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Re: SriJayanthi

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Thu Aug 16 2001 - 23:59:48 PDT

Dear Members,

There have been a number of questions about when 
Sri Vaishnavas celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna,
and why there are differences of opinion concerning 
such an important event in different parts of the 
country. One reader has quizzically wondered as to 
why there are so many differences in the "Hindu calendar".

We should first set aside the notion of a single,
unitary "Hindu calendar", the word Hindu being a modern,
cultural, notion and a religiously meaningless construction.
Each region and religious tradition of India has a
separate calendar, often with wildly differing rules.
This is because the Vedic tradition is inherently
diverse, recognizing that different ways of 
celebrating are appropriate in different parts of
the country. In today's times, with religious values
declining and monochromatic trans-culturalism the name 
of the game, personal and familial religious identities 
are being forgotten and people often hold on only to
the lowest common denominator. But enough about this.

With respect to the specific case of Lord Krishna's
birth, Sri M.N.Ramanuja writes:
> Regarding SriJayanthi Adiyen has this to say
> Five thousand years ago, when Srikrishna was born, the day was
> Simha masam (Avani), Sravana masam, Bahula, Ashtami. and Rohini star.
> Hence ideally all these conditions have to match to celebrate
> Srijayanthi.

Sri M.N. Ramanuja has succinctly described the problem.
Different interpretations of the texts that describe
Sri Krishna's birth lead to different conclusions as 
to when to celebrate it.

The factors are:

   1) solar month
   2) lunar month
   3) nakshatra (constellation aligned with the moon)
   4) tithi (loosely, phase of the moon)
   5) how to determine these when combined with other factors
      such as sunrise or moonrise

The smArta tradition generally observes the birth of
Sri Krishna on SrAvaNa-krishna-ashTamI, giving importance
only to the tithi. They also generally follow the lunar calendar 
for this observance and celebrate it in SrAvaNa (lunar month), 
without paying attention to the nakshatra or the solar month. 
(Those who are familiar with the smArta tradition should feel 
free to correct me. There may be local variations.) 

Most other religious traditions in the country have followed this
practice. Since for all these traditions the tithi is given
importance, those who follow this reckoning call the day 
(Sri Krishna) janmAshTamI or gokulAshTamI.

The Sri Vaishnava tradition has carefully taken into account
all the different shastras including the pAncarAtra agama
texts which provide a wealth of guidance in this matter
and calculates the day differently. For us, the nakshatra 
(rOhiNI) is given primary importance, with ashTamI also taken into 
consideration (more on this later). The particular conjunction 
of the ashTamI tithi and rOhiNI is known as 'jayantI', and this 
day is described by many of the shastras as being the auspicious 
birthday of Sri Krishna [texts cited include vishnu-dharmottara-
purANa, vishnu-rahasya, and sanatkumAra samhitA]. Since the
junction of ashTamI and rohiNI is what we take into account,
we say that Sri Krishna was born on 'SrI jayantI'.

Please note that the word 'jayantI' by itself is sufficient to 
refer to Sri Krishna's birthday.  There is no need to say 
'Krishna Jayanti'. It is only in a secondary sense that we
say Sri Narasimha Jayanti, Gandhi Jayanti, Ambedkar Jayanti,
etc. These are all out of courtesy. The name 'jayantI' proper
refers only to the birth of Sri Krishna. For example, we have
Sri Vedanta Desika's well-known opening sloka from Sri Gopala 

  vande bRndAvana-caram, vallavI-jana-vallabham |
  jayantI sambhavam dhAma vaijayantI-vibhUshaNam ||

Within the Sri Vaishnava tradition itself, there have developed
slight differences as to when to observe SrI jayantI.  Pages 
and pages have been written by some erudite scholars over the 
years arguing over which is correct.  There is also disagreement
as to *how* exactly to observe the day. Should one observe
upavAsa through the night, ceremonially breaking the fast the next 
morning, or should one eat immediately after the midnight 
pUja / ArAdhana? These are complex issues that I barely
understand myself and I won't begin discussing them here. 
I will confine this discussion to the date on which to observe
SrI jayantI.

Broadly, there are two different opinions within the Sri
Vaishnava tradition concerning this matter.  One can be
called the 'mannAr' tradition, the other the 'tOzhappar'
tradition. (In a nutshell, the difference stems from 
lunar vs. solar month and whether to take sunrise or
moonrise into consideration for determining jayantI.
this will be explained below.)

