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Kali-yuga and Sakabda

Kali-yuga - first 10,000 years
Situation in Kali-yuga
Saka, Sakabda (Saka Era) and Calendar

Kali-yuga - first 10,000 years

Ekanath dasa:

Predicted in Brahma-vaivarta Purana 4.129.*. The fourth part of the Brahma-vaivarta is called Krsna-janma-khanda. Chapter 129 is called Golokarohanam, because it describes how Krsna returns to His abode. The general dialogue is between Lord Narayana and Narada Muni. This specific dialogue is between Lord Krsna and Mother Ganga. Verse 49 is a question by Ganga, verses 50-60 are Krsna's answer.

Text 49:

bhAgIrathy uvAca
he nAtha ramaNaSreStha
yAsi golokamuttamam
asmAkaM kA gatiScAtra
bhaviSyati kalau yuge

"Ganga said: O protector, Supreme enjoyer, on your departure for the perfect abode, Goloka, thereafter what will be my situation in the age of Kali?"

Text 50

zrI-bhagavAn uvAca
kaleH paMcasahasrANi
varSANi tiSTha bhu-tale
pApAni pApino yAni
tubhyaM dAsyaMti snAnataH

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Remain on earth for five thousand years of Kali yuga. Sinners will deposit their sins in you by bathing."

Text 51

man-maMtropAsaka sparzAd
bhasmibhutAni tatkSaNAt
bhaviSyaMti darzanAc ca
snAnAd eva hi jAhnavI

"By the sight, touch and bathing of one who worships Me by My mantra all those sins will be at once burnt to ashes, O Ganga."

Text 52

harernAmAni yatraiva
purANAni bhavaMti hi
tatra gatvA sAvadhAnam
AbhiH sArddhaM ca zroSyasi

"There will be chanting of the name of Hari and reading of the [Bhagavata] Purana. Reaching such a place, attentively hear.

[note: In Puranic language, when "Purana" is used alone it refers to Bhagavata Purana. Otherwise it will specify Skanda Purana, Visnu Purana, etc.]

Text 53:

purANa zravaNAccaiva
harernAmAnukIrtanAt
bhasmibhutAni pApAni
brahma-hatyAdikAni ca

"Sinful reactions including the killing of a brahmana can be nullified be hearing the [Bhagavata] Purana and chanting of the names of Hari in the manner of devotees."

Text 54:

bhasmibhutAni tAnyeva
vaiSNavAliMganena ca
tRNAni zuSkakASthAni
dahaMti pAvako yathA

"Just as dry grass is burnt by fire, by the embrace of Vaisnavas all sins are burnt."

Text 55:

tathApi vaiSNavA loke
pApAni pApinAmapi
pRthivyAM yAni tIrthAni
puNyAnyapi ca jAhnavi

"O Ganga, the whole planet will become a pilgrimage site by the presence of Vaisnavas, even though it had been full of sinners and sins."

Text 56:

madbhaktAnAM zarIreSu
santi puteSu saMtatam
madbhaktapAdarajasA
sadyaH putA vasundharA

"In the body of My devotees remains eternally [the purifier]. Mother Earth becomes pure by the dust of the feet of My devotees."

Text 57:

sadyaH putAni tIrthAni
sadyaH putaM jagat tathA
man-maMtropAsakA viprA
ye maducchiSRbhojinaH

"It will be the same in the case of pilgrimage sites and the whole world. Those intelligent worshipers of My mantra who partake of My remnants will purify everything."

Text 58

mAm eva nityaM dhyAyaMte
te mat prANAdhikAH priyAH
tad upasparza mAtreNa
puto vAyuzca pAvakaH

"Those, who everyday meditate only on Me, are more dear to Me than My life. The air and fire become pure simply by their indirect touch."

[Note: Sastra says that of all material elements, fire and air are always pure. Even though the air carries some impurities it always remains itself pure. This verse indicates that the Vaisnavas will purify even the pure elements of fire and air, therefore the purifying potency of the Vaisnavas referred to in this verse is not material but completely spiritual. I.e. the air and fire are _already_ materially pure, therefore the Vaisnavas purity is spiritual and not material.]

