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Panchangam

The ancients in India, Egypt and Babylon had independent and deep knowledge of the sky and assigned the names of deities, fabled heroes and animals to star patterns. Astronomical events were closely interwoven into their social fabric. The Magi, who followed the ‘Star of Bethlehem’ is believed to have came from these cultures. Sirius appearing in the sky after six months was the sign of annual rebirth of the Nile after the long dry spell. Early celestial cartographers drew the constellation or Rasi figures as they pleased. The constellations were standardised and the exact boundaries fixed in 1930 by the International Astronomical Union.

The Indian system is more detailed in that it deals with 27 stars signs coming from 18 Rasis but within the influence of the Zodiac for charting the movement of the Sun and the Moon. Apparently none of the Indian names have found a place in the International Astronomical Union listing in spite of the fact that India had one of the earliest astronomical cultures. Most other systems deal with only the 12 Zodiacal Constellations. 

The Kolla Varsham also known as Malayalam (language of Kerala) Era (M.E) is known to be rooted in the ‘Saptha Rishi Varsham ‘ (Year of the Seven Sages) dating from around 6th B.C . This system had a 100 year cycle . Someone from this culture who relocated to Kollam (Quilon) in Kerala in 825 AD is believed to have initiated Kolla Varsham.

The significance of this system is that it meticulously follows the movement of the Sun in the Zodiac. The 12 months beginning with the transit of the Sun into Leo from Chingam to Karkadakam are indeed the Malayalam equivalent of the Zodiac. Sun’s transit into a new Constellation is a day of festivity called Sankranthi. The festivals of Kerala - Ashtami Rohini, Onam, Thrissoor Pooram, Kodungalloor Bharani to name a few are astronomical events. 

The Chart below gives details of the Rasi (Constellation) and Nakshatra ( star) in Malayalam - the language of the Kerala and the corresponding names in Sanskrit and English. Given the significance of Spring Equinox it is customary to begin with the constellation of Aries

Rasi Nakshatram Sanskrit Stars Constellation Influence
MEDAM ASWATI ASWINI Al,Be,Ga Arietis Aries ARIES
   do BHARANI BHARANI 35,39&41 Arietis Aries    do
<1/4 & 3/4> KARTHIKA KRITTIKA Pleiades Taurus <1/4 & 3/4>
EDAVAM ROHINI ROHINI ALDEBARAN TAURUS TAURUS
    1/2 & 1/2 MAKAYEERAM MRIGASIRHA Bellatrix ORION     1/2 & 1/2
MIDHUNAM THIRUVATHIRA ARDRA BETELGEUCE ORION GEMNI
<3/4 & 1/4> PUNARTHAM PUNARVASU Pollux Gemni <3/4 & 1/4>
KARKATAKAM POOYAM PUSHYAM Praesepe Cancer CANCER
    do AAYILLIAM ASLESHA HYDRA Head Hydra     do
CHINGAM MAKAM MAGHA REGULUS LEO LEO
    do POORAM PURVA PHALGUNI Zosma, theta leonis LEO     do
<1/4 & 3/4> UTHRAM UTTARA PHALGUNI Denebolo Leo <1/4 & 3/4>
KANNI ATHAM HASTA Corvus Corvus VIRGO
<1/2 & 1/2> CHITHIRA CHITRA SPICA VIRGO <1/2 & 1/2>
THULAM CHOTI SWATI ARCTURUS BOOTES LIBRA
<3/4 & 1/4> VISHAGHAM VISHAKA al .be, ga & iota Libra <3/4 & 1/4>
VRICHIKAM ANIZHAM ANURADHA Dschubba Scorpio SCORPIO
    do THRIKKETTA JYESHTA ANTARES SCORPIO     do
DHANU MOOLAM MOOLA Shoula SCORPIO SAGTTARIUS
   do POORADAM POORVA ASHADA Kaus-Ast Sagittarius    do
<1/4 & 3/4> UTHRADAM UTRA ASHADA Nunki Sagittarius <1/4 & 3/4>
MAKARAM THIRUVONAM SRAVANA ALTAIR AQUILA CAPRICORNUS
<1/2 & 1/2> AVITTAM SRAVISHTA Algedi,Dabin Capricorn <1/2 & 1/2>
KUMBHAM CHATHAYAM Sathabhishak Sadalsuud Aquarius AQUARIUS
<3/4 & 1/4>  POORURUTTATHI POORVAPROSHTAPADA Markab , Sheat PEGASUS <3/4 & 1/4>
MEENAM UTHRATATHI UTHARAPROSHTAPADA Algenib, And PEGASUS PISCES
   do REVATHI REVATI Al Rischa Pisces    do


Thiruvathira, Chithira and Choti are solitary stars the others being more than one. Atham is an entire constellation resembling a crow’s leg.

