Samvatsara is a Sanskrit term refers to a "year" in the Vedic calendar system, the cycle of time that repeats itself. The Vedic calendar system is a lunar-solar or solar based system, which means that it takes into account both the phases of the Moon and the movement of the Sun to determine the timing of festivals, rituals and other important events.
There are 60 Samvatsaras with each of them has its unique characteristics and attributes that influence the events and activities take place during that year. The names are given below in an order and they are named after the combination of movement of Jupiter and Saturn around the zodiac belt. The Samvatsara (year) is divided into twelve months named after the signs of the zodiac. It is used primarily in India and other parts of South Asia, and it is an important part of Vedic culture and tradition.
In the lunar-solar based system, some communities observe the Amanta New Year based on the new Moon, while others follow the Purnimanta New Year based on the full Moon. In the Solar based system, the New Year is based on the Sun's annual entry into Aries.
Vedic Solar Year
This Samvatsara begins when the Sun enters the Aries zodiac and concludes when it exits the Pisces zodiac. Its duration is approximately 365.25 days, making it easier to follow and more accurate than lunar-solar based calendars. It typically starts on the 15th of April and marks one complete cycle of the Sun from Aries to Pisces. While it is similar to the Gregorian year with 365.25 days, it differs in that it begins in the mid of April instead of January. Solar calendar is mainly used in South India and in Srilanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Burma, Cambodia, Mauritius etc.
Similarly, there is a distinction between solar months and lunar months. A solar month is defined by the time it takes for the Sun to transit through a zodiac sign, which is approximately 30 days. The Sun typically enters a new zodiac sign in the middle of each Gregorian month. For example, the Sun enters Aries on the 15th of April, followed by Taurus on the 15th of May, and so on for the rest of the signs. Whereas, lunar months are based on Moon's cycle through new Moon to new Moon (Amanta) or full Moon to full Moon (Purnimanta), which is tough in general practices.
The entry of the Sun into every zodiac is called "Sankranti".
Sankranti comes from the combination of "Sankar " which means Sun and "Anti" which means entry. Each time the Sun enters a new zodiac sign, it is given a unique name such as Mesha Sankranti for Aries, Rishabha Sankranti for Taurus, Makara Sankranti for Capricorn, and so on.
Names of Samvatsara
It takes approximately 12 years for Jupiter to complete one full cycle of all 12 zodiac signs, from Aries to Pisces. This means that one Jupiter cycle is equivalent to 12 years on Earth. As Jupiter takes one year to move through each sign, its influence is particularly strong during that period in comparison to other planets. Our sages took this into account and named each year based on the theme of Jupiter's influence during that period.
The Samvatsara system consists of 60 names, each corresponding to a year with a unique theme. These names were assigned in ancient scriptures based on their associated themes, and the system repeats itself every 60 years. This cyclical nature is the reason why we often observe historical patterns repeating themselves. The themes are determined by the position of Jupiter in relation to the positions of the Sun and Saturn.
Why 60 years?
The three most significant grahas (celestial bodies) in the solar system are the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn. They align at the same point every 60 years, which means that if they begin their journey from 0 degree Aries today, they will meet again at the same sign and degree after 60 years on the same day (approximately). This meeting marks the start of a new cycle once again. Our ancestors understood this phenomenon and created an incredible calendar system that allows us to determine the themes of each year.
Where are we now?
We're in March 2023 as I'm writing this article. The 36th Samvatsara "Subhakrutu" is the current year which will end in the mid of April 2023 and the next one "Sobhakrutu" will be starting from 15th of April 2023. Sobhakrutu represents beauty, excellence and auspiciousness. Jupiter will enter Aries on 22nd of April 2023, starting a new 12 year cycle. Jupiter will face Rahu in Aries, and they both will be aspected by Saturn from Aquarius. So its a time of evolutionary changes.