What is Adhik Maas?

You would have heard a lot of people talk right now that the Adhik Maas has started. It has different names, so you could have heard any of them – Adhik Maas, Mal Maas, Purushottam Mahina, Malimmacha, Leap Month, etc. Like me, you could also be very confused as to how a year can have a whole extra month! A leap year having an extra day every four years is still understandable, but a whole extra month! Now, where did that come from! As if the Hindu calendar wasn’t complex enough to understand!

Well, the important thing to note here is that the Hindu calendar makes for both solar and lunar reckoning. So, to keep the two (solar and lunar) in sync, months and days are sometimes added and sometimes omitted to keep a balance. In other words, the Hindu calendar is a lunisolar time reckoning system. This means that the Hindu calendar attempts to correctly reflect the apparent movements of both the Sun and the Moon over long periods. The calendar’s solar strand is primarily based on the length of a typical tropical year – the time it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun. Similarly, the calendar’s lunar strand is primarily based on the lunar month – the time it takes for the Moon to revolve around the Earth. Now, this is where the discrepancy arises. A tropical year is roughly 11 days longer than the 12 lunar months. This discrepancy is managed in the Hindu calendar by two means – leap days and leap months. Moreover, this discrepancy is not limited to just these 11 days. There are many other days in between that get added and omitted as well which widen the discrepancy even further (they might also reduce it in some years).

Unlike the leap day in the Gregorian Calendar which always falls on 29 February every 4 years, the leap months and leap days can be added anywhere in the calendar. Plus, they can not only be added but they can also be omitted. There are regional variations in the rules governing this addition and omission, but more or less there are a lot of similarities in these rules.

Rules of Leap Months or Adhik Maas

There are 12 zodiac signs or rashis –

  • Aries or Mesh
  • Taurus or Vrushabh
  • Gemini or Mithun
  • Cancer or Kark
  • Leo or Sinha
  • Virgo or Kanya
  • Libra or Tula
  • Scorpio or Vrushchhik
  • Sagittarius or Dhanu
  • Capricorn or Makar
  • Aquarius or Kumbha
  • Pisces or Meen

These 12 rashis are the stellar constellations along the apparent path of the Sun during a topical year. These rashis define our solar months. Whenever the Sun enters a new rashi or zodiac sign, it is considered to be the beginning of a new solar month.

When is the Adhik Maas added to our calendars?

Now, a lunar month is the time the Moon takes to revolve around the Earth. Sometimes, a lunar month is shorter than the Solar month, i.e. the lunar month ends before the Sun moves to the new zodiac sign. This is when an adhik maas or Purushottam maas is added to our calendar to balance out the gap.

When is a month omitted from our calendars?

Sometimes, the Sun could move to a new zodiac sign even before the lunar month is completed. When that happens, the leap month is omitted.

Thumb rule is the Hindu calendar will always have 12 or 13 months. If a month is omitted somewhere, it will get added somewhere. This way, the total number of months never drops to 11. The balance always has to be maintained.

Leap Days

Just like the Solar and Lunar months, the Hindu calendar takes into consideration both the solar days and lunar days. A lunar day is the time in which the Moon moves 12 degrees with respect to the Sun. In contrast, a solar day begins and ends with the Sunrise.

When is a day omitted from the Hindu calendar?

Sometimes, a lunar day begins just after sunrise and ends before the next Sunrise. When this happens, a day is omitted from the calendar. So, for example, if this happens on the 5th day of the Hindu month, then the next day would be the 7th day of the month and the 6th day would be omitted to balance the gap.

When is a leap day added to the Hindu calendar?

Sometimes, a lunar day could include two sunrises. Then, a leap day is added, to even out the difference in the solar and lunar days. So, if the lunar day includes two Sunrises on the 5th day of the month, then there will be two 6th days or chatths to balance the difference.

So, this is how leap days and leap months are added or days and months are omitted in the Hindu calendar. Despite the additions and omissions, the Hindu calendar always has either 12 or 13 months, it never has 11 months.

When does the Adhik Maas happen?

An extra lunar month or leap month happens after every 32 months, 16 days, and 8 ghadis. A ghadi in the Hindu calendar is a period of 24 minutes. So, 60 ghadis equal 24 hours. so, every three years, the calendar will have an extra month.

Why is it called the Purushottam Maas?

According to our Hindu culture, there are 12 Lunar months, and each month is assigned to one God. Now, the Adhik Maas is considered to be a Maal Maas or an unclean month so no God agreed to have it assigned to them. So, Lord Vishnu was approached. He pitied the Maal Maas and had it assigned to Himself. Now, since Lord Vishnu is the Lord of the Adhik Maas, and Lord Vishnu is also called as Purushottam, the Adhik Maas is also called as Purushottam Maas.

What is the importance of the Adhik Maas?

Purushottam means the best of all best men, a man who has all the best qualities. Thus, the Purushottam Maas is dedicated to self-development, evaluation, assessment, reflection, retrospection, and introspection. This is the month where one’s soul and spirit gets a chance to complete all the pending work and detoxify the body spiritually. This is the month for one to regain their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strengths.

What should one do during the Adhik Maas?

During the Adhik Maas, charitable deeds are carried out. People fast during the month to wash off their sins and bring home happiness and prosperity. Radha-Krishna and Lakshmi-Narayan are worshipped during the month. The Sodashopachara puja is performed by fasting individuals. It is insisted to stick to having vegetarian meals during the month.

Fasting during the Purushottam Maas is equivalent to performing 100 yagnas, which pave the path to eternal bliss, delight, and peace. The Adhik Maas brings divine grace and blessings, allowing us to gain back lost health and wealth and receive divine help to get through difficult times.

This month is also considered to be a good time to regulate any planetary doshas in the horoscope by performing yagnas. It is believed that these yagnas if done in this month would give 10 times better results compared to when performed in any other month.

What not do during Adhik Maas?

No auspicious ceremonies should be conducted during the Adhik Maas. One should avoid having any naamkarans, gruh pravesh, weddings, mundans, buying new jewelry, or any new property/valuables during this month as it is considered to be an inauspicious time.

What if you’re not an ardent believer or not a very religious person?

One’s beliefs are one’s own choices and it is ok to choose how religious you want to be in life. If you choose to identify yourself as not a very religious person but would still like to do something during the Adhik Maas, you can engage in any charitable activities or daans. You can also observe a fast once a week, or stick to vegetarian meals throughout the month. If nothing else, you can consider this month to connect with your spirituality. Meditate, practice mindfulness, maybe do some yoga. Avoid buying a new valuable or hosting any auspicious event. If you are up for it, maybe go to a Krishna temple near your house. (Yes, ISKON temple will work).

Well, that’s how an Adhik Maas becomes a part of our calendar. Hope I was able to help you understand the tradition better and clear some confusions you might have. Tell me what you think in the comments!

Penny for your thoughts!