Introduction to PANCHANG and the Indian Calendar

  • In a simple way this article explains the six seasons, twelve months of the Panchang, concept of Paksha and Tithi and comparison with Gregorian calendar.

The Indic calendar is called the Panchangam or Panchang. Most of the festivals and religious holidays, in India, are dated using this Luni-Solar calendar. It has six Ritus or seasons unlike the Western system that has only four. Each Ritu, roughly, lasts two months or Masas/Masams.


Ritus and their corresponding Masas are:


Vasanta (spring): Phalguna-Chaitra.

Grishma (summer): Vaishakh- Jyeshtha.

Varsha (monsoon): Ashaadh-Shravan-Bhadrapad.

Sharad (autumn): Ashvin.

Hemanta (winter): Kartik- Margashirsha.

Shishira (Deep winter or prevernal): Pausha- Magha.


The 12 months of the Panchang and their corresponding Gregorian months (could be slight variation in months since Indian Calendar dates keep changing) are:  

1. Vaishakh :   Apr-May.

2. Jyeshtha :    May-June.

3. Ashaadh :    June-July.

4. Shravan :     July-Aug.

5. Bhadrapad :Aug-Sep.

6. Ashvin :       Sep-Oct.

7. Kartik :        Oct-Nov.

8. Margashirsh/Agrahayan : Nov-Dec.

9. Magha :       Dec-Jan.

10. Pausha :    Jan-Feb.

11. Phalgun :   Feb-Mar.

12. Chaitra :    Mar-Apr.


Each month is divided into two Pakshas or fortnights. The two fortnights in each month are:


Shukla Paksha - The waxing moon cycle culminating in Poornima or Full Moon.

Krishna Paksha - The waning moon cycle that ends with Amavasya or No Moon.


The Panchang is a calendar based on both solar and lunar cycles. Therefore, it indicates both; the phase of the moon and the location of the sun. Unlike the Gregorian months that have thirty or thirty-one dates, a Panchang month has fifteen Tithis or dates in each Paksha.


1.     Prathama.

2.     Dwitiya.

3.     Tritiya.

4.     Chaturthi.

5.     Panchami.

6.     Shashthi.

7.     Saptami.

8.     Ashtami.

9.     Navami.

10.  Dashami.

11.  Ekadashi.

12.  Dwadashi.

13.  Trayodashi.

14.  Chaturdashi.

15.  Poornima or Amavasya depending on the Paksha.


Every Tithi appears twice in a month. For instance, there are two Ashtamis, two Ekadashis and so on in every month. However, the moon on both the Ashtamis and Ekadashis appears completely different because of the paksha.


The word Panchang is derived from the words Pancha meaning five and Anga meaning part. These five parts are:

  • Tithi (lunar day).
  • Vasara or Vaar (solar day).
  • Karana (half of lunar day).
  • Yoga (soli-lunar combinations).
  • Nakshatra (lunar constellation). 

The Panchang is an ancient Indian system of time keeping. It is deeply connected to the geography of India. A Panchang applicable in India is not applicable in other countries. Although, Indians living abroad follow the Panchang being followed in India, this practise is not entirely correct. The calculations change with the change in location. This is the reason behind the regional variations in the calendar within India.

In some parts of India the new month begins after Poornima, while in some it begins after Amavasya. The New Year begins at different times in different regions even though they follow, almost, the same system. The names of the months also vary slightly. 

Of the various regional calendars, the most studied calendars are the Shalivahana Shaka found in South India, Vikram Samvat (Bikrami) found in the North and Central regions, Tamil calendar used in Tamil Nadu, and the Bengali calendar used in Bengal . Their new year starts in spring. While in Gujarat and Kerala the New Year starts in autumn.

An extra month called Purushottam Maas, Adhik Mass or Malamaas is inserted in the Panchang to keep the lunar and solar calendars aligned. The position of Adhik Mass amongst the other months is variable, re-occuring about every 32.5 months.  

In context of the Panchang and New Year, one often encounters confusion between the terms Samvat and Samvatsara. A Samvatsara is a 60 year Jupiter cycle while Samvat refers to era. Several Indian calendar systems use the era or Samvat to provide a historic reference, like how the Gregorian calendar uses the Common Era, which has the birth of Jesus Christ for its historic reference. Vikrama era refers to the coronation of king Vikramaditya in Ujjain. Currently we are in 2076 Vikram Samvat.


It is important to understand that the Panchang system is not exclusive to Hindus. Jain, Buddhist and Sikh faiths have also adopted it with minor adaptations. Therefore, it is best to use a more inclusive term like Indic calendar system, to describe it.


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