Text 59:

kaler daza-sahasrANi
madbhaktAH saMti bhu-tale
ekavarNA bhaviSyaMti
madbhakteSu gateSu ca

"For 10,000 years of Kali such devotees of Mine will be present on earth. After the departure of My devotees there will be only one varna [outcaste]."

Text 60:

madbhaktazunyA pRthivi
kaligrastA bhaviSyati
etasminnaMtare tatra
kRSNadehAdvinirgataH

"Devoid of My devotees, the earth will be shackled by Kali. Saying this, Krsna departed."

The above is supported in 4.90.32-33:

kalau daza-sahasrAni
haris tiSThati medinI
devAnAM pratimA pUjyA
zAstrANi ca purANakam

"(Sri Krsna said:) Lord Hari will stay on this earth for the first ten-thousand years of Kali-yuga. For that time the deities of the demigods will be worshiped and the Puranas and scriptures will also be present."

tad-ardham api tIrthAni
gangAdIni su nizcitam
tad-ardham grAma-devAz ca
vedAz ca viduSAm api

"For half that period the Ganga and other holy places will be present. For half that period the village temples and the Vedas studied by learned brahmanas will be present."

Resulting timelime:

3102 BCE - Kaliyuga begins

+5000 - Ganga on earth (about 1900 CE, 414 Gaurabda)

+5000 - devotees on earth (about 6900 CE, 5414 Gaurabda)

(= 10 000 - Gaura era)

Interestingly, Ma Ganga is still present on earth so these dates may be subject to change, unless there is another explanation. One could be that BVP describes a different kalpa, Rathantara.

Srila Prabhupada suggested in SB 8.5.23 p. 10 000 years long era from the time of Sri Caitanya, i.e. until about 11 500 CE. Similar quotes: CC 3.3.50 ("It is said that the Krsna consciousness movement will be prominent within the next ten thousand years, but after that people will all become mlecchas and yavanas."; 690513RC.COL: "Hare Krsna will be finished within ten thousand years."; SPL 18: "However, the Vedic literature foretells a golden age of spiritual life, beginning after the advent of Lord Caitanya and lasting for ten thousand years-an eddy that runs against the current of Kali-yuga." For this I haven't seen any sastra pramana so far.

Situation in Kali-yuga

According to the Vedic scriptures, our current age, known as Kali-yuga, is one of spiritual darkness, violence and hypocrisy. Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.2.31) records Kali-yuga as having begun when the constellation of the seven sages (saptarsi) passed through the lunar mansion of Magha. Hindu astrologers have calculated this to have been 2:27 a.m. on February 18, 3102 BC. This took place some 36 years after Lord Krsna spoke Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna.

The scriptures like SB 12.2 teach that during the 432,000 year age of Kali, humanity deteriorates and falls into barbarism. Humans begin to kill animals for food. They fall under the spell of intoxication. They lose all sexual restraint. Families break up. Women and children are abused and abandoned.

Increasingly degraded generations, conceived accidentally in lust and growing up wild, swarm all over the world. Political leadership falls into the hands of unprincipled rogues, criminals and terrorists, who use their power to exploit the people. Entire populations are enslaved and put to death. The world teems with fanatics, extremists and spiritual artists, who win huge followings among a people completely dazed by hedonism, as well as by cultural and moral relativism. "Religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance, mercy, physical strength and memory diminish with each passing day." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 12.2.1)

The saints and sages of ancient India describe the people of this age as greedy, ill-behaved, and merciless. In this age, says Srimad-Bhagavatam, merely possessing wealth is considered a sign of good birth, proper behavior, and fine qualities. Law and justice are determined by one's prestige and power. Marriage ceases to exist as a holy union - men and women simply live together on the basis of bodily attraction and verbal agreement, and only for sexual pleasure.

