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In the Br?hma?as, muh?rta denotes a division of time: one-thirtieth of a day, or a period of forty-eight minutes. The sense "moment" is also common in the Br?hman?s. In the Rigveda we only find the sense "moment."
Further each muh?rta is further divided into 30 (Indian) minutes or kal? (making 30 Kal? ? 48 western min). Each kal? is further divided into 30 (Indian) seconds or Kh?, making 30 Kh? ? 1.6 western minute.
The "Sandhi Vidchhed" for the term is thus: It breaks muh?rt into two parts, "muhu" (moment/immediate) and "?ta" (order). The author of ?g Ved III.33.5 has accordingly created this descriptive term. ?ta refers to the natural, yearly order of the seasons, so that the term muh?rt refers to the daily reflection of these. Also, cf., ?atpath Br?hma?a X.4.2.18, as below.
The term appears as early as the ?g Veda, where, according to Monier Williams, it means "a moment", but does not evidence any specification of an exact periodicity there as received in later works, such as the ?atapatha-Br?hma?a, "The One Hundred Path Riddle" or the Taittir?ya-Br?hma?a, "The Partridge's Riddle".
Pt. Vijay Shrikrishna Jakatdar points to two specific ?g Veda passages that employ the term, III.33.5, and III.53.8:
? ? | ||
"Linger a little at my friendly bidding rest, Holy Ones, a moment in your journey.
With hymn sublime soliciting your favour Ku?ika's son hath called unto the River." (trans. Ralph T. H. Griffith)
?-? ? ? ? | ? ? ||
"Maghavan weareth every shape at pleasure, effecting magic changes in his body, Holy One, drinker out of season, coming thrice, in a moment, through fit prayers, from heaven." (ibid.)
According to Authur Anthony Macdonell and Authur Berriedale, the Taittir?ya-Br?hma?a mentions the names of 15 muh?rtas:
(1) sa?jñ?na? (2) vijñ?na? (3) prajñ?na? (4) j?nad (5) abhij?nat |
(6) sa?kalpam?na? (7) prakalpam?nam (8) upakalpam?nam (9) upak?pta? (10) k?ptam |
(11) ?reyo (12) vas?ya (13) ?yat (14) sa?bh?ta? (15) bh?tam |
citra? ketu? prabh?n?bh?nt sa?bh?n |
rocano rocam?na? ?obhana? ?obham?na? kalya? |
dar d? dar?at? vi?var?p? surdar?an? |
?py-?yampy?yam?n?py?y? su-n?ter? |
?p?ryam p?ryam p?ryant? p?r paur?am?s? |
d?t? prad?t?'nando moda? pramoda? || III.10.1.1 ||
?atapatha Br?hma?a describes a muh?rta as 1/15th portion of a day:
át?a yaccáturviatim?tmáno'kuruta | tásm?c-cátur-viaty-ard?a-m?sa? sa?-vatsara? sá etai?-cátur-viaty? tri?-?ád-iakair-?tmáb?ir-na vyáb?avat-sa páñca-dahno r?py-apa?yad-?tmánas-tanvò muh?rtlokam-pr? páñca-da?aiva rtres-tadyán-muhu tryante tásm?n-muhurt? át?a yát-k?udr sánta im-lokn-?p?ráyanti tásm?l-lokam-pr || (X.4.2.18)
sa?vatsarásya muh?rt yvanto muh?rts tvanti páñcada?a ktva? k?ipri yvanti k?ipri tvanti páñcada?a ktva etárhi yvanty etárhi tvanti páñcada?a ktva idn?ni yvant?dn?ni tvanta? páñcada?a ktva? pr yvanta? prs tvanto 'n yvanto 'ns tvanto nime yvanto nimes tvanto lomagart yvanto lomagarts tvanti svedyanni yvanti svedyanni tvanta eté stok var?anti // XII.3.2.5b
It is stated in Manusm?ti that 18 nime?as (twinklings of the eye) are 1 Kh?, 30 Kh?s are 1 K?la, 30 K?las are one Muh?rta, and 30 Muh?rtas are one day and night.
It is a common practice in Hinduism to perform or avoid activities like important religious ceremonies on the basis of the quality of a particular Muh?rta. One or more Muh?rtas are recommended by the Vedic scriptures when performing rituals and other ceremonies. This is demonstrated in the way "Muh?rt" is used in present-day South Asia for calculating the most auspicious moment for a Vedic-Hindu Wedding ceremony. Astrologers are often hired to calculate a moment for the wedding so that any possible divinely-sourced problems can be averted. Jakatdar suggests a shift in the contemporary temperament regarding the traditional approach to calculating such events, to accommodate the ever increasing complexity of modern life. The muh?rt has the same utility in the marriage rites in Brahmanism.
