Vani’s Musings

Concept of Adhika Maasa

Posted on: February 2, 2007

Continuing the series on time division based on Vedic astrology, here is a brief explanation on the concept of Adhika Maasa.

Solar Month

A solar month is the time taken for the sun to pass through one of the twelve segments. The time when the sun crosses from one sign to the next is called a Sankranti and marks the beginning of the solar month. Two well-known sankrantis are Makara Sankranti or Pongal around January 14 and Mesha Sankranti on April 14. Mesha Sankranti marks the beginning of the New Year in Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Orissa and Tamil Nadu — these states follow a purely solar calendar for fixing the length of the year.

Lunar Month

The lunar months are defined with respect to the solar months — in fact, they have the same names as the solar months. In Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat, the lunar month begins and ends with the new moon (amavasya). In most of North India, the month runs from full moon to full moon (purnima). The first lunar month of the year in Chaitra. In Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat, Chaitra begins with the last amavasya before Mesha Sankranti (April 14). The next lunar month is Vaisakha beginning with the first amavasya during the solar month Vaisakha. Similarly each amavasya falling between two sankrantis marks the beginning of the lunar month.

The lunar month inherits the same name as the solar month during which amavasya falls. A solar month is normally 30 to 31 days in length whereas the lunar month is only 29.5 days long. Thus, as the year goes by, each lunar month starts a little earlier within the corresponding solar month.

Eventually, an entire lunar month will lie within a solar month — in other words, there will be two amavasyas between a pair of sankrantis. In such a case we get an extra-intercalated month, called an adhika masaa.

 For instance, consider a year when there are two amavasyas within the solar month of Bhadrapada. The first amavasya begins an extra month called Adhika Bhadrapada while the second one begins the “real” month Nija Bhadrapada.

A year with an adhika maasa occurs around 7 times in 19 years. The adhika maasa could come at almost any time during the year, depending on which solar month happens to have a double amavasya.

Occasionally, a very peculiar situation occurs — a lunar month spans two sankrantis. This, for example, is what happened in 1991-92. There was no amavasya during the solar month Maagha. As a result, the lunar month Maagha was “lost” and became a kshaya maasa.

 It so happens that a solar month is normally 30 to 31 days long. However, since the earth moves at varying speeds around the sun, the sun’s apparent motion through the ecliptic is not uniform. If the earth is moving exceptionally fast, the sun may pass through a sign of the zodiac in less than a lunar month. Some years have two. This is always the case — a year with a kshaya maasa will have two adhika maasas.

Though it seems fairly complicated, the luni-solar system does manage to cope with the tedious problem of reconciling the solar and lunar calendars rather well. However because of the complication involving the earth’s rotation called precession, the Indian solar calendar does not keep track of the seasons accurately. 

 Many different societies have developed their own calendars — for instance, the Jews and the Chinese. Ancient civilizations, which came up with reasonably sophisticated calendars, include the Babylonians, Egyptians, Assyrians, and Mayans. All of these were luni-solar, although each had a different way of reconciling the lunar month with the solar year.


23 Responses to "Concept of Adhika Maasa"

very informative write up on adhika masa. wonderful date collection and I am amazed at the treasure of knowledge with you keep going I strongly feel you can do a phd., on hindu months. not joking seriouslly I felt. If you can please do it.
regarding Solar Calander it is also being followed in south canara in karnataka also

srik keliddu, neev bardiddu. mecchide nimma promptnessannu, vani. adhika maasa tarali nimage adhika santhosha.
to know our customs and traditions, intha blogs bahala useful. keep the trend going! 🙂

Pranesh avare, thank you,
PHD andre nann slang nalli “Passed with High Difficulty” antha!

Aa level nalli naavilla saar….

Bellur, thank you. It is a sincere effort to revive forgotten traditions and culture. If I am successful, it is because of all your encouragement.

Naanu blog maadlikke shuru maadide
nammadella ondu taraha–
yavaaglo vaarakke ondu dina online hogtivi–ella sari idre blog,mail, IM ella.
ilde idre begaa V na project / nanna classge bekaagidda info nodi off maadodu
Nindu chendaagide
Ninge oLLe flair ide keep writing.

amma thinks of you send a mail.

Very informative! but one doubt – about sankratis –

according to my knowledge – there are 2 ‘sankramanagalu’ – makara sankramana & tula sankramana – which are exactly 6 months apart – thats the time when the path of sun changes – the funda of Uttaaraayana & dakshinaayana punyakaalagalu. Was not aware of mesha sankramana!

and as you said adhika maasa comes on an average every 3 years and also reminds me of the gaade – durbhikshadalli adhika maasa 🙂

Nice one though it was very technical…
Is there any saying like this…

‘Durbhikshakaaladalli adhikamaasa’ or something similar.. which is to explain a situation that we already have one problem & this one was a bonus to it ? 🙂

it should be adhikamasadalli durbhiksha
already you are having one month extra with this if there is drought you are out

yeradu sair
durbhiksadalli adhika masa bandru kashta
adhika masadalli durbhiksha bandru kashta
adhika masa has got lot of extra expenses involved in it
for those who perfom in letter and spiri doing more dana etc.,t

salaried class ge adhika maasa andre February , durbhiksha andre march becoz of income tax deductions 🙂

Usha, LOL… sathyavaada maatu.
namma company nalli, declare the savings option ide so they project the IT & then deduct in Equal installments. kelvaru sumne ilded ella declare maadirthaare & end nalli they modify this & hence getting into this durbhiksha 🙂

Very informative post.. always wondered about this but didnt want to ask 🙂

Vani, I must thank you for a prompt and fast compilation of technical details. This is a wonderful post which answers most of our people’s doubts. Keep such items coming. I will make many of my friends read it, who follows this calendar only for religious reasons. Lets be proud of our ancient astronomers who came up with such brilliant ideas to guage the movement of Sun and other planets wrt earth the lively planet.

Prashanth, to add to the above article,
a sankramana roughly means a SANDHI time. A particular time when a prominant change happens. It depends on Sun’s movement. As Sun enters into a particular Raashi(zodiac), the moment this shift of Raashi for Sun happens, is a Sankramana. Or in other words, its the point of time when two Raashis experience Sun at the same time. Thula Sankramana and Makara Sankramana are two major events because Sun here makes a change in direction himself. As far as I understand, Sun too moves, in his own pace like a suspended article to some location and changes direction by 180 degrees to make a backward movement, each known as an AYANA. The time when he shifts directions co-insides with a Sankramana. When this movement happens to his right, i.e. from South to North, is called Uttaraayana punyakaala and the consequential time of his rightward movement is known as Uttaraayana. When he starts his journey from his right to the left direction is known as Dakshinaayana punyakaala and the journey further is called Dakshinaayana. So, as far as Sun is concerned, a year is broken into two AYANAs.

Its an amazing subject where we learn so many things as we go deeper and digging. Vani and others, please correct me if I have provided any mis-information, and add to this if there are other vital informations that is of interest to a humble astronomical student, in this.

Lovely information, I really learned a lot here. I keep hearing all the masa words around me and never paid much attention. Thanks for sharing

Srik, when did you start this research boss!! Techie guy..

It sounds wierd to repeat myself, but am really happy that you people are finding the info useful.

Welcome to my blog, Suresh. Hope to see you often.

i blog balaga agide ondu jnana bhandara
haridide adarinda jnana vahini
dhanyro yella adannu odi labha padedavaru
srik a very good well conceived comment
veena helida hage lot of research work
has under gone
cheers to all and keep up good work
keep going going……………………………………………..

Hmmm That was just a small info from an astro enthusiast.
Thanks for nice words!!

i am planing to do ‘namakarana’ of my 5 month old baby in this month is it allowed to do, since i work abroad.

namakarana avshyavagi madi 5ne tingalu sari
nivu iruva placenalli yava hindu timple ilva?
iddare alli devasannidihiyalli madi purhotaru sigtare
yella chennagirutte
nimage nimma maguvige nimma kutumakke
shubhavagali yendu harisutteve.

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