Women wander from one man to another. Men no longer look after their parents in their old age, and fail to provide for their own children. One's beauty is thought to depend on one's hairstyle. Filling the belly is said to be the only purpose in life. Cows are killed once their milk production drops. Atheism flourishes. Religious observances are performed solely for the sake of reputation.

The Linga Purana (ch. 40) describes the human race in Kali-yuga as a vain and stupid people "spurred on by the lowest instincts." They prefer false ideas and do not hesitate to persecute sages. They are tormented by bodily desires.

Severe droughts and plagues are everywhere. Slovenliness, illness, hunger and fear spread. Nations are continually at war with one another. The number of princes and farmers decline. Heroes are assassinated. The working classes want to claim regal power and enjoy royal wealth.

Kings become thieves. They take to seizing property, rather than protecting the citizenry. The new leaders emerge from the laborer class and begin to persecute religious people, saints, teachers, intellectuals, and philosophers.

Civilization lacks any kind of divine guidance. The sacred books are no longer revered. False doctrines and misleading religions spread across the globe. Children are killed in the wombs of their mothers. Women who have relations with several men are numerous. Predatory animals are more violent. The number of cows diminishes.

The Linga Purana says that in Kali-yuga, young women freely abandon their virginity. Women, children, and cows - always protected in an enlightened society - are abused and killed during the iron age. Thieves are numerous and rapes are frequent. There are many beggars, and widespread unemployment. Merchants operate corrupt businesses. Diseases, rates, and foul substances plague the populace. Water is lacking, fruits are scarce. Everyone uses vulgar language.

The men of Kali-yuga seek only money. Only the richest have power. People without money are their slaves. The leaders of the state no longer protect the people, but plunder the citizenry through excessive taxation. Farmers abandon living close to nature. They become unskilled laborers in congested cities. Many dress in rags, or are unemployed, and sleep on the streets. Through the fault of the government, infant mortality rates are high. False gods are worshiped in false ashrams, in which pilgrimages, penances, charities and austerities are all concocted.

People in this age eat their food without washing beforehand. Monks break their vows of celibacy. Cows are kept alive only for their milk. Water is scarce. Many people watch the skies, praying for rain. No rain comes. The fields become barren. Suffering from famine and poverty, many attempt to migrate to countries where food is more readily available. People are without joy and pleasure. Many commit suicide. Men of small intelligence are influenced by atheistic doctrines. Family, clan and caste are all meaningless. Men are without virtues, purity or decency. (Visnu Purana 6.1).

Padma Purana, Uttara Khanda, Srimad Bhagavata-mahatmya, ch. 1:

Sri Narada replied, 'I came here considering the earth to be the best of planets. Although I travelled to Puskara, Prayaga, Kasi, Godavari, Haridvara, Kuruksetra, Sriranga and Setubandha, I could not find peace in any of those holy places. At present, Kali yuga the friend of irreligion, has completely afflicted the whole earth. Now truthfulness, austerity, cleanliness, mercy and charity are nowhere to be seen. The fallen living entities take pleasure in telling lies and are simply engaged in filling their bellies. They are lazy, less intelligent, unfortunate, and always disturbed. Those who are called saintly are actually pretenders. Though they appear renounced, they accumulate wealth, women, and paraphernalia for sense pleasure. Women rule the family and the brother-in-law is the consultant. People sell their daughters out of greed, and husbands and wives always quarrel. The holy places, asramas of saintly people, and rivers are under the control of the yavanas, who are against Vedic religion. They have destroyed many temples and therefore yogis, siddhas, jnanis and religious people are not to be seen. The processes of liberation are completely burnt to ashes in the fire of Kali-yuga. In this age people sell grains in the market, the brahmanas charge fees to teach, and women thrive by prostitution.

