Pal Singh Purewal*
Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee has decided to implement the new Reformed Nanakshahi Calendar from 1999 CE. The changes were recommended by the Calendar Reform Committee under the aegis of the Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh. In this article these changes and why they were necessary are discussed.
Calendars are an important part of the culture of a nation. The religious festivals, celebrations, the sowing season, the harvest season, recording of dates of events, and planning for the future are all related to calendars. For this reason all major nations of the world evolved their own calendars. Hindus have their Bikarami, and Saka calendars, the Christians have the Gregorian Calendar (which these days is called Common Era), Muslims have the Hijri calendar, even Bahais, whose faith started only in the beginning of 19th century having now a population of 5 million all over the world, have a calendar of their own.
The Sikhs followed the Bikarami calendar to all intents and purposes until the early 20th century. Then some Punjabi Jantri (almanac) publishers started giving the Nanakshahi Samvat also in their Jantris. Dr Bhai Vir Singh was perhaps the only scholar who used Nanakshahi Samvat as an element of date. Nanakshahi Samvat that had been in use was nothing but the change in name of the Bikarami Samvat. Its tithis (sudis / vadis - lunar dates), sankrantis (sangrands - beginning of the solar months) were the same. Having been linked with the Bikarami Samvat it had the same shortcomings as those in the Bikarami Samvat.
The Bikarami Calendar is lunisolar, which means its one part is solar according to which all Sangrands (sankrantis), the first day of the month, are decided; and the other part is lunar which determines tithis (sudis and vadis) according to which dates of all gurpurbs are determined. The problem with the solar part is that Vaisakhi has shifted in relation to seasons. According to Surya Siddhantic calculations Vaisakhi occurred on the day of the Spring Equinox in 532 CEi. Now a days the Spring Equinox occurs on 20 / 21 March, but Vaisakhi on 13 / 14 April. In another thousand years it will start occurring in May.
The Vaisakhi dates for certain epochs are as follows:
Current Era (CE) Year Vaisakhi date
1000 22 Marchii
1469 27 Marchiii
1699 29 March
1752 29 March
1753 9 April
(due to change from Julian to Gregorian
1799 10 April
1899 12 April
In 1902 for the first time it occurred on April 13. The cycle of April 12/13 continued until 1940. In 1940 it occurred on April 12 for the last time. In 1971 it happened on April 14 for the first time. The current cycle of 13/14 April, according to the Bikarami calendar, will continue well into the 21st century, when in the later part it will change again. In 1999 it will fall on 14 April.
In the lunar Bikarami Calendar dates of tithis, according to which gurpurbs are celebrated, change from year to year in relation to the solar calendar, sometimes occurring 10 or 11 days earlier, and sometimes 18 to 19 days later.
The mean length of the solar year of the Bikarami Samvat is 365 days 6 hours 9 minutes 9.8 seconds, and that of the tropical year, from spring equinox to next spring equinox is 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes 45.2 secondsiv The Bikarami year currently is longer than the tropical year by about 20 minutes. The Surya Siddhantic solar year was in use until sixties. Its length is 365 days 6 hours 12 minutes and 36 secondsv, which is about 23 minutes longer than that of the tropical year. If the months of any given Era are to recur consistently in the same seasons, then the year length has to be that of the tropical year.
Over a period of time this difference builds up, and shows in those calendars which are not based on the tropical year. The seasons in relation to the months begin shifting. This is the reason why Vaisakhi has shifted by 8 / 9 days from 1469 CE to the present times. If Nanakshahi Calendar had not been de-linked from the Bikarami calendar, this shift would have continued and in 13000 years Vaisakhi would have occurred in the middle of October. The seasons would be opposite to those which are mentioned in the Baramaha Manjhvi, and Barahmaha Tukhari Banisvii.
The days in the months are not fixed. The number can vary from 31 to 32 days for the summer months and from 29 to 30 days for the winter months. The rules for determination of Sankrantis, beginning of the months, are complicated and public has to rely on the almanac makers for such a simple thing as the beginning of the month.
