India… She is not just any country on the map. Whenever we think about India, we instinctively think about culture, heritage, colour, food, music, people and everything that signifies life. Though we are in the twenty first century, India possesses the unique quality of being absolutely timeless yet, evolving. Indeed, all countries are special but not all of them are as ancient as India. The beauty of that is: our countrymen discovered and practiced many techniques…or hacks (as the millennial call it) to life, long before other civilizations developed, or for that matter, even came into existence. One of the most marvellous techniques was the way we kept track of months and thereby, years – a practice that has been around from about 1000 BC. It has twelve months, much like our English calendar; but here’s the interesting part: it is based on twelve lunar months; i.e. twelve full cycles of phases of the moon. It comes as no surprise that this system is popularly known as the Ancient Indian Calendar.
As we approach month of March, which according to the Indian calendar are – Phalguna and Chaitra. (The Indian calendar is a tad bit different). Phalguna is the last month of the year and Chaitra is the first month of the year. Similar to the English calendar, the first month of the year is about welcoming and celebrating new beginnings. It commences from the twenty second of March. Chaitra is considered auspicious as it is believed that it was in this month that the creation of the universe began. It is associated with the coming of spring; the season when Earth comes to life again. The flowers begin to bloom, animals start to wake up from hibernation, farmers plant their seeds and temperatures slowly begin to rise.
The festival of colours, Holi is celebrated on a full moon day, six days prior to the New Year, welcoming the month of Chaitra. The first day of Chaitra is celebrated as Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, Ugadi in Karnataka, the list is endless…Some other important festivals that people celebrate during this month are: Ram Navmi – celebrated on the ninth day of the month, Chaitra Navratri and Hanuman Jayanti that falls on the last day(full moon day) of Chaitra. Chaitra literally means spring. It refers to starting afresh and embracing all the newness the coming year brings. One of the most prominent festivals of this month is, Chaitra Navratri. An important facet of this festival is fasting. Hence, during this time people consume food items like: sago (sabudana), buckwheat, nuts, dry fruits, seasonal fruits etc.
Having said all of the above, it is just not us Indians who love this month. In the Roman calendar, March is the first month of the year as well. It marks the beginning of spring, much like our Indian system. It is a historically significant month as the eighth of March is celebrated as International Women’s day across the globe. It focuses on the rights of women and pays a tribute to women who are fighting every day for equality, justice and opportunity.
Isn’t our Indian calendar intriguing? Apart from India, several other South Asian, European and Islamic countries follow the Indian ancient calendar. It is great how we seek to know everything about the world and we must always keep learning and growing but it is fundamental to stay connected to our roots. As far as the month of March/Chaitra is concerned –
‘Springtime is the land of awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn.’ – Lewis Grizzard