"Thus witnessing the defects of Kali-yuga and wandering over the face of the earth, I reached the bank of the Yamuna where Lord Krsna had performed various pastimes. O best of sages, please hear about the wonder I saw there. A beautiful woman was sitting in a dejected mood while two old men lay unconscious in front of her breathing very quickly. While trying to bring them to consciousness, the young women would sometimes cry. At times she would look around as if searching for her protector, the Supersoul. She was served by hundreds of women who were fanning and trying to console her. I saw this whole scene from afar and out of curiosity went near them. Upon seeing me, the young lady stood up and spoke very piteously. She said: "O saintly person, please stay here for a moment and dispel my distress. Your auspicious vision destroys the sins of materialistic people. By your words I will get relief from misery and become peaceful. Only by great fortune can one get darsana of a person like you."

I inquired, "O virtuous lady, who are you and who are these two men lying here? Who are these ladies serving you? Please explain the cause of your distress in detail."

The lady said, "My name is Bhakti, and these two are my sons Jnana and Vairagya. By the influence of time they have become old and decrepit. These women are the holy rivers, such as the Ganges. They have come here to serve me. Although I am directly being served by these ladies, still I am not peaceful. O sage, whose only wealth is austerity, though it is well known, please hear my story carefully and grant me solace. I was born in the land of Dravida, in South India, and I grew up in Karnataka. I was respected in the state of Maharastra, but when I came to Gujarata, I lost my youth. Rogues influenced by Kali-yuga broke my limbs and for a long time I remained in that condition and thus, along with my sons, I have become very weak and impotent. Upon coming to Vrndavana, I regained my youth and beauty, but my two sons, who are lying here, are still old and tired. I will leave this place and travel to foreign lands, but I feel sad owing to the plight of my sons. We always remain t ogether, so why is it that I am young and they are old? It should be that the sons are young while the mother is old. I am astonished by this and so I lament. You have mystic power and are most intelligent, therefore, please explain this to me."

Narada said, "O chaste lady, from within my heart I see the cause of your misery, therefore I advise you not to lament. Lord Hari will shower all auspiciousness upon you."

Suta Gosvami said, "The best of sages, Sri Narada, understood the reason in a moment and said, 'O beautiful lady, hear attentively from me. Because of this ruthless age (Kali-yuga), good behaviour, yoga, and austerities have all become lost. People are addicted to cheating, irreligious behaviour, and are like the demon Agha, sin personified. At present, saintly people are unhappy and demonic people are enjoying sense gratification. Under these circumstances, if an intelligent man maintains his fortitude, then he is considered a scholar. By and by the earth is becoming a burden for Lord Sesa. At present it is not even worth seeing, what to speak of touching, and I see no auspiciousness anywhere. Everyone neglects you and your two sons. Because of worldly attachment to sense gratification, people are blind. Owing to their negligence,, you have become decrepit. It is only due to the glory of Vrndavana that you have become young again. This land is very auspicious because devo tion always dances here. However, your two sons are being neglected and thus their health is failing, but by the touch of Vrndavana they remain asleep and breathing."

Bhakti said, "Why is it that King Pariksita did not kill this sinful Kali-yuga? Because of Kali-yuga all objects have lost their essence. Why does the most merciful Lord Hari tolerate irreligion? O sage, please remove this doubt. I feel pacified by hearing your sweet words."

Narada said, "O auspicious young lady, now that you have asked, please hear me with attention as I explain everything and thus relieve your misery. Kali-yuga took control and started obstructing auspiciousness the day Lord Krsna left this planet for His abode. When King Pariksita travelled on earth, conquering all the kings, he met Kali, who fell at his feet and took shelter of him. The king, who understood the essence of things just like the bumble bee, decided not to kill him because that goal which is not attainable by penance, yoga meditation, or samadhi, is easily attained in Kali-yuga simply by performing hari-kirtana. Although the king knew that Kali-yuga was useless, he spotted this one essential good quality, and understanding that this would make the living beings happy, he spared him. Because humanity is engaged in irreligious and immoral acts, everything has lost its essence. All objects, including the seeds of the earth, are ineffective. The brahmanas, being gre edy for wealth, are performing Bhagavata-katha in peoples houses and therefore the essence of katha is lost. Immoral, atheistic, and sinful people have begun to reside in the holy places, causing the influence of those places to be lost. Those people whose hearts are always filled with lust, greed and anger make a show of performing austerities, thereby causing the essence of penance to be lost. Because people are unable to control their mind, they have taken shelter of greed, pretence, and immorality, and have given up the study of scriptures, causing the influence of jnana-yoga to be lost. Moreover, the pandits, or scholars, are only expert in producing children and enjoying sex like buffaloes. They are no longer expert in the process of liberation. Furthermore, there are hardly any Vaisnavas coming in bonafide sampradayas and there, everywhere all objects have become ineffective. This indeed, is due to the influence of Kali and is not the defect of anyone else. Therefore, a lthough the lotus-eyed Lord resides near by, He tolerates this."

