comedy that was typical of Kishore Kumar. I think this is the only song of its kind in Indian cinema. This is a male-female duet in which both parts are sung by the same singer! Who else but a mad genius like Kishore Kumar could perform a duet like this?

Yoodleyoo, Kishoreda!

Cheers … Srini.