The Priest’s Council of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha (SAHMS), representing linguistic and ideological diversity in the Hindu sector, annually declares festival dates for the South African Hindu public. Sometimes confusion arises due to time zone differences with India, and other times there are different interpretations of the scriptural principles to calculate festival dates. Krishna Ashtami 2020 and Navaratri 2020 were two examples of how different interpretations lead to confusion amongst the Hindu public.

It was evident that further consultation was required in order to avoid confusion

The Priest’s Council of the SAHMS convened a meeting of Priests from the Gujarati and Hindi speaking community on 6 October 2020 and the Tamil and Telugu speaking community on 27 October 2020 to discuss the different rules/principles influencing the calculation of festival dates.

The following organisations and religious leaders participated in these meetings: Pundits L R Maharajh (Chair of the Priest’s Council of SAHMS), Kanaya Jinabhai (SAHMS), U C Maharaj (Shree Sanathan Dharma Sabha of South Africa – SSDSSA), Joy Khemraz, Amichand Maraj, Danny Maharaj (SAHMS/SSDSSA), Rishi Maharajh (SSDSAA), Narottam Das (Dipika), Jaydev Shukla, Kirit Acharya,  Gopal Vyas,  Shri Ashwin Trikamjee (President of SAHMS), Guru Umashankaran (Gurumars), Shri Sydney Govindsamy (Devasthanam Foundation), Shri Thanigasalan Moodley (Devasthanam Foundation), Shri Siva Naidoo, Shri Puballan (Henry) Reddy, Shri Krishna Naidoo (Andhra Maha Sabha of South Africa), Shri Rahul Muthineni (Andhra Sabha of South Africa), Shri Kovilan Ramsamy,  Prof Brij Maharaj (SAHMS),  Shri Dhiraj Gordhan (SAHMS), Shri Jaydevbhai Shukla – Shree Lakshmi Narayan Mandir Lenasia, Shri Kirit Acharya – Shree RadheShyam Mandir, Marlboro garden and Shri Gopal Vyas-East London Hindu Society.

Both the meetings discussed the different principles influencing how festival dates are calculated. The purpose of the meetings was to reach a consensus on these principles, thereby eliminating any difference of interpretation and avoiding public confusion. Much of the discussion at the meetings centred on the framework that the Priest’s Council should adopt in the calculation of festivals. An important suggestion was that there should be a shift from the Gregorian western calendar (January to December) to the Hindu luni-solar calendar (April to March).

The discussions were collegial and positive, and all participants at both meetings unanimously commended the SAHMS for initiating the consultations and engagement. The participants all agreed to work with the Priest’s Council of SAHMS in determining festival dates. There was also agreement that the participants will meet more regularly to discuss festival dates and other religious, social, and spiritual issues affecting the Hindu community of South Africa.