The twinkling stars and the bright moon that glorify the sky in the night allure a man since his childhood. As he grows he finds Sun also interesting. As he grows, he starts correlating the happenings on earth with the movements of these celestial bodies. Rhythmic repetition of seasons enables him to measure time and design a calendar. As he makes keener observations, he starts stooping to make greater forecasts. This in general is the history of the Astronomical and Cosmological studies in every corner of the earth.
However, the approach of the ancient Indians in this regard is basically distinct. Their day to day routine life is linked the happenings in the celestial bodies which include not only the solar system and 27 stars but also beyond to include
the Agastya star, Simsumara Chakra, Dhruva etc.
More and more complicated happenings in the celestial kingdom are reflected in the form of more and more complicated spiritual practices like yagnas and yagas of the ancient Indians. This being so precise calculations of celestial bodies became more indispensable for them. That is why this science was developed by them in a manner which is perhaps unimaginable to the modern science.
Man in the other parts of the world was trying to forecast the happenings of this world. The present scientific man is trying to conquer the hither- to unexplored areas of the far off sky. The case is entirely different with the ancient Indians. They were trying to establish a link between this world and the world beyond between this birth and births to come. This statement may not sound logical to the present day scientist, but our point is that because of this approach, the ancient Indians could advance and march ahead their contemporary colleagues around the globe in the field of Astronomy and Cosmology. This is the area which precipitates a common intersection between a spiritual Indian and a modern scientist. In a common Indian language, this intersection is called “Panchanga or the Almanac”.
Thus Panchanga is of common interest to a traditionalist as well as a modernist. A traditionalist requires to support of a modernist to fine tune his perfection in deciding exact times of his spiritual practices. A modernist needs the support of a traditionalist to have a better understanding of the earlier records in this
- Ed, to leap forward with better ease in his own line. That is why I-SERVE, an institution dedicated to unearth the technical details of the Vedic sciences, is interested in the theoretical parts that govern an Indian Panchanga (Almanac).
Fortunately, at least a minimal of this literature is available and alive in its tradition, where as the case is ct so with the other Vedic sciences. But the study of this area has become slightly complicated because of the adequacy of the literature available. The problem is magnified by the commentators of the medieval penis. whose observational capacities were hindered due to many historical upheavals. Attempts to simplify procedures of calculations for the benefit of the average student, added their might to the complications and finally the superstitions associated with their spiritual practices made them almost irreversible.
In the recent times some of the traditionalists started to take support of the advent of modem science in filling up the gaps of their literature, refining their understanding of their own literature and supplementing it wherever necessary. In the process, naturally, there arose some differences in the approach, as a result of which we find diverging Indian calendars in every state of the country. Each school of the Panchanga makers issue long statements with detailed explanations and quotations but even a professor of the modern astronomy are not able to make out what is being said. It is not due to lack of interest. It is not a fact that all modem professors are disinterested or averse to the traditional knowledge. The point is that the terminology of the traditional sciences is totally unknown to them. Those who make traditional Panchangas in India are in ample numbers but out of them those with the knowledge of the Siddhanta Bhaga (theoretical part of the almanac) are very few, added to this most of them don’t have knowledge of English, not to speak of acquaintance with modem astronomy. That is why a big gap is created between traditional and modern astronomers. The gap has been further widened by the attempts of some of the half educated scholars on both sides who have let loose imprecise translations and irrational correlations. I am afraid, I may be hurting some of my friends, which is not my intention but my appeal us that we cannot ignore this point. To give striking examples — the unit of English minute was translated as Nimisha, inch as Angula, planets as grahas. Such translations definitely lead to unnecessary controversies and far reaching diversities. As a result of this a common Indian is kept at bay and he is not able to understand anything.
By the word common man, here, I mean an average educated person who is capable of understanding things in general. The calculation parts of almanac making, are, of course, complicated but the general principle behind such calculations are definitely not beyond the domain of an educated person’s grasping capacity. Today’s general elite knows something about the axis of the earth, the equator, longitude...etc. but he may not know anything about Meru Rekha, Vishubha Bindu, Sankranti, Ayanamsa. ..etc. Please note that I am not giving the English and Sanskrit equivalents here. What I am trying to bring home is that if we acquaint the general elite with the traditional terminology along with optimum explanations they will be able to get the theme of the theory and judge the merits of the logic.
Some of the traditionalists have a feeling that what ever is said in Sanskrit, that too in verse is a commandment from sages while some of the modernists have a tendency to reject emotionally what ever is traditional. Because of such tangential approaches, logic and reasoning are becoming orphans and major factors like Ayanamsa (equinox) which are crucial in making a Panchanga are being enveloped by different sentiments. And this problem has to be resolved by whom?
An average present day Indian citizen does not prefer to depend upon anybody, including the spiritual leaders. Consequently he is trying to avoid this confusion by rejecting all schools of almanac. Added to this, we find a lot of terminology in Indian almanac which means a festival and nothing beyond that, for a common man. For example the famous Makara Sankranti is an important festival for all Indians. This is generally believed to fall on 14th January. But when Panchangas start saying Sankranti falls on 22nd December, and the Nirayana Sankranti falls on 14a January, a common man is confused. When some other Panchangas claim that some more degrees are to be added and the dates are to be still adjusted, is no where around these arguments.
In my own experience, when I approached some Panhanga kartas for clarification about this point, the language of their explanation was so unfamiliar to me that I could not make out anything from their elaborate explanations. I came from a traditional family and have a reasonable familiarity with the language of sanskrit and yet, those explanations were Greek and Latin to me. Unless we speak to a Tamilian in Tamil and to a Maharashtrian in Marathi, there is no purpose in speaking. The language of the present day common man i modem science and we should be able to speak in that language, if we wish to convey something to him. Ii the theoretical principles of Panchanga are properly conveyed and if the technical terms are familiarized, an educated person with an average intelligence and interest in the subject will be able to come to his own logical conclusions, regarding the approaches of different schools of Panchanga making.
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