Suta Gosvami said, "O Saunaka, hearing these revealing words of Sri Narada Muni, Bhakti was very surprised. She replied, 'O saintly person, you are very glorious and it is my good fortune to have met you. Within this material world, association with a saintly person is indeed the cause of all perfection. Just by once meeting you, Sri Prahlada, the son of Kayadhu, conquered Maya, and by your mercy Dhruva Maharaja gained the Dhruva planet. You are the personification of all auspiciousness. I offer my obeisances unto you, the direct son of Lord Brahma.'"

Parasara-smriti (ch. 1) on Kali yuga:

2. Expound, son of Satyavati, the law, which is for the good of mankind, in the present Kali age; and the practice of purification, such as it ought to be.

11.-15. Vyasa having said "(All are) well," thus interrogated him: "If thou art aware of my reverence (for thee), or from affection, thou affectionate to persons revering thee! Expound the law to me, for I am, father, an object of kindness to thee. The rules of law expounded by Manu have been heard by me, and those by Vasishtha and by Kasyapa, and by Garga and by Gautama and by Usanas; the laws of Atri and Vishnu and Samvarta and Daksha and Angira and Shatatapa and Harita and Yajnavalkya, and Katyayana and Prachetas and Apastamba; and the laws of Shankha and Likhita,

16. All these (laws) have been heard (by me as they were) expounded by thee; they embody the sense of the Veda; (they) have not been forgotten by me. (They are) the laws for the four ages, the Krita, the Treta, and the rest, forming parts of this Manvantara.

17. All laws arose in the Krita age; all have vanished in the Kali age. Expound a part of the rules of conduct fit for the four castes, such as are common (to all).

22. In conformity to the character of the age, the rules of law (suitable) for men differ from age to age. The rules for the Krita differ from the Treta rules; the Dvapara laws are not identical with the Kali rules.

23. Self-mortification is the rule in the Krita age; knowledge is said (to be the same) in the Treta; in the Dvapara, (they) say sacrifice (to the gods to be) the sole (rule); and charity alone in the Kali age.

24. For the Krita are suited the laws of Manu; for the Treta, those by Gautama (are) prescribed; for the Dvapara those by Shanka and Likhita; for the Kali, those by Parasara are prescribed.

25. In the Krita, one should quit a country itself; one should quit a village in the Treta; in the Dvapara (one should shun) only the particular family; but in the Kali, one should shun the perpetrator alone (of an offence).

26. In the Krita sin is incurred by one who converses (with a sinner); in the Treta by one who touches (the sinful man); in the Dvapara by taking the sinner's food; in the Kali by a (sinful) act (alone).

27. A curse in the Krita takes effect the moment it is uttered; in the Treta (it does so) in ten days' time; in the Dvapara, in the course of a single month; in the Kali, however, it takes a year.

28. In the Krita (the donor himself) comes up to (the donee) and makes the gift; in each succeeding Treta age, (the donee) is invited and the gift is made; in the Dvapara, the gift is made to one who asks for it; in the Kali, however, gifts are made in exchange for service done.

29. Excellent is the gift made on coming to the donee's side; the gift after invitation is of the middling kind; gift to a suitor is of a low character; but gift for service (rendered) is fruitless.

