STARS DECIDE OUR FATE?
Panchangam is one of the most popular annual
books published in India. Panchangam is a handy book that helps observant
Hindus to determine the most auspicious times for their rituals, festivals,
celebrations, and pursuits of various sorts including marriage, undertaking
travels, etc. Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and Jains also use Panchangams
or contents of Panchangams, to a certain extent. Farmers may seek the
help of Panchangam for their sowing and harvesting activities. In every
stage of life, Panchangam has been the first source for an observant
Hindu to take important decisions in his daily life. It is a sort of
ready-reckoner, or the first source, before one approaches a priest
(purohit) or an astrologer to decide on the details.
A DESCRIPTION OF PANCHANGAM
A popular description of Panchangam is as
Hindu Society, all important functions or rituals will be conducted
only after choosing a proper time for them This is done with the help
of Almanac or Panchanga(m), an important booklet possessed by every
house-hold in Hindu families throughout the world. It is common even
amongst some Muslim or Christian families to consult an almanac before
finalizing the timing of any auspicious event.
The Sanskrit word "Panchanga" means five segments or limbs,
namely, Thithi (lunar day), Vara (week day), Nakshatra (constellation),
Yoga (luni-solar day) and Karana (half of a lunar day). The five limbs
of the Panchanga represent the five sources of energy, visible as well
as invisible, as denoted by these segments in a day.
believed by the followers of the Panchanga that a proper balance of
these energies is necessary for health, wealth and prosperity of mankind.
The almanac provides guidelines for a person to undertake various activities
in accordance with the best possible and most beneficial combination
of these five elements signified by the five limbs. The combination
varies depending on the nature of activity undertaken. The time so chosen
for these activities, religious, social or otherwise, is called a "Muhurtha(m)".
In a Hindu family or Society, no religious or social activity, which
is compared important, is undertaken without fixing a proper muhurtha(m).
Thus, apart from individual’s activities, dates for the festivals, sowing
of plants and other agricultural activities and common religious functions
are also chosen or determined on the basis of auspicious time indicated
Almanac will furnish
the user with the details like duration of Thidhis, Nakshatras (stars),
moments of Grahas, auspicious occasions, Muhurats, Festivals, Subh &
Asubh, Sunset, Varjyam
(dur-Muhurat), etc. for all the days. Info about Nakshatras, Rasi
(Zodiac signs), daily / weekly / monthly / yearly predictions, remedies
for astrological doshas, etc. will be furnished in a way that
enables even a layman to understand it at a glance.
ASTROLOGY AND PANCHANGAM
Panchangam may be said to be a product of
astrology, defined as “the divination of the supposed influence of the
stars and planets on human affairs and terrestrial events by their positions
and aspects.” Farmer’s Almanac is a very popular book
among American farmers, claiming to give them every day advice on farming,
weather, and family and community-related activities.
Astrology deals with the past, present,
and future of an individual or a country. People are always interested
in these matters. The future life and station of an individual is revealed
through a reading of the basic natal chart prepared on the basis of
the date, time and place of birth of that individual. A nation’s future
is predicted based on the date of birth of the nation, or some such
similar events and the zodiac. The interaction between two cosmic forces
- the human being, on the one hand, and the planets and stars, on the
other, forms the very basis of such interpretation.
Observant Hindus believe that astrology,
as a system of knowledge or as practical arts, has certain postulations,
rules and norms, which are crucial to the accurate readings of a horoscope
and therefore, to predictions. A misinterpretation or wrong understanding
by the general public, can lead to unfortunate results in the lives
of individuals. People who have good training in astrology tend to work
on the assumption that the stars, zodiacs, and planets, have over-riding
effect on the lives of individuals, and that a proper study of the effect
of the stars and planets in one’s life will result in predicting the
future awaiting an individual. If this future is not good, then the
astrologer may suggest ways to propitiate appropriate gods or goddesses
or other forces in a manner that some remedy to the situation created
by the stars and planet could be obtained. Strong positions have been
taken in favor or against astrology and the use of Panchangam in the
PANCHANGAM OR ALMANAC
The Pancangam is
calculated annually in different parts of India in several cities with varying longitudes and latitudes.
Some are based on lunar movements and some on solar movements.
A commonly accepted
Pancangam in India is kalivarsa pancanga which is claimed to have started from B.C.3102.