The Constellations


Aswathi


Bharani


Karthika

Rohini


Makayeeram

Thiruvathira

Punartham

Pooyam

Aayilliam

Makam

Pooram

Uthram

Atham

Chithira

Choti

Vishagham


Anizham


Thrikketta

Moolam

Pooradam

Uthradam

Thiruvonam


Avittam

Chathayam

Pooruruttathi

Uthratathi

Revathi

The Panchangam involves understanding Rasi phala, the impact of the signs of the zodiac on the individual. Astrologers consult the Panchangam to set dates for weddings, corporate mergers, and other worldly activities. Traditionally farmers arrange the farm work based on the Panchangam.

The Panchangam day commences at sunrise with 60 units called Nazhikas (24 minutes) subdivided into 60 units of Vinazhikas (24 seconds) for each nazhika.. The 60 Nazhikas are divided into 4 quarters called padam. A star could be partly in one Constellation and the rest in the next. As an example Karthika (Pleiades) in the above chart has the first quarter in Medam (Aries) and the balance in Taurus

Vaara ,Thara, Thidhi, Karana and Yoga are the five parts of the Panchangam. 

Varam (week) has Sunday as the day of the Sun, Monday as Moon day, Tuesday as Mars day, Wednesday as Mercury day, Thursday as Jupiter day, Friday as Venus day and Saturday as Saturn day. Tharam is the moon position in the 27 star signs. 

Thidhi is 60 naazhikas of the waxing and waning moon phase of 15 days each named in Sanskrit as Pradhama,Dwitheeya,Thritheeya, Chathurthy,panchami,shashti,sapthami,ashtami,Navami,dasami,ekadashi,dwadashi,thrayodashi, chathurdashy and panchadashi (new or full moon). 

Karanam is 30 nazhikas of each thidhi. Nitya Yogam is 37 positions based on the distance of the Sun and Moon from equinox point.

The six seasons of Kerala based on the Sun position Varsham (Cancer-Leo), Sarath (Virgo-Libra), Hemandam(Scorpio-Saggitarius), Sisiram(Capricon-Aquarius), Vasantham (Pisces – Aries), Greeshmam (Taurus-Gemini) . Torrential rain in Varsha followed by dry cool and mild winter to hot and humid months is a feature of this region.

The sun position in the 27 star signs is called ‘Njattuvela’ each being thirteen and a half days.

The legend has that Parasuram was the sixth incarnation of Maha Vishnu. The aim of his birth was to deliver the world from the arrogant oppression of the ruling caste, the Kshatriyas. After destroying the Kshatriya kings, he approached an assembly of learned men to find a way of penitence for his sins. He was advised that, to save his soul from damnation, he must hand over the lands he had conquered to the Brahmins. He did as they advised and sat in meditation at Gokarnam. There, he was blessed by Varuna - the God of the Oceans and Bhumidevi - Goddess of Earth. From Gokarnam he reached Kanyakumari and threw his axe northward across the ocean. The place where the axe landed was Kerala. It was 160 Katam (an old measure) of land lying between Gokarnam and Kanyakumari. 

The ensuing community sought his guidance for farming. What came out is known as ‘Krishi Geetha’ (farming songs).


”Makathinte mughattu ellu eringal kudathinte mughath enna kaanaam meaning “ throw Sesame at the mouth of Regulus and can see oil at the mouth of the pot”. 
Thiruvathira Njattuvela is known for vegetative propagation, Rohini for fruit trees, Atham for banana, and Makam for Sesame.

“Pooyathil nattal puzhuthu pokum” meaning “if the planting is in Pooyam it sure will rot”. Pooyam Njattuvel is a period of torrential rain.
Farming connection to the stars is detailed in the following chart

Ascending (As) being movement from Capricorn to Cancer to Summer Solstice (Utharayanam) and descending (Ds) being movement from cancer to Capricorn to Winter solstice (Dakhinayanam). Ascending period has relation to seeding, harvesting of fruit and flower crops, foliar application while descending relates to soil bound activities including composting, tilling, transplanting, pruning, planting and harvesting of root crops.

Kerala has a system of predicting the quantum annual rainfall based on the day of the week Vasantha Vishu (Spring Equinox) falls. Saturday being normal and progressive depletion from Sunday: Tuesday, Monday Wenesday, Friday to Thursday. Kerala celebrates VasanthaVishu on the first day of Medam (Aries) in spite of the fact that astronomically equinox has moved back into Pisces on account of the ‘Precession of the Equinoxes.

Down memory lane…

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In the mid 1800s Annamma and Thoma Yohannan Chennakkattu, set foot in the village of Aikaranadu North at the south western tip of peninsular India, then an ever green forest where some of the big cats and other wild life roamed. ...... Learn more...

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