The lunar portion of the calendar, according to which most of the religious festivals are fixed, has its share of peculiarities. Since, it is based on 12 months of the lunar cycle (full moon to full moon or new moon to new moon), its year length is about 11 days shorter than that of the solar year. Therefore, its year begins 11 days earlier in the following year in relation to the solar year. This is why the Gurpurb dates shift by about 11 days from one year to the other.
To make the lunar year keep in step with the solar, every 2 or three years an extra month is added to the lunar year. This month is called malmas or intercalary month. That lunar year contains 384 or so days. This makes the Gurpurb dates to occur by about 18 or 19 days later when such a month is introduced.
The lunar month of Jeth that will occur in 1999 CE year will be intercalated, i.e. there would be two months of Jeth one sudha and the other mal. In the malmas or the extra month religious festivals are not celebrated. This is quite a complicated set up. Moreover, this is contrary to Gurbani, according to which no month or day in itself is good or bad.8
The festivals and Gurpurbs (birthday, day of assumption of guruship, and the day of merging into the Eternal Light) that are celebrated according to the lunar calendar are called movable, and those that are celebrated according to the solar calendar are called fixed. The movable festivals are called as such, because their dates are not fixed in relation to the solar year. From year to year they occur on different dates of the solar year , though their lunar date is the same every year. Gurpurbs of the Sikh Gurus are all movable. Vaisakhi and Maghi are fixed festivals.
An example of movable celebration is the Parkash (birthday) Gurpurb of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It is celebrated on the 7th day of the bright half of the lunar month of Poh (sudi 7). This lunar date occurred on the following dates of the Common Era (CE) and Bikarami Era (solar) during the following years:
Common Era Date Bikarami (Solar)
24 Dec 1990 10 Poh 2047
12 Jan 1992 28 Poh 2048
31 Dec 1992 17 Poh 2049
19 Jan 1994 6 Magh 2050
7 Jan 1995 24 Poh 2051
28 Dec 1995 13 Poh 2052
15 Jan 1997 3 Magh 2053
5 Jan 1998 22 Poh 2054
This gurpurb did not occur in the years 1991, 1993, and 1996 of Common Era.
It would not have occurred in 1999 (the year of 300th anniversary of the creation of the Khalsa), and would have occurred twice in 1998, if we had not instituted the reforms. It occurred twice in 1992 and 1995. According to the Bikarami calendar (solar) the actual date of parkash of Guru Ji is 23 Poh 1723) Bikarami. During the above period this Gurpurb does not occur on that date even once. Rather, it occurred in the month of Magh twice.
Reforms to the Nanakshahi Calendar During my visits to India, I made several suggestions for the reform of the Nanakshahi and Khalsa Samvats. A committee, under the aegis of the Institute of Sikh Studies, was formed to study this matter. This committee held meetings at Chandigarh and formulated proposals. These were formally accepted, in principle, in a larger meeting in which about 40 eminent scholars, from universities and other institutions, participated.
The main suggestions given below were submitted to the SGPC.
a. De-link the Nanakshahi Samvat from the Bikarami Samvat
b. Begin the year from the month of Chet - as in the Baramahas
c. Fix the number of days in the months as follows:
Chet 31, Vaisakh 31, Jeth 31, Harh 31, Sawan 31
Bhadon 30, Asu 30, Katik 30, Maghar 30, Poh 30, Magh 30
Phagun 30 in ordinary year, and 31 days in a year in which
the month of February has 29 days.
d. Fix the beginning of the months in relation to the Common Era calendar as follows:
Month Begins on
Chet 14 March
Vaisakh 14 April (Vaisakhi in 1999 CE is on 14 April)
Jeth 15 May
Harh 15 June
Sawan 16 July
Bhadon 16 August
Asu 15 September
Katik 15 October
Maghar 14 November
Poh 14 December
Magh 13 January
Phagun 12 February
With the above scheme any given date of any month of the Nanakshahi Calendar, will always occur on the same date of the Common Era calendar, except in the month of Phagun in a leap year when the corresponding dates of Phagun from March 1 to March 13 will differ by 1 day from those of the same month in non-leap years. This is a simple scheme, easier to remember; and the calendar is good for ever. The seasons will always occur in the same months, as mentioned in Gurbani.
