Imagine when you get extra time to complete your test paper during exams? Or when working on an important project or when you are time bound and have to crack a deal? Isn’t the 29th day of February extra time during a year? And if that’s not enough, how about a month extra? What would you do if you were given such an extra-ordinary gift of time.
The Adhik Mahina of the Lunar Calendar is nothing but that gifted month for the Hindu people who follow the Lunar Calendar. Just as the Solar Calendar gets an extra day in the month of February every 4 years, the Lunar Calendar has an entire extra month after every 3 years. Ever wonder how does the Lunar Calendar gets an entire month whereas the Solar Calendar just one day?
The Astronomical Significance
Time is calculated as per the orbiting movement of the Earth and The Sun and The Moon. The Solar Calendar is calculated as per the Earth’s movement around the Sun while a Lunar Calendar is calculated as per the Moon’s orbit around the Earth. Thus, a Lunar Calendar comprises 32 months, 16 days and 24 minutes. Lunar Calendar which has 354 days has a difference of 11 days every year as compared to the Solar Calendar which has 365 days. This difference thus becomes Adhik Maas or Mal Maas or Purushottam Maas (different names of Adhik Mahina) in the Hindu Calendar.
The Devotional Significance
As Adhik Mahina occurs after every three years, it does not have special festivities or celebrations under it. The Hindu pandits and sages have ordained it with prayers, blessing and sacrifices. However, small functions like devoting the celebrations to the number 33 that symbolizes extra days that have been gifted are followed religiously. If we calculate the 11 days of every year, they total up to 33 for all three years. Therefore, the number 33 has a huge significance in this month. The most important ritual that most Hindus follow is the Adhik Vaan wherein the sons-in-law are showered with gifts like 33 delicacies, 33 sweets, 33 dresses or Rs. 33,000 worth of gold. Generally Adhik Maas falls around the month of May, that is mostly known for summer weddings and celebrations. Once the daughters have been married, the grooms are showered with different gifts. This additional month of the Hindu Calendar is a way to continue this gifting practice in the form of ritual and hence a special significance is given to Adhik Vaan.
The Mythological Significance
Long ago when the months were created, all 12 months were associated with a deity and accompanying celebrations and rituals. And as Hindu mythology likes personifying everything, the months became the holy maidens of the God of Time – Chandra (As Hindus follow Lunar Calendar). Adhik Maas was named as Mal Maas at that time as she had no celebrations, no rituals and no divinity. Feeling dejected, she went to Lord Vishnu and pleaded that she also be given some divine association if not feasts and celebration. Moved by her plea, Lord Vishnu assured her that she has a special significance in the coming time and that she will be remembered with pious deeds and prayers.
Soon time went by and one of the kings of the then times, King Hiranyakashyapu prayed to Lord Brahma asking for an unusual and mystical boon making him virtually immortal. The boon was on condition that, “No man nor any animal could kill Hiranyakashyapu. He would not die in broad daylight nor in night time. Furthermore, he could not die inside the house nor outside, nor on land, or water or in the sky, and lastly never ever in the 12 months of the year.” Little did King Hiranyakashyapu know, that this dark scheme of his was not supposed to work. Thinking he had become immortal and the most powerful person, Hiranyakashyapu started creating havoc on Earth and Lord Vishnu had to intervene. Respecting Lord Brahma’s boon, Lord Vishnu decided to reincarnate himself as Narsimha in Adhik Mahina, the thirteenth month of Hindu calendar. Narsimha was neither a man nor an animal, he was a deity with head of lion and body of a man. So, he ended the life of King Hiranyakashypu on his lap in the thirteenth month i.e. Mal Maas. With the remorseful attitude King Hiranyakashyapu’s wife conduced a pure environment in her realm with prayers, charities and different religious practices.
Thus, with his reincarnation Lord Vishnu fulfilled his commitment to Mal Maas of being the most divine and ritualistic month of the year. Due to Lord Vishnu’s reincarnation and different religious practices, Mal Maas later came to be known as Purushottam Maas or Adhik Maas.
This year, Adhik Maas falls on 16th May 2018. Enjoying its piousness and arranging different kirtans, bhajans or religious lectures during this auspicious time of the year adds to our spiritual journey. So, cherish this extra time and make the most of it with gratitude and humility.