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India, the land of Rig Veda and the mesmerizing epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata and the treasures of wisdom in the form of her ancient scriptures, also has long drawn traditions in panchanga which has carved a special niche for themselves in more than 5,000 years old Indian history.
In the early decades of 20 th century, there were panchangas, one published by the Nirnaysagar Press of Mumbai and two others by a press at Surpur near Gulbarga now in Karnataka. Besides these, there were two/three panchangas in Karnataka and one or two sampradaik panchangas brought by certain sects. However, there was no unanimity among these panchangas.
Astronomical mathematics plays a crucial role in the compilation of a panchanga. The Late Shree Laxmanshaastree Date (Nana) used to wonder how these panchangas differed from one another even though they were based on astronomical mathematics. He felt that this was because these calculations were based on the theories propounded in the two scriptures, Surya Siddhanta and Grahalaghava. The Grahalaghava was compiled some 600 years ago and Surya Siddhanta was available ages before that. Therefore these had become outdated by Nana's times. The calculations based on these theories did not match the actual celestial positions, yet the editors of the panchangas preferred to stick to these theories since there was no option for them. They went to the extent of saying that the calculations only from Grahalaghava had the sanction of the Dharmashaastras.
The issue of discrepancies among various panchangas in India was discussed threadbare in 1906 at a conference of Akhil Bharatiya Jyotish Parishad organised at the instance of Lokmaanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who himself was a mathematician besides being a veteran journalist and the freedom fighter.
Lokmaanya Tilak did not discuss anything about Dharmashatra, the Bharatiya ethical traditions and guidelines for the daily chores. He insisted, however, that a panchanga should be a mirror of the sky. The mathematical calculations should be able to provide the positions of grahas (the planets) and nakshatras (constellations) in the sky as they are observed. He appealed to the scholars to adopt Drukpratyayi (what you calculate is what you see) mathematics, but they were in no mood to agree to his views. They continued to argue that Grahalaghaviya mathematics had the sanction of Dharmashaastras. They felt that any new theory would have no religious sanction.
The scholars did not agree with the Lokmaanya's view that panchanga Mathematics and Dharmashaastra were two different matters. He had expressed the view that theorists of panchanga should devise the mathematical calculations while scholars on religious matters should advise the people on festivals and rituals on the basis of these calculations.
After the conference, the scholars in India continued to stick to the traditional panchanga-making. Nana realised eventually that the rise and setting of the five grahas, namely Mangala (Mars), Budha (Mercury), Guru (Jupiter), Shukra (Venus) and Shani (Saturn) and eclipses of Sun and Moon, did not have any relation with the Hindu Dharmashaastra. He consulted renowned scholar K. V. Somanshaastree and began presenting the calculations in his panchanga on the Druktulya mathematics (their actual positions in the sky) since 1944-45. Other panchanga editors followed suit as the years passed by.
This was only a half battle won. The remaining battle for reforms was over when Nana agreed to follow calculations with high precision for the positions of Ravi (Sun) and Chandra (Moon). His son Pandit Dhundirajshaastree played an important role to convince him about it. Panchanga scholars all over India adopted this Sukshma Ganit (Accurate calculations) gradually. Nana was a scholar in all the three disciplines, Khagoliya Ganita, Dharmashatra and Muhoortashaastra, that are essential for compilation of a panchanga. His son Pandit Dhundirajshaastree inherited the wisdom and continued the family tradition.
Pandit Dhundirajshaastree took over the operations of Date Panchanga in 1950-51. Scholars across the country later began recognising him as the authority on panchanga system. Any dispute on matters relating to panchanga was resolved after due consultations with him. Solapur, the town in south Maharashtra where the Dates reside, became the centre for activities relating to panchanga. Scholars would visit Pandit Dhundirajshaastree for consultations. The Government of India sought his advice on various matters and appointed him on the committee that prepared the National Panchanga.
Although there are other panchangas and calendars that provide details on the lines of panchangas, the Date Panchanga has retained its status as the authority among them all. The House of Dates in Solapur has adhered to the principles laid down by the Founding Fathers.
(Excerpts from the Souvenir brought out by Date Panchanga Platinum Jubilee Committee on December 10, 1989)
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