30.-31. Religion has been overthrown by irreligion; and truth indeed by that which is false; kings have been overpowered by thieves; males have been subdued by females; the worship of fire is dying out; respect to superiors is ceasing to be seen; and maidens are becoming mothers: this is what invariably happens in the age of Kali.

32. Life in the Krita has its seat in the bones; in the Treta it has its seat in the flesh; in the Dvapara the blood is the seat of life; in the Kali, however, life is dependent upon food and the like.

33. Special are the rules of conduct for each cyclical age; and the regenerate castes are guided by the rules that govern the age; no censure (therefore) can attach to them; for the regenerates conform to the spirit of the age.

Now the sinful Kali Age is upon them, when Dharma is destroyed, an Age full of evil customs and deceit. Men pursue evil ways. The Vedas have lost their power, the Smritis are forgotten, and many of the Puranas, which contain stories of the past, and show the many ways (which lead to liberation), will, O Lord! be destroyed. Men will become averse from religious rites, without restraint, maddened with pride, ever given over to sinful acts, lustful, gluttonous, cruel, heartless, harsh of speech, deceitful, short-lived, poverty-stricken, harassed by sickness and sorrow, ugly, feeble, low, stupid, mean, and addicted to mean habits, companions of the base, thievish, calumnious, malicious, quarrelsome, depraved, cowards, and ever-ailing, devoid of all sense of shame and sin and of fear to seduce the wives of others. Vipras will live like the Shudras, and whilst neglecting their own Sandhya will yet officiate at the sacrifices of the low. They will be greedy, given over to wicked and sinful acts, liars, insolent, ignorant, deceitful, mere hangers-on of others, the sellers of their daughters, degraded, averse to all tapas and vrata. They will be heretics, impostors, and think themselves wise. They will be without faith or devotion, and will do japa and puja with no other end than to dupe the people. They will eat unclean food and follow evil customs, they will serve and eat the food of the Shudras and lust after low women, and will be wicked and ready to barter for money even their own wives to the low. In short, the only sign that they are Brahmanas will be the thread they wear. Observing no rule in eating or drinking or in other matters, scoffing at the Dharma Scriptures, no thought of pious speech ever so much as entering their minds, they will be but bent upon the injury of the good. (Mahanirvana tantra 1.37-50)

But since the men of the Kali Age are full of greed, lust, gluttony, they will on that account neglect sadhana and will fall into sin, and having drunk much wine for the sake of the pleasure of the senses, will become mad with intoxication, and bereft of all notion of right and wrong (61). Some will violate the wives of others, others will become rogues, and some, in the indiscriminating rage of lust, will go (whoever she be) with any woman (62). Over eating and drinking will disease many and deprive them of strength and sense. Disordered by madness, they will meet death, falling into lakes, pits, or in impenetrable forests, or from hills or house-tops (63-64). While some will be as mute as corpses, others will be for ever on the chatter, and yet others will quarrel with their kinsmen and elders. They will be evil-doers, cruel, and the destroyers of Dharma (65-66). I fear, O Lord! that even that which Thou hast ordained for the good of men will through them turn out for evil (67). O Lord of the World! who will practise Yoga or Nyasa, who will sing the hymns and draw the Yantra and make Purashcharana? (68). Under the influences of the Kali Age man will of his nature become indeed wicked and bound to all manner of sin (69). (M.t. 1.61-69)

O Vararohe! know that when Vedic and Puranic initiations cease then the Kali Age has become strong (47). O Shive! 0 Peaceful One! when virtue and vice are no longer judged by the Vedic rules, then know that the Kali Age has become strong (48). O Sovereign Mistress of Kaula doctrine! when the Heavenly Stream is at some places broken, and at others diverted from its course, then know that the Kali Age has become strong (49). O Wise One! when kings of the Mlechchha race become excessively covetous, then know that the Kali Age has become strong (50). When women become difficult of control, heartless and quarrelsome, and calumniators of their husbands, then know that the Kali Age has become strong (51). When men become subject to women and slaves of lust, oppressors of their friends and Gurus, then know that the Kali Age has become strong (52). When the fertility of the earth has gone and yields a poor harvest, when the clouds yield scanty rain, and trees give meagre fruit, then know tha t the Kali Age has become strong (53). When brothers, kinsmen, and companions, prompted by the desire for some trifle, will strike one another, then know that the Kali Age has become strong (54). When the open partaking of flesh and liquor will pass without condemnation and punishment, when secret drinking will prevail, then know that the Kali Age has become strong (55). (M.t. 4.47-55)

