Nov 18, 2011

Names of weekdays

In the Nepali calendar, all the days of the week are named after planets. I guess that is obvious enough. But did you also know that all the weekdays in Western calendars were also originally named after the planets? And that the planets for each day are exactly the same? For example, let us start with the most obvious similarity: Sunday. Obviously, Sunday in English is named after the sun. Sunday in Nepali is generally called Aitabaar, but is also called Ravibar, where Ravi means the sun. Monday is named after the moon, and our own Sombar is named after Som. Som is an old name for the moon, the lord of Somras (intoxicating drink of Gods).

Sunday and Monday are named after Greek Gods. Gradually some of the weekday names in the traditional Western calendar were infiltrated and replaced by names of Norse Gods. But even the new names bear a striking resemblance to the old ones. For example, Tuesday is derived from the God Tiw of Norse mythology who corresponds to the planet Mars. In Nepali Mangalbar stands for the planet Mangal or Mars. Originally, Tuesday was called die Maritus in Latin: the day of the Mars, which was later replaced to Tuesday in the Gregorian calendar. Strangely, though Mars, Mangal and Tiw are from three different mythologies, all the three gods share similar characteristics. Mangal in Hindu mythology is renowned as a malevolent presence that we want to well avoid in our horoscopes. In Greek mythology, Mars is the symbol for Ares, god of war. Tiw is also a god of war.

Wednesday is called Budhabar in Nepal, the day of the Budha or mercury. Originally, it was called dies Mercurii (day of Mercury) in Latin. The current Wednesday is named after Wodin (more commonly known as Odin), head of Norse gods. Wednesday is quite tricky, because very few connections can be made between the Hindu Budha, the Greek Mercury or Hermes and the Norse Odin. There is a very thin thread running through all of them: all are known for their wisdom and presence of mind. But there are marked differences, because Budha is a minor god in the Hindu pantheon, while Odin is one of the major Norse gods. Hermes is a tricky god, a patron of thieves, tricksters and travelers. The dignified Odin once gave up his eye to benefit mankind (did anyone notice his eye-patch in the movie Thor?), and is far from any trickery.

Thursday in contrast is very easy to reconcile. Normally called Bhihibar, Thursday's correct name is Brihaspatibar, referring to the planet Brihaspati or Jupiter. Originally, as you can guess, it was called Jupiter's day in Latin. Modern Thursday takes its name from the Norse God Thor (yes, Chris Hemsworth). Thor and Jupiter are very similar to each other, they are both kings of gods and their weapon is thunder. Brihaspati, though not the king of gods, nonetheless occupies a position above the gods as their teacher. Thursday is also called Guruvar for that reason.

Friday used to be called Venus day once upon a time, like our Shukrabar named after the planet Shukra or Venus. However, the gods associated with them could not be more different from each other. While Shukracharya was a renowned scholar and teacher not too well known for his beauty, Venus was the goddess of love and beauty not too well known for her intelligence. The modern form of the name Friday takes its name from the Norse Goddess Frige or Frigga, often pronounced as Freya. In Norse mythology, Venus was known as "Frigg's star".

With Saturday, we turn a full circle and come to the end of the week. Saturday is named after Saturn, a tyrannical villain in Greek mythology more commonly known as Cronus. Shani or Shanishchar, after whom Shanibar is named, is a malevolent character in Hindu mythology.

It is strange that so many different cultures should name their weekdays after the same planets. And even stranger considering that the Hindu list of planets is haphazard. The sun and moon are counted as planets, the earth is not, and neither are the farthest three planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Why should Greek and Norse cultures also have the same haphazard list? These names have been decided ages ago after lots of astronomic calculations. It is believed that these planets rule over their respective days. However, what exactly are these calculations and why do planets rule certain days? I need to do further research to find that out.



kabindra said...

The article is very interesting and I want to highlight the special features of that planets such as sun stands for soul and spiritual knowledge, moon-heart and mind, mars-patience and courage,
mercury- studies quality,
Jupiter- knowledge and wisdom,
Venus-love and beauty,
Saturn-spiritual knowledge

sewa said...

thank you for sharing kabindra

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