The timeless funda of Yugadi.

Death of Krishna. Public domain image from Wikipedia.


The Indian calendar can be baffling to many people. The gist of it is quite simple though. There are twelve months in the year and 30 or 31 days in each month. Leap years are accurately accounted for, as are other astronomical events like equinoxes and eclipses. 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.copy_of_gudi-padwa_300

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 Durmukhi Samavatsara, and it began on April 8 2016.

The 31st year in the cycle begins today, i.e., March 28, 2017. The new year is named Hemalambi or Hevilambi. 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 Shalivahana-8973-16Satavahana 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 28, 2017 is Yugadhi, Prathami (first day), Shukla Paskha (Bright half), Chaitra (first month of the year), Hevilambi Samvatsara, Shalivahana Saka 1939, Kaliyuga (age of Kali).

Yugadi is celebrated across India. In Maharashtra, it’s celebrated as Gudi Padva.

Happy Yugadhi everyone!

Cheers … Srini.

Saaranga teri yaad mein …

His virtuosity was in his simplicity. Unlike classically trained playback singers like Mohammad Rafi and Manna De, he had a straightforward and simple singing style that instantly appealed to his listeners. Just about anybody could sing his songs, anyone could hum along with him. But no one could reproduce the sincere pathos that defined the unique voice of Mukesh Chand Mathur.

Mukesh began his singing career as a clone of the legendary KL Saigal. In his first song for a Hindi film, Dil jalta hai, from the film Pehli Nazar (1945) that was filmed on his mentor Motilal, he sounded so much like Saigal that Saigal himself was deceived and remarked that he did not recollect singing that song!

Two music directors, Naushad Ali and Anil Biswas, encouraged Mukesh to develop his own singing style, and prove that he was Mukesh, not a clone. Mukesh did that through the early fifties, and became the screen voice of Dilip Kumar, in movies like Yahudi, Andaz and Madhumati. Remember the evergreen, “Suhana safar aur ye mausam haseen“, from Madhumati?

However, the songs he sang for Raj Kapoor in Aag, Awara, Shree 420 and Anari were far more popular. With the song ‘Zinda hu is tarah‘, from Aag, Mukesh became the official voice of Raj Kapoor, while Dilip Kumar moved over to Rafi. Except for a few songs rendered by Manna De and Rafi, Mukesh sang playback for Raj Kapoor throughout his career, right upto his very last recorded song, for Raj Kapoor’s Dharam Karam, just before his death in 1976.

Mukesh, in fact, sang for all the leading stars of his time, including Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan. Mukesh was considered unfit to sing playback for the deep-voiced and macho ‘angry young man’ Bachchan, but he proved his detractors wrong with his superb rendition of ‘Kabhi kabhi mere dil mein‘, from Kabhi Kabhie in 1975.

A notable feature of his voice was the clarity of his diction. No one could match Mukesh for his correct enunciation of lyrics and the sheer emotion he infused into each song he sang.

Mukesh was a modest, soft-spoken man. A benign smile always played on his face, and he never spoke harshly of anyone. A man of the masses, he was quite frank in admitting that he could barely understand English. When he was announced to audiences during his concerts abroad, he would invariably ask the compere to translate his introduction into Hindi.

Although he sang not more than 1300 film songs, Mukesh received innumerable awards through his career, including four Filmfare awards and finally the National Award from the Indian government in 1974, for his rendition of “Kai baar yoon bhi dekha hai“, from Rajnigandha.

When we got the news of his sudden death due to cardiac arrest, on August 27, 1976, at Detroit, we reacted with total disbelief. Raj Kapoor’s immediate shocked reaction was, “I have lost my voice”. And so did Indian cinema. Till date, no satisfactory replacement has been found for this modest singing genius from Ludhiana – and I don’t think there ever will.

Here’s a rare song from Saranga (1961).  Mukesh rated this classical song as the most difficult song of his career. A short version of this song was recorded by Mohammad Rafi. But for the full version, the music director Sardar Mallick insisted on Mukesh. Listen to the song, and you will understand why.

Cheers … Srini.