Happy New Year … नववर्षाभिनन्दनम्


Greetings for the new year.

Amongst the common masses in India at several places, the culturally celebrated new year happens to be around mid-march, when the new month starts in March with a full moon. It is marked by a festival called Holi, commonly known as the festival of colors by the world.

In ancient days, all over the world, March (the vernal equinox in late March) was taken as the beginning of the new year. The day of new year was of special astronomical importance since this contained the time when the earth’s axis was exactly parallel to the sun and on equator the length of day would be almost the same as the length of night. This event happens twice a year(spring equinox and autumn equinox).

In 45 B.C. the Roman empire started using Julian Calender which was constituted by Julius Caesar on suggestions of astronomer Sosigenes. It came into affect from 1st of January. January derives its name after the Greek God Janus, which has two heads and can see both front(ahead) and back(past) and hence was chosen to be the first month by the then empire based on the prevalent practices of that time.

In around 1582 B.C.E Gregorian calender was adapted which further added some modifications hence making the calender year to be 365 days rather than 355 days in Julian Calender.

If we follow the meanings of the months, they testify a wonderful “coincidence” :

December  : das + amber [दस – अम्बर  (the 10th sky)]
November : nav + amber [नव – अम्बर (the 9th sky)]
October      : asht + amber [अष्ट – अम्बर (the 8th sky)]
September: sapt + amber [सप्त – अम्बर (the 7th sky)]
August  : oops ! [(in Greek) Sextilis: the 6th month)]  (… reason follows)
July : [Quintis: (in Greek) the 5th month]

The name of of the 6th month used to be Sextilis, which was changed to August, in honor of the then Roman Emperor Julius Augustus. Similarly the 5th month July, gets its name from Julius Caesar. July was earlier called Quintis, which stands for ‘the 5th month’.  February stands for the ‘the last offering’ or the expiatory month. which also implies that March was going to be the first month.

Infact when the Roman senate changed the name of the 6th month to August, it used to be a month with 30 days(as per the Julian calender), but giving the reason that if the month by the name of Augustus was only 30 days while the month by the name of Julius having 31, the generations to come would believe that Augustus was lesser in his greatness than Julius in some way. Hence they changed the number of days in August also to 31. They further reduced the number of days in September from 31 to 30, in order to not have three consecutive months with 31 days. Further to compensate for this extra day, the number of days in February was reduced further to make it 28 (from the then 29).

I started writing this in March and my apologies for finishing this article only today.

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One comment on “Happy New Year … नववर्षाभिनन्दनम्

  1. Abha Gupta says:

    Very insightful and a wonderful way with words!

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