Celebrate the Gurpurbs according to the solar dates, and not according to the sudis and vadis of the lunar calendar. Vaisakhi, Maghi, and shaheedi purbs (martyrdom days) of Sahibzadas are already being celebrated according to the solar dates. In this context the following excerpts from works of earlier learned scholars are very pertinent:
“not: ieh KrVw sM: 1906 eI: dw iliKXw iqAwr ipAw sI, pr keI kwrnW krky ies dy Cpx dI vwrI nW AweI [ is~K ieiqhws sMbMDI myrw bhuq swrw iek`Tw kIqw mswlw gvwcdw jwx krky mYƒ fr l`gw ik ikqy ieh KrVw vI gvwc nw jwey [ ies qoN ibnW jd srdwr bhwdr sUbydwr rwm isMG jI c`k 126 (srgoDw) qy sUbydwr Twkr isMG jI lIl (gurdwspur) Awid keI s`jxW ny gurpurbW dIAW pRivStw qRIkW Awpxy 2 gurduvwirAW iv`c prclq krn leI mYQoN mMgIAW qW mYN zrUrI smiJAw ik ieh KrVw Cpvw hI id`qw jwvy [“ — gurpurb inrxX - s: krm isMG ihstorIAn, 1 nvMbr 1912 “is`K pMQ hux q`k sudI / vdI dIAW iQ`qW Anuswr gurpurb mnWdw Aw irhw hY [ pr ies iv`c do Gwty itky rihMdy hn [ iek qW AsIN gurpurb AslI qrIk qoN AgWh ipCWh krky mnWdy hW, ikaNik b`JvIN ru`q qy iQ`q sUrj dy ihswb hI ho skdI hY [ dUjI v`fI BwrI Gwt hux q`k ieh pYNdI Aw rhI hY ik iQ`qW dy ib-Tuky-pn dy kwrn gurprbW dIAW qrIkW cyqy rihxIAW bhuq hI AOKI g`l hY [ ies dw koJw is`tw ieh ink`l irhw hY ik is`K gurpurbW dw pRymI hox dy QW sMgrWdW, m`isAw, puMinAw dw SrDwlU bx igAw hY, qy ieh idhwVy sUrj cMd dI pUjw nwl myl KWdy hn [ ies qrHW by-mlUmy hI muV Brm-vihm dy jwl iv`c Psdw jw irhw hY [ kudrq v`loN s`By idn hI ie`ko ijhy hn [ pr swƒ auh idn vDIk ipAry l`gxy cwhIdy hn, ijnHW nwl swfy siqgur pwiqSwh dw jIvn-sMbMD bixAw [ is`K dy ihrdy iv`c gurU pwiqSwh vwsqy cwau-mlHwr pYdw krn leI ie`k suc`jw qrIkw ieh ho skdw hY ik gurpurb b`JvIAW sUrjI qrIkW qy mnwieAw jwieAw krn [ “ ——slok gurU AMgd swihb stIk - pRoPYsr swihb isMG fI ilt (1948) “iQqW dy AwDwr pur cMdR-vrK 354— idnW dy eyVgyV iv`c huMdw hY, pr sUrj-vrK dy pRivSty (qwrIKW) 365-66 huMdy hn [ ies Prk dy kwrn ku`J gurpurb qy iqauhwr iek swl AMdr do vwrI Aw jWdy hn, iksy swl AwauNdy hI nhIN [ ieh Gwt Aksr hYrwnI dw kwrn bxI rihMdI hY [ ies krky, Anyk isAxy s`jxW dw ivcwr hY ik gurpurb swry sUrj-sMmq iv`c, pRivSitAW dy AwDwr pur mnwey jwxy cwhIdy hn [ so, swrIAW muKI sBw soswietIAW ƒ ies msly qy pUrI ghu nwl ivcwr krky, do-tu`k PYslw krnw cwhIdw hY, qW jo A`gY leI JgVy-Jmyly imt jwx qy shI-is`DI qy sOKI pRpwtI pY jwvy [“gur-pRxwlIAW’’ - sMpwdk s: rxDIr isMG rIsrc skwlr SRomxI gu: pR: kmytI , ApRYl 1977
