Amāvāsyā (Sanskrit: अमावस्या) means dark moon lunar phase in Sanskrit. The word Amāvāsyā is common to almost all Nepalese and Indian languages as most of them are derived from Sanskrit. Ancient Babylonian, Greek and Indian calendars used 30 lunar phases, called tithi in India. The dark moon tithi is when the Moon is within the 12 degrees of angular distance between the Sun and Moon before conjunction . The New Moon tithi (called Pratipada or Pratima) is the 12 angular degrees . Amāvāsyā is often translated as new moon since there is no standard term for the Moon before conjunction in English.
In Sanskrit, "amā" means "together" and "vāsya" means "to dwell" or "cohabit".
In the pūrṇimānta māna Hindu lunar calendar used in most parts of the Indian subcontinent, the lunar month starts on the day following the full moon or purnima and therefore Amāvāsyā always falls in the middle of the month. However, in the amānta māna calendar used in some places, the lunar month starts on the day of the new moon, making Amāvāsyā the last day of the lunar month in those places. Many festivals, the most famous being Diwali (the festival of lights), are observed on Amāvāsyā. Many Hindus fast on Amāvāsyā.Śhukla paksha is called as the bright half as the Moon changes from New Moon to Full Moon while in Krishna paksha it changes from Full Moon to New Moon. Hence it is seen that same Amavasya has same festival all over the country.The fortnight that starts with Amavasi is the Shukla Paksha or the waxing phase of the moon.
Since time immemorial, Hindus have believed that the fortnightly cycle of the moon exerts a great influence on the human anatomy just as it affects the water bodies on earth resulting in tides and ebbs. A person may tends to become restless, irritable and ill-tempered showing signs of 'lunacy.' Curiously enough, this word stems from the word 'luna' or 'moon' in Latin. Hence there are specific rituals for the new moon andfull moon days.
These dates are mentioned as below.
10 January (Sunday) Paush Amavasya
08 February (Monday) Magha Amavasya
09 March (Wednesday) Phalguna Amavasya
07 April (Thursday) Chaitra Amavasya
06 May (Friday) Vaishakha Amavasya
05 June (Sunday) Jyeshtha Amavasya
04 July (Monday) Ashadha Amavasya
02 August (Tuesday) Shravana Amavasya
01 September (Thursday) Bhadrapada Amavasya
30 September (Friday) Ashwin Amavasya
30 October (Sunday) Kartik Amavasya
29 November (Tuesday) Margashirsha Amavasya
29 December (Thursday) Paush Amavasya
In old Indian culture and beliefs, irrespective of religions, Amavasya is considered a time of great power. In Tamil, though Amavasya is commonly used in religious spheres, the pure Tamil scholars prefer the term Puthuppi Rai Fast is observed to propitiate both the Sun and Moon Gods. Except for the Karttika Amavasya (Amavasya of Diwali), the Amavasya is considered inauspicious.
Fasting on Amavasya / New Moon
According to Garuda Purana (Preta Khanda), Lord Vishnu is believed to have said that the ancestors come to their descendents on Amavasya to partake of their food and if nothing is offered to them they are displeased.Amavasya Vrat is marked on January 9, 2016 - a single meal is taken while fasting on the day by some Hindu communities.
So, Hindus prepare 'shraddha' (food) and await their ancestors.Amavasya day is also appropriate day to perform Kalasarpa Dosha puja.
Many festivals like Diwali are observed on this day too. Amavasya marks a new beginning. Mauni Amavasya in Hindu Magh month (January – February) and Mahalya Amvasya in Ashwayuja (September – October) are highly auspicious. Similarly the Amavasi in Aadi month is of great importance in Tamil Nadu. The Amavasya in Karkidakam month is of importance in Kerala.
In some regions people observe partial fast (Upvaas) or a complete fast on the day.
Thanks to mainstream Indian movies, Amavasya is considered the ideal day to perform black magic and evil acts. Since there is no moon, Amavasya night is pitch dark and this provides the ideal setting to invoke evil powers.
Earlier it was advised not to travel on an Amavasya night. The logic being that there is no moonlight and this could invite lot of hardship and danger.
Many astrologers advise against performing any important ceremony on the day as moon and important planets in Hindu astrology are not visible. In some regions, people do perform certain auspicious deeds on the day. But largely no new beginnings or important ceremonies are held on the day.
Symbolically, the period from Amavasya to Purnima (full moon) is considered to be the gradual awakening and transcendence into the fullness. From darkness to the gradual realization of the Supreme Soul.