I am sure you must have heard of a ‘Leap year’. The one which has an extra day in the month of February and occurs every 4 years. But have you heard of a year which has an extra month? It is famous by the name of “Purushottam Adhik Mass” or “The finest extra month among all others”. In this article, I will try to explain how it is astronomically possible for the vedic calendar to have an extra month in a year.
How many calendars are there in the world?
All the major civilizations of the world have developed their own astronomical systems and thus calendars. The Egyptians developed a 365 day solar calendar. Romans had a 10-month lunar calendar. Chinese had a 354 day year with 12 months. Similarly, Greeks, Bavarians, Mulsims, etc. had peculiar calendars. These were mostly minor innovations on already existing systems rather than ingenious products of horology.
What is the difference between Solar calendar and Lunar Calendar?
Almost all the calendar systems in the world are either solar or lunar. That is to say that either they use the relative position of the Sun and the stars or they use the phases of the Moon. While the widely accepted Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar, the Vedic calendar or the Hindu calendar is a lunar calendar.
What is the Science of Calendars called?
The modern scientific study of time, calendar, months and their organization is called Horology. Although, traditionally the calculation of time, auspicious dates, festivals and even calendars falls under the ambit of astrology. In fact, in India astronomy is synonymous with astrology. Often modern scientists disregard astrology as fortune telling. But that is not true. Prediction of the future is a small part of the science of astrology, however it has many other utilities such as accurately calculating the position of stars, constellations, eclipses and other celestial events. On one hand, modern scientists spend billions of dollars on telescopes, super computers and satellites to predict eclipses, while on the other hand Indian astrologers publish an annual ‘Panchanga’ that costs barely ten rupees and contains all the details of major celestial events of the year. Therefore, to understand how the Indian calendar can accommodate an extra month we need to understand the scientific calculations of astrology.
How Purushottam Adhik Mass Occurs?
Every two years and eight months an extra month is added to the year in Vedic calendar. Hindu calendar is an incorrect term because the word ‘Hindu’ refers to everyone living on the Eastern border of the river Indus. This is a geographical term and not a religious term. Technically speaking, everyone who lives in present day India is a Hindu, but everyone does not follow this ancient indian calendar system. Hence a more appropriate term is Vedic Calendar or Panchanga. The Sanskrit word ‘Panchanga’ is composed of 2 words ‘Pancha’ meaning ‘five’ and ‘Anga’ meaning ‘parts’. These 5 components of a Vedic calendar are Tithi, Nakshatra, Rashi, Yoga, and Karana. Nevermind the details of these 5 limbs, in this article we will see how the Vedic calendar can have an extra month?
Moon changes phases on a daily basis. As per scientific calculations it takes 29 days and 12 hours for the Moon to complete all its phases from Full-Moon to New-Moon and then back to Full Moon, therefore,
1 Vedic month = 29 days + 12 hours
One Vedic year has 12 months therefore,
1 Vedic year = 348 days + 6 days = 354 days
Furthermore, the Earth takes 365 days to complete one revolution of the Sun. As seasons are dependent upon the Sun. The Vedic calendar keeps aside these extra 11 days, therefore,
1 Solar year = 365 days
1 Vedic year = 354 days
Thus, days unaccounted in a year = 11
After 2 years and 8 months the number of unaccounted days becomes 29 and hence a whole new month is created.
Why is there the need for an extra month?
Apart from the necessity to be mathematically immaculate, the primary reason for an extra month is to have accurate predictions of rains, crop cycles and seasons. India being an agricultural country the demand for accurate predictions of monsoon has always been the priority. Without the addition of an extra month every two and half years, we won’t be able to predict the seasons accurately.
Is vedic calendar still relevant in times of modern meteorology?
In the 21st Century, climate has become unpredictable due to global warming. The modern lifestyle of consumerism is primarily responsible for this shift in climate. With rapid industrialization and urbanization the rains have become inadequate at some places and torrential at others. Storms are no longer restricted to certain months in a year and the magnitude of the natural disasters has also escalated. Genetic modification of crops and animals has further deteriorated the flora and fauna which consequently reduces natural processes of rehabilitation. The Corona pandemic is an acute example of how the world could go into a stand-still if modern so-called scientists are allowed to experiment with nature unrestrictedly.
The Vedic lifestyle is a natural and holistic civil-structure which provides access to all comforts of human life in a sustainable way. And that is what the Vedic calendar represents. It is a harmonious relationship of seasons, festivals, observances, fasts, penances and devotion. The Vedic calendar provides specific dates every month when the body purifies the blood vessels and dietary restriction on those dates greatly improves human health. Similarly, there are bi-annual 9-day fasts when the seasons change from Winter to Spring and Autumn to Winter. Dietary restrictions during this period prepare our bodies for the forthcoming weather as well as enhance our immunity. Even modern scientists agree that allergies become rampant during the Spring and Autumn months due to pollination in plants. There are numerous other examples and with each calendar event a vital aspect of social, environmental or psychological evolution is connected.
What is the special significance of the extra month in Hindu calendar?
Time is actually the only non-renewable resource in the world, even coal and petroleum is renewed in a few million years. Keeping the significance of time in mind the Vedic civilization organizes a whole month every two and a half years for special spiritual development. For billions of millenia human beings have performed special penances during this month and have reaped multifold benefits. These benefits are not limited to tangible objects like wealth, family health and social unity, but, in fact, these benefits transcend the physical, mental and ethereal plains. One can imagine the positive change in the consciousness of a person if he wakes up at four in the morning for one whole month in order to practice mantra meditation. Similarly, special benefits are attained through various other sacrifices. The word sacrifice here denotes a choice. A choice to not aggrandize objects or people for one’s own enjoyment, rather, offer service, alms, sweet words, helping hand, clean drinking water, education and many other items with love.
This extra month of Hindu calendar is also called “Purushottam” meaning the ‘Finest Man’. In my opinion, every one of us has the unique opportunity to become the finest versions of ourselves during this month by spreading love. Love is, quite simply put, offering everything without expecting anything. Such love is possible only when we see that everyone – man, woman, transgender, animal, plants, aliens, insects, – is the child of the same Father. Vedic civilization or Hinduism addresses this omnipotent loving Father as Shri Krishna, Christians address Him as the Holy Father, and Mohammedan as Allah. Some people are not so clear about the existence of the Supreme Father, but even they do not deny the presence of a Supreme Power like Brahmajyoti, or the Ultimate Light.The Light from which all other candles are lit.
How to benefit from Purushottam month?
Obviously, everyone who can appreciate the importance of spiritual evolution would like to benefit from this extra month that occurs in the Vedic calendar. There is a whole article that offers detailed steps to follow during this month for ISKCON devotees to extract maximum benefit and can be read one this link How can ISKCON devotees observe Purushottam Adhik Maas?. For the rest, simple steps in the right direction are sufficient. Such as wake up before sunrise, take a bath and offer prayers to God in whichever form you appreciate him.