Basic Principles of Panchanga

The Panchanga is the Indian almanac that is used to determine the quality of the energy for the day. It is composed of five (panch) limbs (anga) that represent five sources of energy and deals primarily with Sun, Moon, and their relationship to each other. When working with the Panchanga it is important to know that the day begins at sunrise, not at midnight.

The Panchanga is used for Muhurta. Muhurta means “moment”.  It is the astrology of electing a moment within a good day to perform an auspicious action. Through understanding the energy of the day, the Jyotishi can automatically rule out or favor various days for particular actions.  Also, the Panchanga of our birth day has a role in Jataka (natal astrology). Through understanding the energy of the day of one’s birth, the Jyotishi can see the auspicious or difficult conditions of various limbs that make it easier or harder to fulfill the promise of the birth chart.

Purusha & Prakriti

To understand the role of the Panchanga in our birth chart, we must understand the role of Purusha & Prakriti in Creation. In some traditions Purusha and Prakriti are described as the male and female aspect of Brahma, in others it is Shiva and Shakti.

Purusha is the masculine aspect associated with Brahma or Shiva as the absolute truth and eternal reality. Purusha is the ultimate organizing principal of the supreme intelligence of the universe. On the individual level represents the Atman – our connection to Supreme Intelligence through the divine dweller within. Purusha is associated with the four aims of life (Purusharthas). Purusha is the eternal soul, static and unchanging.

Prakriti is the feminine aspect associated with Shakti. Prakriti is what gives form or shape to the creative consciousness of Purusha. The five great elements (Pancha Maha Bhutas) of physical manifestation and the qualities of the mind (Gunas – rajas, tamas, sattva) arise through Prakriti. Prakriti on the individual level represents our Ahamakara – our sense of separate self and the individual ego that arises through becoming involved in the gross physical elements of our senses and desires. Prakriti is nature, ever evolving and changing.

Together Shiva and Shakti are Ishwara – representing the perfect balance between Purusha and Prakriti that results in pure consciousness. When the soul incarnates to complete unfulfilled karma, it gets caught in the illusions of maya through the involvement in the material world. As we become more engrossed in the desires of our senses in the world of form, the harmony between Purusha and Prakriti becomes disturbed in the subtle qualities of our consciousness. Through our personal Panchanga we can see how Prakriti affects our individual nature and our mind as we navigate through the world of form.

Each limb of the Panchanga relates to a Maha Bhuta (great element). Therefore, each day shows the developmental level of the five great elements. When consulting the Panchanga for Muhurta, it tells us whether the quality of the day is aligned with the action we are electing to undertake or not. When consulting the Panchanga for Jataka (natal astrology), we can use the connection of the five limbs to the five maha bhutas to understand how the harmony of the subtle body becomes disturbed by the physical desires of the gross elements.

Table 1: The Panchanga in Muhurta & Jataka

  Muhurta (electional astrology) Jataka  (natal astrology)
Vara – Solar Day  Quality of energy, prowess & activity related to planetary day ruler Physical Energy, prowess, activity
Nakshatra                        Capacity for favorable actions of particular activities Mind, mental fluctuations, prana, thoughts, communication
Tithi – Lunar Day Forming & withdrawing of the senses of Prakriti though the Maha Bhutas Emotions, temperament, capacity for relationship, sexuality
Karana – ½ Lunar Day Instrument or means to fulfill actions Karma (how we create it), actions
Nitya Yoga Blessings, security, or ill the day brings through subtle influences Protection & support, subtle influences related to health & happiness

The limbs of the day correspond to the Maha Bhutas. Furthermore, each Maha Bhuta has a ruling planet (some have secondary planetary correspondences). The planets each rule one of the five senses and each sense (Indriya) has an organ or perception and action.

The Vara or solar day relates to the element of fire because the Sun relates to vital energy. The Nakshatra relates to the air element because it shows the mental fluctuations of the Moon’s expression in different portions of the zodiac. The Tithi or lunar day relates to the water element because shows the Moon increasing and decreasing in light as it goes through the waxing and waning phases. Metaphorically it represents the how our emotions fluctuate through controlling of the senses and being dominated by them. Karana means instrument. The karana or half lunar day is related to the earth element because it gives us the physical means, or instrument, through which to perform our actions. The Nitya Yoga relates to the ether element because it relates to the angular relationship in distance – the amount of space – between the Sun and Moon.

Table 2: The Panchanga, The Maha Bhutas (great elements) & the Indriyas (senses)

  Maha Bhuta Planet Sense Perception Organ Action Organ
Vara Agni (fire) Mars (Sun, Ketu) Sight Eyes Feet
Nakshatra Vayu (air) Saturn (Rahu) Touch Skin Hands
Tithi Apas (water) Venus (Moon) Taste Tongue Genitals
Karana Prithvi (earth) Mercury Smell Nose Anus
Nitya Yoga Akash (ether) Jupiter Hearing Ears Mouth (speech)
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