Orissa petition to ban 'incorrect' almanac

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT WITH INPUTS FROM SUDESHNA BANERJEE
  • Published 4.12.09
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Cuttack, Dec. 3: My Lord, please stop this ungodly practice.

A petitioner has sought the intervention of Orissa High Court to stop the circulation of an incorrect version of an annual ephemeris which, he said, was leading to disputes over observation of religious rituals.

Dushasan Pahil, an official appointed by the Indian Meteorological Department’s Positional Astronomy Centre, said the incorrect ephemeris was being sold under the name Biraja Panjika, an almanac followed in districts like Jajpur, Bhadrak, Balasore, Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar.

The Biraja temple in Jajpur follows the Biraja Panjika — based on Bhasvati, an 11th-century work of Puri-based astronomer Satananda — for performing rites and rituals. Pahil said the incorrect version was creating chaos in the worship of goddess Biraja, the reigning deity of Jajpur.

“The Biraja deity has so dominated the heart and minds of the people that any deviation in the prescribed rites and rituals is likely to hurt the sentiments of thousands of people reposing faith in the time-ordered traditions of the Sri Biraja Temple,” the petition said.

His petition has sought the court’s intervention for publication of these almanacs in accordance with the astronomical calculations of the Indian Astronomical Ephemeris, published every year by the Positional Astronomy Centre in Calcutta.

Sources in the advocate-general’s office today said the petition would be taken up for hearing after the commissioner of Hindu religious endowments, Orissa, and the Jajpur sub-collector, who is also the managing trustee of the Biraja temple, submitted their clarifications.

In Calcutta, Manoj Lahiri of Bisuddhasiddhanta Panjika said planetary positions of the sun and the moon were “paramount” in the calculation of tithi (lunar day), nakshatra (stars) and the number of days in a month. “Any almanac that does not take into account reformed positional astronomical data in its calculations which almanacs like ours do will be unscientific. This may lead to differences of as much as five-six hours in calculations.”

To avoid such confusions, the Indian government had set up a calendar reforms committee under Meghnad Saha in 1952. The committee recommended the preparation of the Indian ephemeris and nautical almanac calculated with modern astronomical formulae.

Efforts of scholars like Saha and mathematician Nirmal Chandra Lahiri also led to the establishment of the Nautical Almanac Unit in Alipore in 1955 which, in 1980, became the Positional Astronomy Centre, an independent centre directly under the director-general of meteorology, New Delhi.

The Orissa petition is not the first regarding alleged circulation of two almanacs under the name Biraja Panjika.

On July 29, the court had said it couldn’t interfere in the matter. “The allegations are all disputed questions of fact, which cannot be decided under extraordinary jurisdiction of this court in a writ petition,” the court had said.

But Justice M.M. Das had allowed the petitioner — Pandit Gadadhar Mohapatra — to file a representation before the commissioner of Hindu religious endowments and Jajpur sub-collector.

Pillar PIL

Orissa High Court today admitted a PIL seeking relocation of the Aruna Stamba at the Jagannath temple in Puri back to the Sun Temple at Konark. The 33-foot, 8-inch pillar had been brought from the 13th-century Konark temple and installed in front of the Simghadwar or Lion’s Gate of the Jagannath temple sometime in the 18th century.