Spiritual Process

punsam ekaha vai sadhya hari bhaktih kalau yuge
yuga antarena dharma hi sevitavya narena hi

(Padma Purana, Svarga Khanda 61.5)

In Kali-yuga, a person should accept only one process, that is devotional service. According to what process is decided for a particular yuga, that should be followed by everyone without fail.

Related:
Kali Yuga (Mahabharata quotes)

Saka, Sakabda (Saka Era) and Calendar

The most prominent of several eras used in India beginning at the start of the rule of king Salivahana (78 or 79 AD).

Bhanu Swami:

It is interesting to note in this connection that there is an old theory (evidently held by the great Kasmiri historian Kalyana in early 12th century AD) that considered the Saka era to have begun with the victory of the great king Vikramaditya of Ujjain over the Sakas (see M. A. Stein's notes in his translation of Kalyana's Rajatarangini 2.6-7 and 3.125-128). While this theory appears to be a mistaken result of mixing up the Vikrama and Saka eras, which were 135 years apart, it is evident that even by the 12th century there was the need to find some "significant event" associated with the beginning of what became this most popular calendar (later adopted by the Government of India after independence from British rule).

Shyamasundara Das:

The problem that exists between the Vaisnava calendar and the Christian calendar is that the Vaisnava calendar is luni-solar, whereas the Christian calendar is strictly solar.

What does this mean? Well, the solar year is 365.25 days long whereas the lunar year is about 10 to 11 days shorter. This means that after 3 years the lunar calendar will be 1 solar month out of phase with the solar calendar. The Muslims follow a strictly lunar calendar and thus their months have no relation to the seasons which is a solar event. In the course of 36 years the Muslim month of Ramadan will go through each of the Christian months and then come to its starting point again.

The Vaisnava calendar is luni-solar in that the lunar months are always calibrated to correspond with the solar months and fall in the same season every year (not taking into account precessional differences). To achieve this a leap month is added about every third year (there are certain astronomical rules involved so it may not be every third year). That is why you will notice that a big festival like Gaura Purnima will fall on one date this year, then next year about 10 days earlier, and the next year 10 days earlier still then all of a sudden it shoots back up about 30 days and continues the cycle.

There are no simple rules to convert a Christian date into a Vaisnava date and vice versa. May I suggest that if someone would like to really understand how to do this that he request Markandeya Rsi Prabhu for a copy of the report to the GBC that he prepared on behalf of the Vaisnava Calendar committee.

According to Hari Bhakti Vilasa (Bhanu Swami's translation), if an appearance day falls on Ekadasi, i.e. if you were born on Ekadasi, then you celebrate on the following date. Disciples of Satsvarupa dasa Goswami should take note of this. Also in calculating your own birth tithi it is the tithi prevalent at the time of birth that is important, not the tithi at sunrise. Thus Jayapataka Swami's actual birth tithi is Dvadasi, not Ekadasi. Why the time of sunrise is always mentioned is because the Vedic day begins at sunrise. The Christian day begins at midnight and the Jewish and Muslim day begins at sunset.

The standard Vedic calendar starts the month with the first tithi after the new moon, that is the instant after the exact conjunction of the Sun and Moon. This system is called mukhya candra. For example the new year according to the Siddhantas (i.e. classical astronomical texts such as Surya-siddhanta, Siddhanta-siromani, Vasista-siddhanta, etc.) begins with the sukla pratipat of Caitra masa. Meaning the first lunar day after the new moon after the Sun has entered into Mesa (Aries). It is called Caitra masa because often the Moon would be in Citra naksatra on the full moon of that month. Anyway it is the Vedic standard to consider the month (and the year) to begin on a sukla pratipat, first tithi after the new moon.

