Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Nanakshahi Calendar

Nanakshahi Calendar in News Again

On 18 October, Akal Takht Jathedar, Giani Gurbachan Singh issued a statement that some “valuable” suggestions for making some amendments to the Nanakshahi Calendar had been forwarded to the SGPC for consideration. We are told that an amended calendar would be issued on Guru Gobind Singh ji’s parkaash gurpurab on 5 January, 2010.

It is a matter of grave concern that Singh Sahibans held a secretive high level meeting to discuss this important Panthic issue with the possible intention of withdrawing the Calendar “quietly”. Those who took part included “the Akal Takht Jathedar, Giani Gurbachan Singh, the Takht Damdama Sahib Jathedar, Balwant Singh Nandgarh, the Takht Kesgarh Sahib Jathedar, Tarlochan Singh, the Takht Patna Sahib Jathedar Iqbal Singh, a representative of the Takht Hazoor Sahib, Jathedar Kulwant Singh, and the SGPC chief Avtar Singh.”

Perhaps, we need to remind ourselves why the Sikhs need a calendar which is aligned to the solar CE calendar used worldwide. An item which I wrote after a meeting of UK organizations to discuss the Nanakshahi Calendar is reproduced below.

Nanakshahi Calendar

On 14 April, 2003, at Talwandi Sabo, the first copy of the Nanakshahi calendar was presented to S. Parkash Singh Badal, President of Shromani Akali Dal, by President of SGPC, Prof. Kirpal Singh Badungar. Satisfaction was expressed that like other communities, the Sikhs now had their own religious calendar.” (Tribune News Service)

So far as ordinary Sikhs are concerned, the main aim of the Sikh calendar is to have fixed dates for the most important Sikh religious and historical events on the international solar CE calendar.

For example, anyone, from a 5-year old to the government official concerned with faith matters in the multifaith societies we live in, is now certain that Guru Gobind Singh ji’s parkaash (birthday) is celebrated on 5th January every year. With one exception, the dates of other Gurpurbs (Guru related events) are now fixed on the CE calendar. That is our gain.

There is no doubt that some tactical compromises were made due to pressure from the sant samajis.

As a result of this Brahmanic (Bipran) influence, Guru Nanak Sahib’s parkaash (birthday) Gurpurb, Bandi Chhor Divas and Hola Mahala dates continue to be calculated under the old lunar system. Neverthless, the principle of a fixed solar Sikh calendar has been established.

Nanakshahi Calendar – Main features

Year 1 is the year of Guru Nanak Sahib’s birth 1469 CE. It begins on 1 Chet Nanakshahi which is on 14th March.

Based on the time length of Tropical years of 365days 5 hours 48 minutes 45 seconds.

First five months from Chet have 31 days each, the remaining seven months have 30 days each.

The last month will have 31 days in a leap year.

It will continue to have permanent month/season relationship and will accord to Bara Maha Gurbani.

With three exceptions, Gurpurbs and others Sikh events will be on fixed dates in both Nanakshahi and the Common Era calendars. The exceptions are Guru Nanak Sahib’s birthday, Bandi Chhor Divas and Hola Mahala, which will remain on the old lunar system until there is further decision to fix these Sikh events to solar dates also.

However, S. Pal Singh Purewal has worked out the future dates of these events on the Nanakshahi and Common Era calendars up to year 2020 (see table below). We are no longer dependent on a Pundit in Panjab to calculate these dates each year.

Nanakshahi calendar has promoted research by scholars into many historical dates where there has been confusion to arrive at agreed dates.

The problem

The length of the sidereal year of the Bikrami Samat to which Nanakshahi Samat was linked, does not conform to the tropical year length. The Bikrami year is sidereal year (which uses a star as a marker to calculate the earths annual circle around the sun). This year is 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes and 10 seconds.

The tropical year on which the world-wide Common Era calendar is based is 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds. If the months are to remain aligned to seasons (as described in Gurbani – Bara Mahas, Majh and Tukhari and Rutti Saloks) permanently, then the year length has to be that of the tropical year.

The lunar months and the lunar “years” of 354 days is a Brahmanic complexity; and non-sense e.g. regarding two months by the same name occurring every third year to keep step with the solar year, one of the two being an “unclean” (malmaas) month! Would you believe it, that Gurpurb dates have been linked to lunar months – and as you cannot have a holy day in the “unclean” month, therefore, every third year Gurpurbs have been shifted by 18 or 19 days to avoid the “unclean” month!

Significance of Nanakshahi Calendar

Symbolically, a Sikh calendar is a major historical achievement for the Sikh theo-political identity. However, life is not that simple. Give the Sikhs any calendar and they will fill in their own “important” dates depending upon the influential local sant or gyani. That would then become their own calendar of “teohars”, sant barsis, ritual days and other events. They may even insert moon cycles on it.

Let us understand, therefore, what we mean by a calendar.
The dictionary says that a calendar is “Any various systems of reckoning time in which the beginning, length, and divisions of a year are arbitrarily defined or otherwise established.” You can have a calendar of events also. Most of the present arguments confuse the calendar of time with a calendar of events. In the calendar of events, you can agree or disagree on what historical EVENTS to put on the calendar as important dates for remembrance.

Other than the ritual infected and “charrava”-dependent sants, or ignorantia at large, all others are agreed that the scientific Tropical year, which remains constant and is used world-wide, should be the year adopted for the Khalsa nation’s Nanakshahi Calendar. The lunar “year” is a contradiction and the Sidereal year based on star markers is slipping against the seasons so that in time, you will have the month of “Harr” (hottest month which starts in mid-June now) in winter!

Calculation of solar (CE) dates of Guru Nanak Sahib’s parkaash date, Bandi Chhor Divas and Hola Mahala to year 2020. 

These continue to be observed under the old lunar system.
The next progressive step would be to transfer the three dates of Guru Nanak Sahib’s parkaash Gurpurb, Bandi Chhor Divas and Hola Mahala on to the solar CE calendar year. Our children need to be certain about the dates fixed on the world CE calendar, on which to celebrate Sikh religious and historical events.

           Hola Mahala   Bandi Chhor Divas   Prakash G. Nanak
2010   1 March          5 November              21 November
2011   20 March        26 October                10 November
2012   9 March          13 November            28 November
2013   28 March        3 November              17 November
2014   17 March        23 October                6 November
2015   6 March          11 November            25 November
2016   24 March        30 October                14 November
2017   13 March        19 October                4 November
2018   2 March          7 November               23 November
2019   21 March        27 October                 12 November
2020   10 March        14 November             30 November

As a matter of interest: Vaisakhi dates for certain epochs are as follows:
CE Year     Vaisakhi Date
1000           22nd March
1469           27th March
1699           29th March
1752           29th March
1753           9th April (due to change from Julia to Gregorian Calender)
1799           10th April
1899           12th April
1999           14th April

(Note: Information in this article is based on material left with me by S. Pal Singh Purewal, the author of Nanakshahi Calendar. He was the guest speaker at a meeting of Panthic organizations at Derby in 2003, which I was invited to chair.)

Gurmukh Singh (UK)

© Gurmukh Singh

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