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Almanac shaves Pujas by a day
- Conflicting schedules from twin schools on Navami and Dashami

Should Durga Puja 2005 be celebrated over three days or four'

This was the question stumping the finance department when it got down to preparing the year's holiday calendar. The two schools of almanac-makers that dictate the festivals days in Bengal ' Driksiddhanta (Bisuddhasiddhanta Panjika) and Odriksiddhanta (Gupta Press, PM Bagchi, etc) ' have come up with conflicting schedules for the first time in 23 years.

The contentious date is October 12. According to Odriksiddhanta, both Navami and Dashami fall on the day, whereas for Driksiddhanta, Dashami spills over to October 13.

'Every year, we refer to both almanacs and if there is a difference in dates, like this year, it is brought to the notice of the higher authorities. Traditionally Gupta Press is followed because of its popularity. So we obey its diktat of a three-day Puja,' said a finance department source. Resulting in the loss of a day's holiday.

Baroari pujas, too, will follow the curtailed puja schedule, 'with deference to convention', confirmed Pandit Nitai Chakraborty, president of Vaidik Pandit O Purohit Mahamilan Kendra. 'This year, it will be really tough to complete Navami and Dashami puja in the short span.'

But not everyone is convinced. Belur Math will adhere to Bisuddhasiddhanta. 'It was Swami Bignanananda Maharaj (who became Math president in 1937-38), an astrologer, who decided we would follow this almanac as it is more scientific,' said a Math spokesman. So, a four-day Puja it will be.

According to Driksiddhanta, Dashami tithi continues till 6.42 am, while for Odriksiddhanta, the tithi ends at 4.23 am. 'Since in Indian astrology, a day continues from one sunrise to another, in the first case Dashami continues till the next day after sunrise, and in the second, it ends before sunrise,' explains Himangshu Smrititirtha, chief pundit of the Bisuddhasiddhanta panjika.

A difference of a day is rare. Recalls Himangshu Smrititirtha: 'Such major discrepancies have occurred twice in my lifetime. There was a month's difference between the dates we arrived at, first during PC Sen's tenure in 1963 and then in Jyoti Basu's time in 1982. On both occasions, our puja dates were in Ashwin while their's was in Kartik and the cause was different calculations for molo maash (impure month) occurring in the intervening period, unsuited for any holy act.'

The state government has been following the Gupta Press for years, yet discrepancies cause a flutter. 'In 1982, there was a major confusion. It was decided to declare Puja holidays according to Gupta Press calculations but the order specified that if an employee wanted leave on Puja days as decreed by Bisuddhasiddhanta, that would also be allowed,' said the finance department officer.

That was then, as the dates were divided by a month. But this time, no overnight converts to the Bisuddhasiddhanta calendar would be entertained, as Writers' follows the three-day Puja schedule.

This year, the confusion extends to Viswakarma puja that falls on September 16, according to the Bisuddhasiddhanta Panjika, and on September 17, by the other almanacs.

The difference occurs because the two schools follow different calendars of luni-solar movement on which tithis are based, said Pulak Bhattacharya, chief astrologer for Gupta Press.

While Gupta Press follows 16th century Raghunandan's work Ashtabingshatitatwa based on the 1,500-year-old astronomical treatise, Suryasiddhanta, Bisuddhasiddhanta is based on an 1890 amendment of the planetary positions given in Suryasiddhanta.

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