However it is also acceptable to have months based on the full moon, thus the month and year would start on krsna pratipat, the first tithi after the full moon. If you were to examine the chronological systems in vogue in India you will find that almost every state has its own system with various differing rules. There will also be variations within the regions.

For example in 1989 according to the National Indian calendar the New Year began on Mar 22 (which no one observes). In Bengal, Assam and Tamil Nadu the New Year started on April 14 while in Punjab and Orissa it started on April 13 and in Kerala it started on Aug 17! Other states followed some of these or independent systems. (I wonder why they say that Divali is the Hindu New Year? Must be in Gujarat or parts of UP and Rajasthan. [I found out that it is.])

It should be noted that while the rest of India observes candra masa, Kerala and Tamil Nadu observe saura masa, lunar and solar months respectively. By this I mean that a candra masa is measured from a new or full moon, whereas a saura masa is measure from sankranti to sankranti, solar ingress from sign to sign, but still measured in lunar days.

If this were not interesting enough having months and years beginning at different times, they also follow different epochs or eras. We are familiar with the Christian Era, which is now being secularized as the Common Era, CE or BCE, as opposed to AD or BC. In India there is a large welter of eras that are used, for example: 1989 AD is equivalent to Vikram Samvat 2046, Saka era 1911, Bengali San 1396, Kollam era 1165, Hejira 1410, Buddha Nirvana 2533 (this is wrong however), Mahavira Nirvana 2516, Kali Yuga 5090, and Yudhisthira Saka 5126. There is also Saptarsi Saka which is some years different from that of Yudhisthira Saka (I would have to look it up), plus Brhaspati Samvatsara (60 year cycle) which was #17, Subhana in N India and #3, sukla in S India and last but not least 1989 was 5 Idavatsara in the Vedanga Jyotisa year system beginning on Feb 7. I have not exhausted all the eras current in India. There are many such as Gupta Saka, Vallabhi Saka, and Mallava Gana Saka which are no longer current but of interest only to historians, epigraphists, antiquarians and the like (and me of course).

The point of all this is that in India there is a lot of lee way about calendars and different communities have different calendars. Smartas calculate Ekadasi differently from Vaisnavas.

Anyway, our calendar is gauna candra, calculated from the krsna pratipat of Phalguna masa, i.e. the first day of the waning mooning (the first tithi after the full moon) of the month of Phalguna. In other words Lord Caitanya's birthday is the last day of the year for us. It is because Lord Caitanya was born on a full moon day that the Gaudiyas follow gauna candra masa. However the standard to measure by is always the mukhya candra masa of the Vedic calendar. And our calendar is tied to that. Did you ever wonder why it is, that when we have a leap month it falls in the middle of a regular month and the regular month gets split in two? That is because the deciding factor that determines whether or not a year will have a leap month is based on the new moon months of the Vedic calendar.

The Vedic month begins with the sukla pratipat of the new moon after the Sun's ingress into a sign. Usually there is only one new moon for each sign that the Sun is in. But occasionally the new moon will occur right after the Sun enters a sign and another takes place just before it leaves. Thus you will have two new moons in the same sign. Even rarer (in a weird cycle of 151 years, then 19, then back to 151 years [I think it is 151, it is in that area]) when you have one solar month with no new moon and two solar months with two new moons. This really causes a big mess and confusion. The last time this happened was in 1983 and it was a big cause of concern all over India.

Anyway all these points are covered in the special report to the GBC entitled "Everything You Wanted To Know About The Vaisnava Calendar But Were Afraid To Ask." (Just kidding.) Get it from Markandeya Rsi Prabhu.

Related:
Four Principle of Freedom
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New Age vs. Vedic tradition
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Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu predicted
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada: Founder-Acharya of the Golden Age page url: http://www.veda.harekrsna.cz/encyclopedia/kaliyuga.htm

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