If all Gurpurbs are celebrated according to the solar dates, then no complicated calculations for fixing the dates would be required. For example, the birthday of Guru Gobind Singh Ji is: Poh Sudi 7, 1723 Bikarami (lunar ) 23 Poh, 1723 Bikarami (solar) It means is that it was 23 Poh on Poh sudi 7 in 1723 Bikarami (please see note at the end). If the gurpurb is celebrated according to the solar date of Guru Ji’s birth on 23 Poh, in stead of Poh sudi 7, then this date will always occur on 5th January each year according to the new Nanakshahi Calendar.
f. The list of gurpurbs according to the solar dates is as follows:
Names of the Parkash Utsav Gurgaddi Utsav Jyoti Jot Utsav
Sikh Guru (Birthday) (Assumption (Merging into
of Guruship) Eternal Light)
1. Guru Nanak 1 Vaisakh *(14 Apr) From Parkash 8 Asu (22 Sept)
2. Guru Angad 5 Vaisakh (18 Apr) 4 Asu (18 Sep) 3 Vaisakh (16 Apr)
3. Guru Amar Das 9 Jeth (23 May) 3 Vaisakh (16 Apr) 2 Asu (16 Sep)
4. Guru Ram Das 25 Asu (9 Oct) 2 Asu (16 Sep) 2 Asu (16 Sep)
5. Guru Arjun 19 Vaisakh (2 May) 2 Asu (16 Sep) 2 Harh (16 Jun)
6. Guru Hargobind 21 Harh (5 Jul) 28 Jeth (11 June) 6 Chet (19 Mar)
7. Guru Har Rai 19 Magh (31 Jan) 1 Chet (14 March) 6 Katik (20 Oct)
8. Guru Har Krishan 8 Sawan (23 Jul) 6 Katik (20 Oct) 3 Vaisakh (16 Apr)
9. Guru Tegh Bahadur 5 Vaisakh (18 Apr) 3 Vaisakh (16 Apr) 11 Maghar (24 Nov)
10. Guru Gobind Singh 23 Poh* (5 Jan) 11 Maghar (24 Nov) 7 Katik (21 Oct)
– Completion of Aad Granth Sahib Damdama Sahib – 15 Bhadon (30 Aug)
– First Parkash Aad Granth Sahib Harmandir Sahib – 17 Bhadon (1 Sep)
– Gurgaddi Aad Guru Granth Sahib – 6 Katik (20 Oct)
– Creation of the Khalsa – 1 Vaisakh (14 April)
– Hola muhalla (New Year Day) – 1Chet (14 March)
Please see notes at the end regarding Guru Nanak’s birthday, and Guru Gobind Singh’s birthday.
It must be noted that the dates given above of the Nanakshahi Calendar are the original dates of the solar Bikarami year. The corresponding dates of the Common Era are those of the Common Era calendar that is now in use in most countries of the world along with local calendars. The conversion to the Common Era dates has been done not according to the Bikarami calendar but according to the new modified Nanakshahi Calendar.
The Bikarami calendar has an error of 1 day in about 71 years. The Common Era has similar error in 3300 years. Since the new Nanakshahi Calendar has been linked with the Common Era, it will also have an error of 1 day in about 3300 years, but this error will automatically be corrected whenever the correction to the Common Era calendar is made.
