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Tithis — 30 different phases of synodic month.

Sometimes full-bodied and sometimes thin, Chandrama was allotted 30 Tithis to 29.5 days of his synodic month by Indian astronomers of yore:

  • 15 for his waxing cycle, Shukla Paksha or ‘bright portion’, which extends from new Chandrama to full Chandrama,
  • 15 for his waning cycle, Krishna Paksha or ‘dark portion’, which extends from full Chandrama back to new Chandrama.

The Law of the Macrocosm and Microcosm permits us to draw a correspondence between human breathing and 2 ‘portions’ (Pakshas) of Chandrama. The functioning of lunar Nadi (left nostril) mentioned in Svarodaya corresponds to Shukla Paksha, which is ruled by Chandrama. The functioning of solar Nadi (right nostril) corresponds to Krishna Paksha, when Surya’s 2nd influence predominates. The new and full Chandrama are analogous to sunset and sunrise, when both nostrils work together.

1st to 14th Tithi of waxing and waning Chandr are known by the names of their Sanskrit ordinal numbers, and they are 6th differentiated by affixing the words Shukla or Krishna respectively to the names of Tithis of the waxing and waning cycles. 15th Tithi of each series has a special name:

  • "Purnima" (full Chandr) — 15th Tithi of the waxing cycle;
  • "Amavasya" (new Chandr) — 15th Tithi of the waning cycle.

Tithi's names

1. Pratipati 9. Navami
2. Dvitiya 10. Dashami
3. Tritiya 11. Ekadashi
4. Chaturthi  12. Dvadashi
5. Panchami  13. Trayodashi
6. Shashti  14. Chaturdashi
7. Saptami 15. Purnima
8. Ashtami 30. Amavasya

How to calculate Tithis

1. Find the longitudinal difference between Surya and Chandrama by subtracting Surya’s longitude from that of Chandrama, measuring from Surya to Chandrama in the natural order of the zodiac. If Chandrama’s longitude is less than that of Surya, add 360°.

2. Divide this distance by 12°, and drop the remainder.

3. The quotient plus 1 will be the number of Tithi of Shukla Paksha, if it is 15 or less; if it is more than 15, subtract 15, and the result will be the number of Tithi in Krishna Paksha.

Tithis in Jyotish

Tithis most fundamental use is in the complex procedure of calendar creation. Since lunar calendar regulates the religious life of the average Hindu, all sorts of social and personal annual celebrations, including (but not limited to) high holidays, initiations, marriages and christenings, depend on accurate knowledge of Tithis. Every Tithi has a presiding deity who is to be worshipped on that particular Tithi, and sometimes the ritual worship of the deity of your Tithi at birth can help align you with the world at large.

Detailed knowledge of Tithis can also help prevent potential problems, as in Parashara’s postulate that a child born in the final 48 minutes (Muhurta, in its sense as a unit of time) of 5th, 10th or 15th Tithi of either Shukla or Krishna Pakshas needs to have specific religious rites done on its behalf, to ameliorate what will otherwise become lifelong inauspicious effects. Although Jyotish computer programs frequently mention Tithi of birth, many fail to indicate the portion of Tithi in which the person was born, which must then be either calculated manually by Jyotishi or taken from a Panchanga.

How important it is to know various portions of a Tithi is also obvious from Parashara’s axiom that, while birth during first sixth [1/6] of 14th Tithi of Krishna Paksha is auspicious, birth during the rest of that Tithi will require remedial measures. Birth during second sixth may lead to destruction of the father; during third sixth to early demise of the mother; during fourth sixth to early death of the maternal uncle; and during the fifth sixth to destruction, discontinuance and suffering for the entire family. Birth in the final sixth of that Tithi causes that native’s early death or, should he live, loss of wealth over the course of his life. These highly specific predictions are more suggestive than literal, for they must be interpreted in the context of the whole horoscope.

Meanings of Tithis

The simplest way to use Tithis when reading a natal horoscope is to employ the meanings of the birth Tithi, which are given in several classical works on Jyotish. The descriptions given below, which were extracted from the text called Manasagari, have been partly modernized and elaborated in order to elicit some of the meanings implied in the original Sanskrit. The information in the following sketches cannot always be employed literally, although you will frequently find that 1 or 2 of the interpretations will apply very precisely to whatever chart is under examination. You should neither despair if you were born on a Tithi whose indications seem dire, nor should you rejoice if you were born on a good Tithi. Predictions by Tithi meaning come true only when there is a clear confluence of other factors in the horoscope which relate to these matters.

Note that although Tithis, excepting Purnima and Amavasya, have the same names in both Shukla and Krishna Pakshas, the waxing Tithis generally imply growth, preservation and plenty, while the waning Tithis suggest stagnation, diminution and dearth. Indications for those born during the bright fortnight are, all else being equal, more likely to improve as time goes by than they are for those born during the dark fortnight, since the waxing Chandrama implies growth, preservation and plenty.

Further reading