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The astronomical basis of the Hindu lunar day

In Vedic timekeeping, a tithi is a "duration of two faces of moon that is observed from earth", known as milа̄lyа̄ (Newar : 𑐩𑐶𑐮𑐵𑐮𑑂𑐫𑐵𑑅, मिलाल्याः) in Nepal Bhasa, [1] or the time it takes for the longitudinal angle between the Moon and the Sun to increase by 12°. In other words, a tithi is a time duration between the consecutive epochs that correspond to when the longitudinal angle between the Sun and the Moon is an integer multiple of 12°. Tithis begin at varying times of day and vary in duration approximately from 19 to 26 hours. [2] Every day of a lunar month is called tithi.



image to understand the calculation of tithi Tithi Calculation.jpg
image to understand the calculation of tithi

A Hindu muhurta (forty-eight minute duration) can be represented in five attributes of Hindu astronomy namely, vara the weekday, tithi, nakshatra the Moon's asterism, yoga the angular relationship between Sun and Moon and karana half of tithi.

Tithi plays an important role along with nakshatra in Hindus' daily as well as special activities in selecting the muhurta. There are auspicious tithis as well as inauspicious tithis, each considered more propitious for some purposes than for other.

There are 30 tithis in each lunar month, named as:

Sl.NoKrishna paksha
(dark fortnight)
Shukla paksha
(bright fortnight)
Deity and properties[ citation needed ]
1Prathama / Padyami Prathama / PadyamiThe presiding deity of the first lunar day is Agni and it is good for all types of auspicious and religious ceremonies.
2Dwitiya / Vidiya Dwitiya / VidiyaVidhatr or Brahma rules this lunar day and is good for the laying of foundations for buildings and other things of a permanent nature.
3Tritiya / Thadiya Tritiya / ThadiyaGauri is the lord of this day and is good for the cutting of one's hair and nails and shaving.
4Chaviti Chaviti Yama/Ganapati is lord of the 4th lunar day, which is good for the destruction of one's enemies, the removal of obstacles, and acts of combat.
5Panchami Panchami The Naaga or Serpents rule this day, which is favourable for administering medicine, the purging of poisons, and surgery.
6Shashthi Shashthi Karttikeya presides over this day and is favourable for coronations, meeting new friends, festivities, and enjoyment.
7Saptami Saptami The 7th lunar day is ruled by Surya; one may begin a journey, buy conveyances, and deal with other such things of a movable nature.
8Ashtami Ashtami The Rudra rule this day, which is good for taking up arms, building of one's defenses, and fortification.
9Navami Navami The Ambikaa rules this day, which is suitable for killing enemies, acts of destruction, and violence. Inauspicious for ceremonies and journeys.
10Dasami Dashami The day is ruled by Dharmaraja and is auspicious for acts of virtue, religious functions, spiritual practices, and other pious activities.
11Ekadasi Ekadashi Rudra rule this day; fasting, devotional activities, and remembrance of the Supreme Lord Vishnu are very favourable. This day has special religious significance in Hinduism and Jainism—usually observed by fasting.
12Dvadasi Dwadashi The Vishnu or Aditya rules this day, which is auspicious for religious ceremonies, the lighting of the sacred fire, and the performance of one's duties.
13Trayodasi Thrayodashi The day is ruled by Kamadeva and is good for forming friendships, sensual pleasures, and festivities.
14Chaturdashi Chaturdashi Kali rules this day, suitable for administering poison and calling of elementals and spirits.
15 Amavasya
(new moon)
Purnima or Paurnami
(full moon)
The Pitru-devas rule the New Moon, suitable for the propitiation of the Manes and performance of austerities. Purnima is ruled by Moon and is suitable for merry making and fire sacrifice.

See also

Tithi is one of the five elements of a Pañcāṅga. The other four elements:

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In Indian astronomy, yoga (also called nityayoga) is a period of time during which the sum of the nirayana longitudes of the Sun and the Moon increases by an amount of 13° 20′ (or, 800′). While considering the sum, when the sum is 360° or more, then the angle 360° is subtracted from the sum to make the sum an angle between 0° and 360°. Consider a moment T1 when the sum of the longitudes of the Sun and the Moon is 0° and let T2 be the next immediate moment when the sum of the longitudes of the Sun and the Moon is 13° 20′. The duration of time between the moments T1 and T2 is the first yoga. Similarly, let the next immediate moment when the sum of the longitudes of the Sun and Moon is 26° 40′. The duration of time between the moments T2 and T3 is the second yoga. The third, fourth and higher yoga-s are defined in a similar way. Since 27 X = 13° 20′ = 360°, at the end-moment of the 27th yoga, the sum of the nirayana longitudes of the Sun and Moon would be 0°. The numbering of the yoga-s then starts afresh from that point. It appears that the astronomical yoga-s are in no way related to any astronomical phenomena. S. B. Dikshit in his Bhāratīya Jyotiṣ Śāstra observes: "It is not known what planetary position in the sky is indicated by yoga, and it is useful only in astrology."

In Indian astronomy, a karaṇa is a half of a tithi. It is the duration of time in which the difference of the longitudes of the Sun and the Moon is increased by 6 degrees. A lunar month has 30 tithi-s and so the number of karaṇa-s in a lunar month is 60. These sixty karaṇa-s are not individually named. In stead, the originators of the concept have chosen 11 names to be associated with the karaṇa-s which means several karaṇa-s will be associated with the same name. Of these 11 names, four are fixed or immovables in the sense that they are associated with four unique karaṇa-s in a lunar month. These constant names are Śakuni, Catuṣpāda, Nāga and Kimstughna. The remaining seven names are variable or movable in the sense that there are several karaṇa-s associated with each of them. These names are Bava, Bālava, Kaulava, Taitila, Gara, Vaṇij and Vṛṣṭi.

In Indian calendrical systems, vāra denotes the week-day. It is one of the five elements that constitute the traditional almanacs called Pañcāṅga-s the other four being Nakshatra, Tithi, Karaṇa and Nityayoga. The concept of week, the unit of time consisting of seven days, is not indigenous to Indian civilisation. The concept was probably borrowed Babylonians and its use predates the use of the twelve zodiacal signs in Indian civilazation. The concept finds mention in Atharva Veda. The seven week-days are named after the seven classical planets as in the ancient Greek and Roman traditions.


  1. Kapali, Rukshana. "नेपाल संवत् - नेपाल सम्बत" (PDF). Nepal Sambat. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 November 2021. Retrieved 3 November 2021.
  2. Defouw, Hart; Svoboda, Robert (2003). Light on Life: An Introduction to the Astrology of India . Lotus Press. p.  186. ISBN   0-940985-69-1. Shukla paksha -inpublisher:icon.