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!

Yay! It’s Dasara!

Na yotsya Govinda! I will not fight, O Govinda.

It’s my favorite time of the year – the nine nights of Dasara. And once again, it’s time for my annual visit to the home of the Ravindranath family.

Year after year, this sweet Iyengar family in Basavanagudi, Bangalore, puts up their remarkable exhibition of Dasara dolls. There are well over four thousand dolls in this astonishing display.

Chakravyuha. Note the attention to detail!

It is truly a labor of love – and faith. They spend a fortune and they make no money out of it – although there are unscrupulous dickheads who make money out of them.

Each year, there’s a special theme. And this year, the theme is the 18-day battle of Kurukshetra. Each day of the battle has been recreated in painstaking detail. They’ve done their research thoroughly. In fact, they’ve created the battle formations used by both sides, on each day of the battle. They’ve recreated the key events of the battle – like the Bhagavadgeetha, the fall of Bheeshma, Ghatotkacha’s death, Jayadratha’s decapitation by Arjuna, and several others.

The end of Ghatotkacha, slain by Karna’s Shakti weapon.

Why do we celebrate Dasara? You can read about it in my blogpost, here.

Simply put, Dasara commemorates the epic battle between the goddess Durga and the demon Mahisha. The battle raged for nine nights. Each night, She took on a different form to do battle with Mahisha. On the morning of the tenth day, Durga slew Mahisha. This day therefore, is called Vijayadashami.


Vijayadashami is an especially auspicious day. On this day, Rama killed Ravana in battle. Since Rama cut off Ravana’s ten heads, the festival came to be known as Dasa Hara or Dasara.

In modern times, we do not cut off heads! Instead, Vijayadashami is considered a very good day to start any new venture, like a business project, a new course of study, music lessons, and just about any good activity.


And even at my age, I always make it a point to start something new on Vijayadashami. This year, I will start a new business venture on Vijayadashami.

Dasara is a celebration and an affirmation, of our culture and our traditions. Nowhere, and nowhere, in our traditional scriptures and our epics, does the word “Hindu” appear.

Dasara is not a “Hindu” celebration. It is Indian. That’s all.

No matter what religion you practise, enjoy Dasara. Visit a golu display. Have fun.

You can see the entire golu display of the Ravindranath family, in my Google photo album, here.

The Ravindranath family.

And remember:

All golu displays are free and open to the public. Do not entertain self-styled “experts” and touts. Just call up the host, and go. If you want to take photographs, it’s generally ok. But as a courtesy, ask the host first. And do not forget to profusely thank the host and her family. Golu displays take a lot of effort and time.

I am an agnostic myself. But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying any of our traditional festivals – including Christmas and Id!

So. Screw the “rationalists”.

Enjoy Dasara. It is your festival.

Cheers … Srini.