This pancanga system has influenced many astrologers and scholars. Here,
time is calculated in accordance with the solar movements. Another solar
pancanga is kollavarsam which is popular only in Kerala, and
in the southern districts of Tamilnadu. It is started from Kollam district
of Kerala by the king of Travancore Udaya Marthanda Varma. In this pancanga
year will start from Chingam, the first Malayalam month (in English
calendar this will be August or September). This pancangam is influenced
by the Persian pancanga system. India’s officially
accepted pancangam is šakavarşam which is started in A.D.78
by ša:liva:han. For the present analysis four Panchangams of the year
2003 (Malayalam year 1178) namely jyo:tişabhu:şaNam, jyo:tişakaustubham,
sambu:RNapancha:ngam and vidya:rambham pancha:ngam were selected.
LANGUAGE OF PANCHANGAM
Almanacs are having their
own language. This language is entirely different from the language
of communication. The peculiarities of this language include abundance
of Sanskrit terms and absence of English usage. Most of the lexical
terms are in Sanskrit and because of this only a person having mastery
over Sanskrit can fully understand this language.
The style of the language
used in almanac is that of early 19th century, where the
use of very long sentence is treated as a prestige symbol. Some pages
of panchanga contain paragraphs with single sentences which will run
up to 13 to 15 lines. The language style of most of the panchangas are
same except the content. The content may vary according to the publishers’
For instance, Jyo:tişa
kaustubham, the panchangam published by the Travancore Devaswom
Board contains additional information about different temples of that
particular region. The rest of the contents in most of the panchangas
include the predictions based on the position of different planets.
The language used in these descriptions is also crowded with Sanskrit
terms. The titles under which these predictions are given remain the
same in all the books and will remain same in all the editions including
the new ones. For example the titles like vişu bhalam, ku:RubhalaηηaL,
me:şa saηkRama bhalaηηaL etc., can be seen in all
the panchagas irrespective of the publisher or the year.
All the panchangas contain
numerical charts depicting the time of sunrise and sunset, movements
of sun and other planets each day, and the calendar of that particular
year. They also contain pages showing the sacred or auspicious time
(muhurtham) for ritual functions like marriage, naming ceremony, ear
piercing ceremony, house warming ceremony, etc. These charts show the
movement of stars and planets, and also divide and indicate the timings
for such movements. People rely on the information to choose the apt
timings for their purposes.
Linguistic analysis of
the language used in these panchangas shows deviations from standard
language in the morphological, lexical and syntactic levels. The variations
are listed below. Note that our discussion here is based on Panchangam
published in Malayalam.
The purposive marker –a:n
is used with the link morph -pp- instead of –ykk-
vitaykka:n > vitappa:n ‘to sow’
niRaykka:n > niRappa:n ‘to fill’
ta:masiykka:n > ta:masippa:n ‘to delay’
siddhiykka:n > siddhippa:n ‘to get’
In most of the panchangams
the negative marker illa is replaced with arutu when it
occurs with koL-
koLLilla > koLLarutu ‘not suitable’
The common locative marker –il of standard Malayalam
is replaced with the olden forms
ka:lattil > ka:lattiηkal ‘during the time’
ra:ja:vil > ra:ja:viηkal ‘in the king’
In Malayalam, the accusative
case marker -e is usually used along with animate nouns.
But Panchangams deviate from this rule, as in the usage apara:dhatte
ceyyunnavan instead of apara:dham ceyyunnavan, ‘one who is
committing a crime.’
The morphological variations
listed above shows that the Panchangams in Malayalam are adopt the early
language style, not currently in use. The reason for this may be that
the composers and the publishers are trying to retain an aroma or auro
of its originality through the olden language usages.
The language of Panchangam
differs from the ordinary language because of its astrological terms
and Sanskrit usages. Astrological terms, which are the soul of Panchangam,
can be understood only by a person trained in or acquainted with astrology.
Thus, even though Panchangams are intended for family use, a correct
understanding and interpretation of most of the contents require some
help from others acquainted with astrological terms. Most people get
to understand the words and sentences used by years of using Panchangams
or by listening to people adept in reading them.
The variations which I highlight
here are concerned only with the language, ignoring the actual astrological
In Panchangams the term
i:tiba:dha is used for a public calamity like drought, flood,
or war. This term is replaced with duritaba:dha in the current
vocabulary in Malayalam. In the same manner the usages like itukaL
for mutala:yava ‘etc.,’ atukaL for ava ‘those’
also show deviation from the current vocabulary.
The term used in Panchangams
for vi:TupaNiya:n ‘for constructing a house’ is purapaNiya:n.