Another example is the so-called Brahma Muh?rta, which is about one and a half hours before sunrise. This particular time, which is associated with the constellations during the Vernal Equinox, is said to be auspicious for practicing yoga. There is also the case of samayik, which is part of the initiation rite for the Svetambar mendicants or those who pursue a perpetual state of heightened meditative awareness. They take the samayik, a vow for life taken for short periods, preferably one or two muh?rts, where one muh?rt constitutes forty minutes.
The Muh?rtas are traditionally calculated by assuming sunrise at 06:00 AM on the Vernal Equinox, which is the Vedic New Year. Not all of the constellations cross the zenith, so that it is not in every case clear which constellation presides over the Muh?rta. Yet it is clear that one or more prominent features of the correlate constellations, from which the later Muh?rtas draw their respective names, falls within the Celestial Longitude of the same, drawn from the Polar Axis.
|No.||Daily Period||Name (?)||Translation||Correlate Constellation/Star (Greek)||Quality, or Gu?a ()|
|1||06:00 - 06:48 (sunrise)||Rudra ()||"Cryer", "Howler"||Unknown||Inauspicious|
|2||06:48 - 07:36||?hi ()||"Serpent"||Lacerta||Inauspicious|
|3||07:36 - 08:24||Mitra ()||"Friend"||Unknown||Auspicious|
|4||08:24 - 09:12||Pit? (?)||"Father"||Cepheus & Casseiopeia||Inauspicious|
|5||09:12 - 10:00||Vasu ()||"Bright"||Delphinus||Auspicious|
|6||10:00 - 10:48||V?r?ha ()||"Boar"||Unknown||Auspicious|
|7||10:48 - 11:36||Vi?vedev? (?)||"Heavenly Lights in the Universe"||Unknown||Auspicious|
|8||11:36 - 12:24||Vidhi (?)||"Insight"||Unknown||Auspicious - except Mondays and Fridays|
|9||12:24 - 13:12||Sutamukh? ()||"Goat/Charioteer-Face"||Auriga||Auspicious|
|10||13:12 - 14:00||Puruh?ta (?)||"Many Offerings"||Unknown (Taurus or Orion?)||Inauspicious|
|11||14:00 - 14:48||V?hin? ()||"Possessed of Chariot"||Unknown (Gemini?)||Inauspicious|
|12||14:48 - 15:36||Naktanakar? ()||"Night Maker"||Unknown||Inauspicious|
|13||15:36 - 16:24||Varu?a (?)||"All-Envoloping Night Sky"||Unknown||Auspicious|
|14||16:24 - 17:12||Aryaman (?)||"Possessed of Nobility"||Unknown||Auspicious - except Sundays|
|15||17:12 - 18:00||Bhaga ()||"Share"/"Stake"||Unknown||Inauspicious|
|16||18:00 - 18:48 (sunset)||Gira ()||"Lord of the Mount"||Unknown||Inauspicious|
|17||18:48 - 19:36||Ajap?da ()||"Unborn Foot"/"Goat Foot"||Unknown||Inauspicious|
|18||19:36 - 20:24||Ahir-Budhnya ()||"Serpent at the Bottom"||Hydra||Auspicious|
|19||20:24 - 21:12||Pu?ya ()||"Nourishment"/"Blossom"||Unknown||Auspicious|
|20||21:12 - 22:00||A?vin? (?)||"Horsemen"||Unknown||Auspicious|
|21||22:00 - 22:48||Yama ()||"Restrainer" (Death)||Boötes (cf., Bh?te?a)||Inauspicious|
|22||22:48 - 23:36||Agni ()||"Fire"/"Ignition"||Ara||Auspicious|
|23||23:36 - 00:24||Vidh?t? ()||"Distributor"||Unknown||Auspicious|
|24||00:24 - 01:12||Kaa ()||"Ornament"||Corona Borealis||Auspicious|
|25||01:12 - 02:00||Aditi ()||"Destitute"/"Boundless"||Unknown||Auspicious|
|26||02:00 - 02:48||J?va/Am?ta (/?)||"Life"/"Immortal"||Unknown||Very Auspicious|
|27||02:48 - 03:36||Viu ()||"All Pervading"||Hercules||Auspicious|
|28||03:36 - 04:24||Dyumadgadyuti ()||"Resounding Light"||Lyra||Auspicious|
|29||04:24 - 05:12||Brahma ()||"Universe"||Cygnus||Very Auspicious|
|30||05:12 - 06:00||Samudram (?)||"Ocean"||Deluge (region with several aqueous constellations)||Auspicious|
Traditionally, it is common practice amongst Hindus to start or avoid starting significant tasks like religious ceremonies, etc. on the basis of the quality of a particular Muh?rta. The Vedic scriptures also generally recommend one or more Muh?rtas to perform rituals and practices. The most widely known example of this practice: