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The days of the week in several Indian languages are named after the same planets/gods as the Graeco-Roman days of the week.

Did these arise from some common source predating both (PIE?), or was the Graeco-Roman week imported into India at some later point in time?

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The link you gave of Wikipedia answers your question... –  Awal Garg May 29 '14 at 11:17
Can you point out the sentences in that article which you think answer this question? –  Anubhav C May 30 '14 at 12:36
First, the title tag - "Indian astrology". Second, that table itself. "Vaar" in Hindi means "Day". And, those heavenly bodies were the only ones visible to the naked eye, in that order. That is why, we chose only them... –  Awal Garg May 30 '14 at 16:25
Nice answer, now prove you didn't make it up. Where's the evidence that (a) ancient Indians considered that to be the order of the Navagraha and (b) the order of weekdays was derived from the order of the Navagraha, and not the other way round? A Navagraha-based answer would raise questions about (a) why the Indian week has seven days instead of nine (b) why the Greeks used to same sequence of weekdays, even though they assigned the heavenly bodies a different order (ctrl-F Chaldean) –  Anubhav C May 31 '14 at 14:44
By hindsight, one can presume why such and such a convention was used. Well, it is something cool; mysterious (thats what we love); something easy to notice. Further, I guess, seven was considered holy and the number of visible heavenly bodies matched it. And, seven is also a reasonable number to use for week days. Why the Indian week has seven days instead of nine - I already answered the question in my previous comment. Only the seven were known. 5 planets, a Sun, and a Moon. –  Awal Garg May 31 '14 at 14:54

2 Answers 2

The ancient Hindus did not regularly use "days of the week" (although they are attested). The reason for this was that the Hindu calendar before 1100 AD used mean times (called madhyama) and this can shift days from one month to another. They did have a division into days assigned as one day to each planet as follows:

  1. Ravivara
  2. Somavara
  3. Mangalavara
  4. Budhavara
  5. Brihaspatvara
  6. Sukravara
  7. Sanivara

This is only one possible naming scheme, and many others can be found in ancient Indian writings.

More important among the ancient Hindus was the lunisolar calendar in which each day was numbered, similar to the method of the Romans. Like the Romans the month was divided into two 15-day fortnights, the first being suddha (waxing) and the second being bahula (waning).

Note that there is no regular calendar in India, but many of them in common use for various purposes. It is estimated that today there are about 30 different commonly used calendars in India.

"Calendrical Calculations" by Dershowitz and Reingold (Cambridge University Press, 2008).

To the extent that the Indians use the Norse names of the week is due to the influence of the Portuguese and English.

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One look at that chart you link to makes clear that the author is deficient in understanding Norse mythology:

  • Woden (or Odin) is the Norse King of the Gods and thus equivalent to Jupiter/Zeus and not to Mercury/Hermes;
  • Both Thor and Tyr/Tiw were Gods of War (Who guessed that the Norse were warlike), so identifying either one of them as equivalent to Mars/Ares I arbitrary. Thor is definitely not equivalent to Jupiter or Zeus.
  • Freya and Freyr are twins, so Friday must be thought of as named after both of them. If one simply must choose Freya, however, she is a Goddess of battle and war as much as love, so Diana is perhaps a better equivalence than Venus/Aphrodite.

That's three of the seven days with a serious issue on the claimed equivalence. The Sun and Moon are often seen as celestial book-ends, so putting them at the start and end of the week may simply be an extension of that. I don't see any need to invoke more human rationalization for the other claimed equivalences.

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I have a follow-on question. Were the Norse gods, the deities of all Scandinavian peoples? –  David DelMonte Dec 16 '13 at 2:25
The Finns are Scandinavian but not Norse, and had different gods. The Germanic peoples had a very similar pantheon to the Norse (eg German Woden instead of Norse Odin), but I have not researched the exact dimensions of the similarities and differences. –  Pieter Geerkens Dec 16 '13 at 3:25
Interesting, but how is that relevant? The question wasn't about the Norse names. The fact remains that (except in Sanskrit) the Indian days are named after the same celestial bodies as the corresponding Graeco-Roman days, even if the gods associated with those bodies are not perfectly equivalent. –  Anubhav C Dec 16 '13 at 5:06
This is a frequent misconception because many people think only of the Vikings when talking about Germanic mythology. Woden as a warrior god was the highest god in tribes that lived mainly as warriors. For many other tribes, Thor, the god of fertility and protector of mankind, was the highest god (hence dies Iovis = Thursday). –  user11803 Mar 24 at 17:14
Actually, I have heard multiple sources group Thor and Zeus together as "the Indo-European sky-god", since they both were gods who controlled thunder and lightning, and many non-Indo Europeans didn't have that particular natural force as a primary god. The presumption there is that the PIE people had a sky god that they all evolved from. I haven't looked lately into how accepted this view is. –  T.E.D. Mar 24 at 17:40

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