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.
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 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 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.