(38) What is the difference between the Gregorian and the Hindu calendars?
The Gregorian calendar is based upon the solar system and hence it has 365 days. The Hindu calendar is based upon the lunar and solar systems. With the new moon appearing after every 27.1/2 days, the 12 lunar months take 354 days. The difference of 11 days is adjusted every three years when an additional month called adhik-mas is added. The difference between the two calendars explains why the dates of Hindu festivals vary every year. The names of the 12 months are Chaitra, Vaishakh, Jyeshth, Ashadh, Shravan, Bhadrapad (Bhadon), Ashvin, Kartik, Margashirsha (Aahan), Poush, Magh and Phagun. Hindus sometimes use abbreviated forms for some months.
Having earned money through right means, the householder enters the vanaprasth ashram. In other words he retires from active life.
Finally, there is the sanyas ashram. Previously people used to leave home and retire to the forest. This is the final cutting off from all worldly ties. But nowadays only a few people follow this.
The four ashrams are meant to regulate life.
(39) What is the Panchang? Why do Hindus consult it to fix dates for auspicious occasions?
Panchang is formed from two Hindu words, Panch and Ang. Panch means five and ang means limbs. Therefore, Panchang means five limbs. Panchang is a book of tables that lists the days of every month along with astronomical data and calculations. On the basis of this data, the days of Hindu festivals are fixed. It also mentions the auspicious days for marriages and special ceremonies.
Astronomers from all over India compile data in the Panchang based on their astronomical readings. Astrologers use it to calculate the position of the planets and make predictions accordingly. Everyone relies upon Brahmin priests to interpret the data and announce auspicious days for special ceremonies.