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Indian Calendar

Indian Calendar

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Published by: aravindiyengar1977 on May 08, 2010
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 Introduction
A
calendar
is a means of grouping days in ways convenient for regulating civil life andreligious observances and for historical and scientific purposes. The word is derived fromthe Latin
calendarium,
meaning interest register, or account book, itself a derivation from
calendae
(or 
kalendae
), the first day of the Roman month, the day on which futuremarket days, feasts, and other occasions were proclaimed. (see also
 Index
:
chronology
 
)The development of a calendar is vital for the study of chronology, since this isconcerned with reckoning time by regular divisions, or periods, and using these to dateevents. It is essential, too, for any civilization that needs to measure periods fo
agricultural
, business, domestic, or other reasons. The first practical calendar to evolvefrom these requirements was the Egyptian, and it was this that the Romans developedinto the Julian calendar that served western Europe for more than 1,500 years. TheGregorian calendar was a further improvement and has been almost universally adopted because it satisfactorily draws into one system the dating of religious festivals based onthe phases of the
Moon
and seasonal activities determined by the movement of the Sun.Such a calendar system is complex, since the periods of the Moon's phases and the
Sun's
motion are incompatible; but by adopting regular cycles of days and comparativelysimple rules for their application, the calendar provides a
year
with an error of less thanhalf a minute. (see also
 Index
:
Egypt, ancient
)
Collections by Aravind Iyengar
Measurement of time and types of calendars
STANDARD UNITS AND CYCLES
The basic unit of computation in a calendar is the day, and although days are nowmeasured from midnight to midnight this has not always been so.
Astronomers
, for instance, from about the 2nd century AD until 1925 counted days from noon to noon. Inearlier civilizations and among primitive peoples, where there was less communication between different settlements or groups, different methods of reckoning the day presentedno difficulties. Most primitive tribes used a dawn-to-dawn reckoning, calling asuccession of days so many dawns, or suns. Later, the Babylonians, Jews, and Greekscounted a day from sunset to sunset, whereas the day was said to begin at dawn for theHindus and Egyptians and at midnight for the Romans. The Teutons counted nights, andfrom them the grouping of 14 days called a fortnight is derived.There was also great variety in the ways in which the
day
was subdivided. In Babylonia,for example, the astronomical day was divided differently than the civil day, which, as inother ancient cultures, was composed of "watches." The length of the watches was notconstant but varied with the season, the day watches being the longer in summer and thenight watches in the winter. Such
seasonal
variations in divisions of the day, now calledseasonal or temporal
hours
, became customary in antiquity because they corresponded tothe length of the Sun's time above the horizon, at maximum in summer and at minimumin winter. Only with the advent of mechanical clocks in western Europe at the end of the13th century did seasonal (unequal) hours become inconvenient.
 
Most early Western civilizations used 24 seasonal hours in the day--12 hours of daylightand 12 of darkness. This was the practice of the Greeks, the Sumerians and Babylonians,the Egyptians, and the Romans, and of Western Christendom so far as civil reckoningwas concerned. The church adopted its own
canonical hours
for reckoning dailyworship: there were seven of these--matins, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers, andcompline--but in secular affairs the system of 24 hours held sway. This number, 2 ×12, or 24, was derived in Babylonia from the Sumerian sexagesimal method of reckoning, basedon gradations of 60 (5 ×12 = 60) rather than on multiples of 10. In Babylonia, for most purposes, both daylight and night were divided into three equal watches, and each watchwas subdivided into half- and quarter-watches. Babylonian astronomers, perhaps in preference to the variable civil system, divided every day into 12 equal units, called
beru,
each of which was subdivided into 30
 gesh
. The oldest known astronomical texts arefrom the Old Babylonian period, but this dual system may be attributable to earlier Sumerian society.Once the day is divided into parts, the next task is to gather numbers of days into groups.Among primitive peoples, it was common to count moons (months) rather than days, butlater a period shorter than the month was thought more convenient, and an interval between
market
days was adopted. In West Africa some tribes used a four-day interval;in central Asia five days was customary; the Assyrians adopted five days and theEgyptians, 10 days, whereas the Babylonians attached significance to the days of thelunation that were multiples of seven. In ancient Rome, markets were held at eight-dayintervals; because of the Roman method of inclusive numeration, the market day wasdenoted
nundinae
("ninth-day") and the eight-day week, an
inter nundium
.The seven-day
week 
may owe its origin partly to the four (approximately) seven-day phases of the Moon and partly to the Babylonian belief in the sacredness of the number seven, which was probably related to the seven planets. Moreover, by the 1st century BCthe Jewish seven-day week seems to have been adopted throughout the Roman world,and this influenced Christendom. The names in English of the days of the week arederived from Latin or Anglo-Saxon names of gods.The
month
is based on the lunation, that period in which the Moon completes a cycle of its phases. The period lasts approximately 29 1/2 days, and it is easy to recognize andshort enough for the days to be counted without using large numbers. In addition, it isvery close to the average menstrual period of women and also to the duration of cyclic behaviour in some marine creatures. Thus, the month possessed great significance andwas often the governing period for religious observances, of which the dating of Easter isa notable example. Most early calendars were, essentially, collections of months, theBabylonians using 29- and 30-day periods alternately, the Egyptians fixing the durationof all months at 30 days, with the Greeks copying them, and the Romans in the Juliancalendar having a rather more complex system using one 28-day period with the others of either 30 or 31 days. (see also
 Index
:
menstrual cycle
)The month is not suitable for determining the seasons, for these are a solar, not a lunar, phenomenon. Seasons vary in different parts of the world--in tropical countries there are just the rainy and dry periods, but elsewhere there are successions of wider changes. InEgypt the annual flooding of the Nile was followed by seeding and then harvest, and
 
