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How did the 12 Hindu Calendar months get there names?

How are the twelve months in the Hindu Calendar named?

A baby born in the family brings so much joy and special memories. It’s a natural phenomenon yet a huge experience for everyone, especially for the parents. Since the birth of their child, all that they want is to treat them with the best. It all starts with finding the most positive name that can bring prosperity to their kid, this is the belief that runs in the Indians both for Vedic and societal reasons. But this is not what I will be talking about today.

We are all eager to find the baby’s name, read, browse and search for the best name with positive vibes. Similarly, do we know how the names of different things around us are decided? If yes, then amazing, if not I am here to explain a logic. The concept & reasons behind the names of the Indian calendar months. We know there are 12 months in the Indian calendar with different names and different period. Unlike the Gregorian calendar, which has set days of 30 or 31, the Indian calendar month’s days vary with every year. But on average every month is about 28-29 days. Each month is called ‘Maas’.

The history of the Indian Calendar is remarkably yet a very complex subject to explore and study. Interestingly Indian calendar has got a rich history as it comes from the oldest of civilizations. To simply describe, our calendar follows the lunar cycle and not the solar cycle. That means the beginning of the month and end of the month as per the Hindu calendar is decided by the moon’s position.

Cutting it short and coming to the point, the following are the months as per the Indian calendar:

  1. Chaitra
  2. Vaisakha
  3. Jyestha
  4. Ashadha
  5. Shravana
  6. Bhadrapada
  7. Ashwina
  8. Kartika
  9. Margashira
  10. Pushya
  11. Magha
  12. Phalguna

These are the twelve months as per the Hindu calendar. Before knowing the logic behind the names, let’s understand the use of calendars a bit more. The Gregorian calendar has always been used for various administrative and civil purposes in the nation. There were attempts made to make it a singular and unified calendar but the efforts didn’t pay off. This is why still crores of Indians follow the traditional Hindu calendar for various rituals and festivals.

Interestingly the wide variety of traditions and the languages spoken in the country mean the Hindu calendar is available in multiple languages. But the basic foundation of the calendar, dates, the method used to calculate the number of days and the name of the month remains the same. Now let’s get a perfect understanding of how the months are named in the Hindu Calendar. For this, we also need the list of Nakshatras.

As we know there are 27 stars or nakshatras as per Indian astrology. Here goes the list:

  1. Ashwini
  2. Bharani
  3. Krittika
  4. Rohini
  5. Mrighasira
  6. Ardra
  7. Punarvasu
  8. Pushya
  9. Ashlesha
  10. Magha
  11. Purva Phalguni
  12. Uttara Phalguni
  13. Hasta
  14. Chitra
  15. Swati
  16. Vishaka
  17. Anuradha
  18. Jyestha
  19. Moola
  20. Purvashada
  21. Uttarashada
  22. Sharavan
  23. Dhanishta
  24. Shatabisha
  25. Purvabhadra
  26. Uttarabhadra
  27. Revati

The methodology used in naming the 12 Hindu months:

In the first step, we need to pick the ‘Nakshatra’ that lies in the midpoint of the 27 nakshatras. That means we have to pick the 14th one and that’s ‘Chitra’ Nakshatra. In a Hindu calendar, 29 or 30 days is equal to one month. Also, the month is divided into two halves, one is called Bright Half which is Shukla Paksha and the other is Waxing half which is called Krishna Paksha. The bright half of the month starts from new moon day and ends on a full moon day. A dark half or waxing half of the month starts the next day after full moon day and ends on no moon day.

We have picked the 14th Nakshatra which is the midpoint of all the nakshatras. Remember this line ‘A month is named after the star or nakshatra which appears on the full moon day or the Pournami of the month’. So, on the day of the full moon day whichever is the nakshatra, the name of the month is borrowed from there. Let’s now look at an example for the 1st month of the Hindu calendar.

Chaitra Maasam – As you see in the image below, the date is 26th April 2021 and the Tithi as per Hindu Calendar is Pournami or Full moon day. You can see that the Nakshatra on the day of Pournami is Chitra. That’s the reason why the 1st month of the Hindu Calendar got the name Chaitra. Let’s look at more examples.

Similarly, as you can see in the 2nd image, the date is 25th May 2021. It is the 2nd month of the year. In the nakshatra column, you can see ‘Vishaka’ and the tithi is once again Pournami. Thus, the name given to this month is Vaisakha.

Likewise, each month is named on the appearance of the star on the Pournami day of the month. Basing on this the names for all the twelve months are given. You can see the complete set of the 12 months and which nakshatra is related to which month in the image attached.

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