This also shows a deviation from the current usage. In the past, the
houses of ordinary people were referred to as pura or ma:Tam
whereas those that belong to the higher social category group were given
separate names. For example, the house of higher castes groups like
the Brahmins or Nampoodiris were referred to as illam.
Even though the difference
in the social hierarchy is minimized in the present situation in Kerala,
Panchangams retain the old tradition through their language. This attitude
of Panchangams is visible in the title illam niRappa:n ‘to fill
the illam (the Nampoodiri house)’. Here this title is mentioned
a good number of times for filling the house with the harvested crops.
In olden days the landlords were the upper caste people and the workers
were from the lower castes. Therefore, after harvesting, the crops should
be transferred to the house of the owner, and, for this purpose, they
should wait for a proper time, as mentioned in Panchangam. Even though
this tradition has completely disappeared from the present day society,
where there is no class or caste restriction for land ownership and
cultivation, Panchangam still retains the old vocabulary and perhaps
the old concept.
In the earlier period, Panchangam
composers or writers showed off their scholarship by using more Sanskrit
words in their writings. In Panchangams, one can observe this trend.
There are many instances where the authors preferred to use Sanskrit
terms for commonly occurring and easily comprehended Malayalam words.
The table below lists some
of the lexical items which Panchangams preferred to use from the Sanskrit
language instead of the commonly occurring Malayalam equivalents..
terms used in Panchangam
equivalents and meanings
vittu vitaykkuka ‘sowing of seeds’
pallute:ypp∂ ‘cleaning the teeth’
This shows that
Panchangams try to retain the old concept of the people, to keep aloof
from the lowly trends followed among common men. It is also possible
that the composers think that a high-culture subject portrayed in Panchangams
require a “high” language in some sense to keep its distinct features
and even sanctity. Above all, adherence to tradition appears to be the
most important reason for this trend to continue.
In Panchangams, the sentences are written at a stretch
without any break, using the conjunctive markers. Subject deletion is
noticed in some instances. For example, the descriptions given under
the title upanayanattin∂ ‘for the sacred thread adorning
ceremony,’ vidya:rambhattin ’for starting education’, kaRNave:dhattin∂
‘for piercing the ear,’ etc., (where the auspicious or proper times
for these customs are given), are devoid of subject. These peculiarities
coupled with the Sanskrit influence make the language of Panchangam
a separate entity beyond the reach of common man.
retain the old traditions in the present social situation also. This
is evident in the titles like ra:ja daRsanattin∂ ‘for seeing
the king’, ra:jaka:ryannaLkku nalladivasam ‘good time for the
matters related to the king.’ These titles are irrelevant in the present
situation due to the change in the governance model. Some Panchangams
like jyotişabhu:şaNam wanted to stay with the changing
society by writing the title mantRi darsanattinum maRRum ‘to
see the ministers etc.,’ in parantheses along with the above mentioned
titles. This, in one way, shows the changing trend of the writers or
composers of Panchangams to stay current.
AND SURVIVAL OF PANCHANGAMS
At the present situation
the popularity of Panchangam is diminishing for various reasons. Social
and atheistic reform movements spearheaded by leaders like Periyar Ramasamy
and Annadurai in south India, overall secularization brought forth by
the independence movement in the country, the growth of socialist movements
in Kerala, widespread literacy that engendered cynicism on matters relating
to astrology, and also the popularity of a variety of calendars that
present the information in some clear and straightforward manner have
reduced the importance and readership of Panchangams. These calendars
clearly mention the auspicious timings in simple language for different
occasions besides the dates and months of that particular year. Other
reason for the reduced popularity of Panchangam may be the developments
in the field of Science and Technology. In olden days, people had to
rely on Panchangams or any other predictions for getting an idea about
the rain, or change of weather, or finding a proper place for digging
a well, etc. Now all these are taken care of by technology. But the
importance of Panchangam still continues mainly because while technology
may locate the ground water, the observant Hindus’ desire to find the
most auspicious time to dig the ground is still fulfilled by Panchangams.
Even though the developments
in the field of Science and Technology may have reached sky-high, the
domains related to astrology and Panchangams survive irrespective of
their archaic and hard-to-comprehend technical language. The developments
in the fields of science and technology may reduce the popularity of
Panchangams and astrology, but these do not do away with Panchangams
and astrology, since ways of life still demand seeking auspicious times
for events such as marriage, house-warming, house-construction, etc.