three seasons were recognized; but in Greece and other more northern countries there wasa succession of four seasons of slightly different lengths. However many there seemed to be, it was everywhere recognized that seasons were related to the Sun and that they could be determined from solar observations. These might consist of noting the varying lengthof the midday shadow cast by a stick thrust vertically into the ground or follow the far more sophisticated procedure of deducing from nocturnal observations the Sun's positionagainst the background of the stars. In either case the result was a year of 365 days, a period incompatible with the 29 1/2-day lunation. To find some simple relationship between the two periods was the problem that faced all calendar makers from Babyloniantimes onward. (see also
 Index
:
Nile River
)A number of nonastronomical natural signs have also been used in determining theseasons. In the Mediterranean area, such indications change rapidly, and
Hesiod
(
c.
800BC) mentions a wide variety: the cry of migrating cranes, which indicated a time for  plowing and sowing; the time when snails climb up plants, after which digging invineyards should cease; and so on. An unwitting approximation to the tropical year mayalso be obtained by intercalation, using a simple lunar calendar and observations of animal behaviour. Such an unusual situation has grown up among the Yami fishermen of Botel-Tobago Island, near Taiwan. They use a calendar based on phases of the Moon,and some time about March (the precise date depends on the degree of error of their lunar calendar compared with the tropical year) they go out in boats with lighted flares. If flying fish appear, the fishing season is allowed to commence, but if the lunar calendar istoo far out of step with the seasons, the flying fish will not rise. Fishing is then postponedfor another lunation, which they insert in the lunar calendar, thus having a year of 13instead of the usual 12 lunations.
Collections by Aravind Iyengar 
TIME DETERMINATION BY STARS, SUN, AND MOON
Celestial bodies provide the basic standards for determining the periods of a calendar.Their movement as they rise and set is now known to be a reflection of the Earth'srotation, which, although not precisely uniform, can conveniently be averaged out to provide a suitable calendar day. The day can be measured either by the
stars
or by theSun. If the stars are used, then the interval is called the sidereal day and is defined by the period between two passages of a star (more precisely of the vernal equinox, a reference point on the celestial sphere) across the meridian: it is 23 hours 56 minutes 4.10 secondsof mean solar time (see below). The interval between two passages of the Sun across themeridian is a solar day. In practice, since the rate of the Sun's motion varies with theseasons, use is made of a fictitious Sun that always moves across the sky at an even rate.This period of constant length, far more convenient for civil purposes, is the mean solar day, which has a duration in sidereal time of 24 hours 3 minutes 56.55 seconds. It islonger than the sidereal day because the motion of the Earth in its orbit during the period between two transits of the Sun means that the Earth must complete more than a wholerevolution to bring the Sun back to the meridian. The mean solar day is the period used incalendar computation. (see also
 Index
:
sidereal period
 
)The month is determined by the Moon's passage around the Earth, and, as in the case of the day, there are several ways in which it can be defined. In essence, these are of two

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