Stepping into new Vikrami year

Shriniwas Joshi

ALL of us stepped into a new Vikrami year      — 2076 on April 6. The association of Vikrami Samvatsar begins in 57 BCE with king Vikramaditya of Ujjain. Saka is different and is the Indian National Calendar and the government uses it in Prasar Bharti, Gazetteer and other government works and functions. 

After independence, the government formed a Calendar Reform Committee and astrophysicist Meghnad Saha was appointed as its head. The task before the committee was to prepare an accurate calendar based on scientific study of various calendars prevalent in different parts of the country. The committee studied 30 different calendars. All members of the committee agreed upon Saka calendar. It starts from March 22 every year and is being used in the government since 1957. Without challenging the wisdom of Meghnad Saha and his party, I have only one thing to say that having worked in the government for more than 30 years, I never had the opportunity of consulting Saka calendar and turned to Vikrami often, especially, when talking to villagers.

Chaitra Pratipada is the day when we enter into a new samvatsar. Samvatsar is Sanskrit word for year. There are 60 samvatsars mentioned in the historic Indian calendars and these are called Brihaspati Samvatsara Chakra. Each samvatsar has been given a name. After completing all 60 samvatsars, the cycle in the calendar starts again. The 60 samvatsars are divided into three groups of 20 samvatsars each. The first from Prabhava to Vyaya are assigned to Lord Brahma. The next 20 from Sarvjit to Parabhava to Lord Vishnu and the last 20 from Plavanga to Akshaya are given to Lord Shiva. We entered into Paridhavi samvatsar on the 6th of this month. It is the 46th year out of 60 and assigned to Lord Shiva. Paridhavi is a Hindi word and means 'runner'. Each samvatsar has a king and a minister from among the planets. Paridhavi has 'Shani' as the king and 'Surya' as the minister. Shani's vehicle is he-buffalo, who runs here and there and often goes amuck. Astrologers, therefore, have predicted that this year, there would be uncontrolled rains at places and some areas would go almost dry. But sun, as the minister, would sooth the aam aadmi, who would not feel the shortage of grains, dal, fruit, vegetable and other consumable goods.

The Vikrami calendar fixes all our religious festivals and the rural India still works according to this calendar. The first day of this calendar is known as Chaitra Pratipada in North India, Ugadi in the South, especially in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra. This day is the "roof and crown" of all days because Brahma created the universe, Vishnu's first avatar Matsya appeared, Lord Rama was enthroned, Yudhistar was sworn in as king, Guru Angad Dev and saint Jhulelal of Sindh were incarnated and Arya Samaj was founded by Swami Dayanand on this day.

The custom in the hills, however, denies a Himachali householder to pronounce the name of such an auspicious day and the month unless he hears the names first from Toories — folk musicians. I live in a village not far from Shimla so still have the privilege of listening to the name of Chaitra Pratipada from the Toories. Toories now come in modern garb to sing in Pratipada. Earlier, they used to come in folk dresses with a girl, who would dance, too. Now, there is a 'dholi' and other person to support him. They claim that the entire month called Chaitra is theirs. Here is a gist of what they sing: "Pandavas, happy with tooris' music, decided to hand over the kingdom to them. They started tying a turban on the head of the chief Toorie. A fully tied turban meant that the entire kingdom had been passed on to the person who wore it. Kunta Mai (mother of the Pandavas) was not in favour of it. When the turban-tying was midway, she used her divine powers to influence the wife of the Toorie to compel her husband to drink pichh (starch) of boiled rice, a delicacy for poor people. The Tooran started pouring pichh from a utensil on his cupped palms and the Toorie started drinking it. The loosely tied turban fell on the ground. Thus, the kingdom stayed with Pandavas. Kunta Mai compensated this loss by declaring that Chaitra month belonged to the Toories." They, therefore, claim the month as theirs and herald its advent. Householders accept the pronouncement and gift rice, wheat flour, jaggery, currency and used, but wearable, clothes and shoes to the Toories.

I have the privilege of hearing the name of the month from the horse's mouth and pass it on to the readers — may Paridhavi bring health and wealth to Tailpiece

He was wobbling home after New Year's Party. A policeman approached—  "Where are you going at 3 am?" "To attend a lecture." "Who the hell will give you lecture at this wee hour?" "My wife."

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