The mannAr tradition is followed by Sri Parakala
Matham and 'munitraya' tradition Sri Vaishnavas such as
both Andavan Ashramams and most Vadagalai acharya-purusha
families. It is named after one mannAr svAmi of unknown date
who is the first extant authority arguing for this calculation.
mannAr svAmi is known to have very eminent predecessors who 
shared his opinion, such as the Upanishad Bhashyakara Ranga 

The tOzhappar tradition is followed by Sri Ahobila Matham and
Thengalai Sri Vaishnavas (knowledgable members of the Thengalai
tradition please correct me if I am wrong). It is named after Sri
Vaidika Sarvabhauma Swami, also known as Kidambi Thozhappar, who
wrote a detailed text establishing the reasoning behind his
tradition. He was a disciple of the founding Jeeyar Swami of Sri
Ahobila Matham.

Having briefly laid out the history, here are the differences
themselves. The tOzhappar tradition is simpler so I will lay
it out first.

tOzhappar SrI jayantI:

  1) Only the solar month is taken into account.
     So it must be in simha (AvaNi) mAsam, which
     is mid-August to mid-September.
  2) The target date in this month is kRshna-ashTamI
     (8th day of the waning phase of the moon) in conjunction
     with rOhiNI. However, on that day, not even a tiny bit
     of saptamI should exist post-sunrise, nor should there
     be any kRttikA nakshatram.

  3) If there is no pure ashTamI-rOhiNI conjunction as
     described in (2), navamI-rOhiNi is the next preferred
     conjunction, with once again a pure rOhiNi mandatory.

  4) If (3) is not possible, mRgaSIrsha nakshatra combined
     with navamI or daSamI is the next preferred choice.

  5) If this observance of SrI jayantI does not fall on
     ashTamI, the ashTamI is treated as any other day and
     requires no special observance.

mannAr SrI jayantI:

  1) The ideal date is the conjunction of rOhiNI and
     kRshNa-ashTamI that lasts from sunrise through the 
     night. (This need not happen in the solar month of
     AvaNi. Lunar month of SrAvaNa before AvaNi begins 
     is also okay.)

  2) If (1) is not possible, if at moonrise it is
     rOhiNI as well as ashTamI, that date should be
     taken. Neither the rOhiNi nor the ashTamI need
     be pure as in the tOzhappar tradition.

  3) If (2) is not possible, if there is any conjunction
     of ashTamI and rOhinI day or night, that calendar
     day should be taken as SrI jayantI.

There are 12 more cases in the mannAr tradition which
get quite complicated.  But the primary focus in all
is some occurrence of rOhiNI.  In no circumstance 
should navamI without rOhiNI be taken as SrI jayantI.
(Some other circumstances such as being on a Wednesday 
[Sri Krishna is said to be born on this day of the week] 
push the date in one direction or another.) 

The key is that in neither mannAr nor tOzhappar is
the tithi given preference. This is why only rarely
does the Sri Vaishnava date coincide with the
smArta date.

This should explain why the mannAr tradition 
sometimes observes SrI jayantI as much as a month
before the tOzhappar tradition. Since the latter
exclusively prefers the solar month, their date
often falls several weeks later.  Further, 
it also explains why the mannAr observance
is often just a day before the tOzhappar date.  
This is because the mannAr tradition takes into
account moonrise whereas the tOzhappar tradition
only takes into account sunrise.

Occasionally, mannAr tradition Sri Vaishnavas have
to observe two days of fasting in a row -- janmAshTamI 
as well as SrI jayantI. This is when the ashTamI and
rOhiNI simply do not coincide at all and fall one
after another in the solar month of AvaNi. Note
that this janmAshTamI is not the same as the smArta
calculation of janmAshTamI.

I hope this matter has been clarified a little bit.
In a few days, I will post the correct day on which
to observe these according to the US panchAngams.

Note: texts consulted: 
  o 'SrI jayantI nirNaya' by Sri Gopalarya Mahadesika  
  o 'Ahnika granthaH' of Sri Villivalam Krishnamacharya
       (present Sri Azhagiya Singar in pUrvASrama)

With regards,

           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
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