Uttarayana and Dakshinayana: How is the Theory of Time ‘Kala’ defined in Hinduism?

Time, despite being a purely scientific concept, has a spiritual aspect as well. Hinduism's definition of time is completely distinct from the Lunar definition.

sundial. Wikimedia

New Delhi, December 5, 2016: Time has many measures in this world. We have a global division of time where each country or continent has its own time schemes. One such time concept is the Hinduism’s concept of time which can be defined in numerous ways and in different perspectives.

In the world, time is somewhere related to the existence of certain species and the number of species existing. However, the Padma Puran states that there are 8.4 billion species under which further bifurcations show, 900,000 aquatic life forms, 2,000,000 trees and plants life forms, 1,100,000 small insect life forms, 3,000,000 beasts and reptiles life forms and 400,000 mammalian life forms.

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For every particular species, duration of time or life stands on a different scale. The concept of time is relative. According to Hindu Mythology, the world of devas or celestials will be governed by different durations of time. Time does not just refer to what happens to the world which helps in the transition from morning to night. It refers to the journey till death. In a world of material existence, time or life span can be exceedingly short, merest fraction of a minute or a few years.

In this context, Hinduism posits time in a variety of ways. One familiar measurement of time is ‘varsh’ or year. Unlike the Georgian year which commences on January 1 and ends on December 31, the Hindu year commences in the month of Chaitra—usually around March. The lunar year is different from the solar year in this respect.

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It is usually a few days shorter than the solar year. As a result, there is an extra month, roughly every three and a half years, and this is known as the Adhik Mas. Hinduism classifies time into two categories, Uttarayana and Dakshinayana.

Uttarayana refers to the northern solstice. This period is propitious for most religious and auspicious events, activities and undertakings. When the sun is in Dakshinayan or the southern solstice, several auspicious actions such as murti installations, upanayana ceremonies are suspended.

Hinduism also uses other concepts to measure time, such as tithi, karana, yoga and nakshatra. For example, the Hindu lunar month is divided into two pakshas (fortnights). The bright fortnight is described as Shukla Paksha and the dark fortnight as Krishna Paksha. Each of these two pakshas or fortnights contains fifteen lunar days. However, the Hindu calendar is very different from the Lunar calendar. While all the days in the solar month routinely has twenty-four hours, the day or tithi in Hinduism has varying durations.

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A ‘tithi’ or lunar day can be for small durations of time or well over twenty-four hours in several instances. The tithi is not fixed for twenty-four hours. The tithi is of great consideration in identifying the various religious observances.

The tithis or dates play a very important role on religious fronts. Many of the religious observances are aligned to the tithi —Chaturthi (fourth lunar day) for the worship of Lord Ganesh, Ekadashi (eleventh lunar day) for the worship of Lord Vishnu, Ashtmi (eighth lunar day) for the worship of Devi (Divine Mother), Chaturdashi (fourteenth lunar day) for the worship of Shiva.

In all instances, the measurement of the time as well as the duration of the ‘tithi’ resolves around the start and end time of each tithi to determine the most appropriate day to observe each religious event.

Calculations of the start and end time of each tithi is very important. The tithis also give a partial knowledge of what activities can be undertaken on a particular tithi. Similarly, nakshatras also play a very important role as it holds a significant role. Each nakshatra is subdivided into four equal parts called ‘charanas’.

Each charan is linked to the astrological conclusions that can be made for a person when the birth chart is drawn. Apart from tithis and nakshatras as units of time, yoga and karma are also important for different reasons in determining what can be done and what should be postponed. Thus, the concept of time remains an important and distinguished part of Hinduism.

– by Shambhavi Sinha of NewsGram. Twitter:  @shambhavispeaks

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