Springtime Navratra festival

Prof Vishwa Murti Shastri
Chaitra Shukla Pratipada marks the beginning of the new Indian Samvatsara. On this very day Navratras begin which are specially auspicious for the worship of the Mother of the Universe, Shri Vaishnavi Devi. Both these festivals begin on the same day, because, according to a sentence from the Brahma Purana, Chaitramaasi Jagad Brahma sasrija prathame hani- on the Pratipada of Chaitra Shukla Paksha, Brahma created the universe.
Similarly, Smriti Kaustabha says,
“Krite cha prabhave Chaitre Pratipatchhukla Pakshgah,
Matsyaroopah kumaryax cha avateerno Harih swayam..
Meaning, in the Satya Yuga, on the Pratipada of Chaitra Shukla Paksha, Bhagwan Vishnu took the incarnation as a Fish, being born of a Virgin. Thus, this day is the day of the birth of the First Avatara of Bhagwan Vishnu, and also is the first day of the springtime Holy Navratras for the worship of the Primordial Power, Shri Vaishnavi. The time of the king of seasons- the Spring- is an occasion of celebration for whole creation, including insects and human beings. All those activities, including the religious activities of the devout, which had been suspended due to acute cold of winters are now resumed forthwith and would bear fruit at the  due time. The trees and the humans in which the flow of the sap of life had slowed down due to winter cold, will get a new lease of life with the arrival of the life-giving spring. That is why, with the beginning of the new year, all the religious minded people would go to the holy banks of rivers, pools and other water-bodies, and have a holy dip there, chanting the mantra.
Ganga cha yamunechaiva Godawari Saraswati.
Narmade Sindhu Kaveri jaleSsmin sannidhim kuru
Thereby symbolizing the unity and integrity of India as a nation. In order to accumulate energy for the next six months, to protect themselves from the onslaught of heat during the summer months, to ensure freedom from disease, to dispel the gloom of ignorance with light of knowledge, they observe the falahar-fruits only-fast and worship the Goddess Vaishnavi.
Beginning of the Samvatsara
In the Vedas and Jyotish Shastra,, reference is made to Samvatsara after Kalpa, Manvantara and Yuga. Samavatsaras  are found named after gods and kings, such as, Yudhishthira in the Dwapara yuga and Vikrami Samvatsara  2071 and Vijaya, Nagarjuna and Kalki with respect to future samvatsaras.
As per the calculation of time, Chinese, Turk, Persian, Jew, Hijri, Jawa Samvatsaras are not as old as the Indian samvatsaras. In India, the Vikrami Samvat started as far back as the reign of the great King Vikramaditya.
During the period of Vikramaditya, no citizen was under debt. The king looked after his subjects just like a father looks after his offspring. The subjects had nothing for which to criticize the king. In the name of that popular ruler of ancient times, the Vikrami Samvat has been in the vogue since 2065.
Today, we wish we had rulers, MPs, MLAs, MLCs, who could  rid the society of the corruption by which it has been engulfed, eradicate the suffering of the distressed, the poor and the jobless, and provide ideal leadership to the public. On this day of the origin of the Universe, they should pledge to celebrate this day with a rededication to their ideals, so that the whole society tries to emulate their example, and prosper. If the present day rulers really want to make the society prosperous, they surely can do so, and that would make them venerable for the whole society.
Need for the Samvatsara
Samvatsara helps us calculate the years. As per the Hindu tradition, at the time of holy rituals, the name of the current samvatsara has to be chanted along with the names of ayan (Uttarayana/Dakshinayana), season, month, fortnight (paksha) etc. while performing sankalpa during religious rituals. This shows that since ancient times, knowledge about samvatsaras etc was considered important. That is why, the science of Indian astrology has been focussing on time division and helping mankind by providing information about samvatsaras etc.
Indian samvatsaras are regulated by solar and lunar calculations. The authenticity of other calendars of theworld is doubtful so far as the calculations about the time of the creation of the universe is concerned. By  solar calculations, months and dates can be calculated but solar dates have no significance so far as the calculations about dates of solar and lunar eclipses and tides. Lunar calculations lead us to conclude that solar eclipse and lunar eclipse will fall on new moon day and full moon night, respectively.
We know that Hijri calendar has 365 days which are 10 days short of the solar calendar, and results in one month error after every years. Moreover, this calendar is unable to synchronize itself with the changing six seasons, namely, spring (vasanta), summer (greeshma), rains (varsha), autumn/early winter (sharad), winter (hemant) and late winter (winter). /The Indian calendar showing dates, days, stars, eclipse, tides etc is much more scientific.
The Atharva Veda says :
Samvatsarasya pratimam yam tvaam ratryupaasmahe.
Saa na aayushmati prajaa raajasposhena samsrija…
which means that may the God we worship in the image of samvatsara bless us with subjects with long lives and wealth. This sentence makes it clear that in the vedic times, a great significance was attached to the start of the samvatsara when the people used to celebrate this day enthusiastically and pray for their own welfare.
The Moon is the king and the Minister during this samvatsara which leads us to predict good crops, increase in sex offenses, slackness in judicial system, and good rains leading to public prosperity.
We pray to the Almighty Ruler of the billions of galaxies, for the blessings of the Universal Mother Jagadamba so that public, the rulers, the administrators, the learned men, the policy-makers, enjoy all round welfare and comfort, mutual understanding and goodwill, and face no impediments. Following the ancient ideal of vasudhaiva kutumbakam, we all may forget our differences and strengthen the feelings of universal brotherhood. Best, wishes and new year greetings for all of you , on this auspicious occasion of Navratras.
(The author is former Principal, Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, Sh Ranbir Campus, Jammu)