The new Nanakshahi Calendar is simple, rational, more accurate than the Bikarami calendar, and conforms to Gurbani. Dates of Sankrantis in CE year will not differ from year to year. All Gurpurbs will also occur on the same date every year, with one exception noted above. There will not be any need to consult Jantri publishers to find out when a gurpurb is to occur. S. Gurcharan Singh Tohra, President SGPC, announced in October, 1997 that SGPC would adopt this calendar and implement it in the historic year of 1999 CE, when Khalsa Panth celebrates its tercentenary.9
Note on Birth Date of Guru Gobind Singh
In Nanakshahi Calendar we have given 23 Poh / 5th January 1999 CE, as the date for Parkash Gurpurb of Guru Ji. Poh 23 of 1723 Bikarami is the commonly believed birth date of Guru Ji. However, some historians10 and scholars11 have come up with 19 Poh of 1718 Bikarami as the date of birth, based mainly on Bhatt Vahis evidence. If we believe the latter date then Guru Ji’s age at the time of martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji becomes about 14 years in stead of 9 years. In response to D. R. Narang’s ‘Correct Date of Birth of Sri Guru Gobind Singh’ I have pointed out certain inconsistencies of some dates in Bhatt Vahis. As such their evidence cannot be taken for granted. I believe that 23 Poh 1723 Bikarami is the correct date of birth of Guru Ji. However, if the Guru Panth ever decides on 19 Poh in stead of 23 Poh, then the Parkash Gurpurb will always fall on First January, since 19 Poh according to new Nanakshahi Calendar is on 1st January. I had kept this in my mind when working out the scheme for the New Nanakshahi Calendar.
Guru Nanak’s Birthday
So far as Guru Nanak’s Parkash Gurpurb is concerned we have mentioned that though the actual date is on Vaisakhi12, but since the Panth, because of certain reasons, has been celebrating it on Katik pooranmashi, it will continue to be celebrated on this date until the Panth decides otherwise. SGPC has already received letters that the celebration of this Gurpurb should also have been changed to the correct date.
i Pillai, L. D. Swamikannu. 1982 reprint. An Indian Ephemeris. Vol I, Part I, Agam Prakashan, Delhi (India), Pp.10, 11.
ii Ibid. P. 242
iii Ibid. P. 258
Purewal, Pal Singh. 1994. Jantri 500 Years (From 1469 to 2000 CE ), Punjab School Education Board, Chandigarh (India).
iv Lahiri, A. K. 1997. Lahiri’s Indian Ephemeris of Planets’ Positions for 1998 A.D. Astro-Research Bureau Calcutta (India), P.11.
v Sewell, Robert and Dikshit, Sankara Balkrishna. 1996 reprint. The Indian Calendar, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi (India), P. 6.
AGGS = Aad Guru Granth Sahib. 1983 (reprint). Publishers: Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar. (M = Mahla, i.e., succession number of the Sikh Gurus to the House of Guru Nanak, p = Page of the AGGS).
vi AGGS, M5, pp. 133-136
vii AGGS, M 1, pp. 1107-1110.
viii AGGS, M 5, P.136: mwh idvs mUrq Bly ijs kau ndir kry ]
ix SRo:gu:pR: kmytI , mwrc, 1998, nwnkSwhI jMqrI sMmq 531 (1999-2000 sWJw sMn)
x pdm, ipAwrw isMG, 1990, dsm gRMQ drSn, pRo: ipAwrw isMG pdm, klm mMidr, pitAwlw, qIjI AYfISn, pMnw 14
xi Narang, D. R. 1993. Correct Date of Birth of Guru Gobind Singh (Booklet), Himala Publishers, New Delhi (India), Pp. 5-10
xii Purewal, Pal Singh. 1995. Birth Date of Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Punjab History Conference Proceedings, Part-I, Twenty Seventh Session, Punjabi University, Patiala (India),Pp. 306-311.