What is the Bikrami Calendar

The Bikrami Calendar is a Hindu Calendar, though used by the Sikhs also. It had been in use long before the advent of Sikhism. It had commenced 1526 years before the birth of Guru Nanak Sahib. Its roots are in the history of the Hindu maharaja Bikramajit, perhaps a fictitious one. The Bikrami calendar is not true to Gurbani.

“Unlike the Christian, the Moslem and other civilizations, we, the Hindus, kept our Calendar lunisolar….” 

Dr. Shakti Dhara Sharma M.Sc. PhD., In the introduction to his Sanskrit book : Shastriya Panchanga Mimamsa

Dr. Sharma has not used the word ‘Indians’, but has used the word ‘Hindus’. Dr. Sharma has not minced words. He has simply stated the plain truth.

When the Panchang editors of Punjab changed from Surya Siddhantic length of the year to the length of the sidereal year determined by “Christians”, how many Sikh organizations were consulted by the learned pundits to get their view on the change, because the changed calendar would not be the same that was mentioned in Gurbani? They did not need to, because it is their calendar, and they could do with it whatever they wanted, and they did. The name “Bikrami” stayed, but the correct length of the sidereal year, determined by the “Christian” astronomers, on which it was based, was adopted. Did the change make the Bikrami calendar “Christian”?

Why give up the Bikrami calendar?

We are giving up the Bikrami calendar for the following reasons:

  1. Its months do not have a permanent relationship with the seasons as mentioned in Gurbani.
  2. We should have our own calendar. A calendar is a part of the identity of a Nation.
  3. The lunar-date system is not very practical. For celebrations of important days we should use acalendar based on the solar tropical year. The Bikrami calendar is luni-solar based on the sidereal year.

When Guru Sahiban revealed Barahmaha and Ruti Sloka Banis, they had the seasons in Punjab and not the ones in Australia, in their mind, just like Guru Sahiban used the Indian units rati, tola, masa, ser, maan etc., and not the British units ounces, pounds, stone, nor the international units grams, and kilograms etc. It is true that Guru Sahiban’s message is universal, but there are certain thoughts expressed in Gurbani which are region-specific. Barahmaha’s spiritual message is universal, but the seasons and their occurrence in particular months is region specific.

In Barahmaha Tukhari in the month of Asarh the following line occurs:

ਰਥੁ ਫਿਰੈ ਛਾਇਆ ਧਨ ਤਾਕੈ ਟੀਡੁ ਲਵੈ ਮੰਝਿ ਬਾਰੇ ॥ ਪੰ: 1108

This refers to the date when the day is longest in the year, and usually the hottest, when the northern declination of the sun is maximum , when the sun changes its course from northerly to southerly direction (see Faridkoti Teeka, Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha- Mahan Kosh, or Sampardaee Teeka of Sant Kirpal Singh). This phenomenon occurred on the Sawan Sangrand at the time of beginning of Siddhantic astronomy. Because of the shift of the Sangrands due to the precession of the equinoxes, it occurred about 15th Asarh at the time of Guru Nanak Sahib, and around 13th Asarh in the first decade of the 18th Century, and occurs around 9th Asarh during the present times. This will shift to the close of Jeth in another 600 years. Here it does not matter whether it is Australia or India, it will occur in Jeth, contrary to its mention in the month of Asarh. Unlike Bikrami calendar, Nanakshahi calendar is based on the tropical length of the year, therefore no further shift will occur and it will always occur in the month of Asarh.

In 6500 years Asarh will move into mid-September. In September, it is autumn in the Northern hemisphere, and spring in the southern hemisphere (Australia included). My request is to understand the problem with the Bikrami calendar and not to offer far-fetched explanations.

The names of the month of the Nanakshahi calendar are the same as given in Barahmahas, except that their popular variants are used. We read Gurbani, and we want our children to read and understand Gurbani. We have to tell them about calendars as well, when explaining Gurbani Barahmahas.

On the beginning month of the Nanakshahi Calendar, I just want to reiterate that in the calendar we cannot have Chet as the twelfth month, when it is the first month in both the Barahmahas, and Ruti Slok Banis.

Why is the Nanakshahi Calendar needed at all? People have used the Bikrami Calendar since the inception of Sikhism.

The Gurbani refers to several months of the Bikrami calendar and associates them with seasons. Unfortunately, the Bikrami calendar, unlike the Common Era calendar used throughout the world, is not attuned to seasons and with the passage of time aberrations are bound to mount. The year used as basis for the Bikrami calendar differs from the tropical year, which is attuned to seasons and is used as a basis by the Nanakshahi calendar and the Common Era calendar. In the Gurbani month of Poh has been described as one of cold weather but with time, this month instead of overlapping with January [December-January] will shift to February and then to March. The Bikrami calendar then will no longer be true to Gurbani.

Seasonal festivals have also shifted over a long period of time and will continue shifting. For example, Lohri in 532 A.D. was on December 18 and Maghi on Dec. 19 but now they fall in the middle of January. In another 2000 years, these will occur in the middle of February and their association with the winter season will no longer exist.

How has the Nanakshahi calendar fixed these dates?

All we needed was to fix one date, which was the date for Baisakhi. There were many suggestions but what we finally agreed upon was to use the Baisakhi date of 1999, the 300th year of the Khalsa, as the pivotal date. All the Gurpurbs and seasonal festivals will continue to fall on the same day from now on according to the Nanakshahi calendar, and hence, since the Common Era calendar is also based on the tropical year, the dates will be fixed in the calendar as well.

The calendar [year] commences on the first day of Chet, March 14. The first five months have 31 days [each] and the remaining months have 30 days [each]. This like all aspects of the calendar is based on scientific principles. Summer months are longer than those in winter, as the number of days from the spring equinox to the autumn equinox is greater than the number of days from the autumn equinox to the spring equinox. In a leap year, the month of Phagan will have an extra day.

I have made the calendar, whether it is implemented or not depends on the Panth. There will be no disappointment even if it is not implemented, the real enjoyment lies in the research for such a project. I am optimistic that this calendar will be implemented either now or later as it is or with minor modifications.


The frequently asked questions based on these answers and the data behind the evidence are based on published papers, evidence, and research by thought leaders, subject matter experts, historians and scholars in the field. See additionalPal Singh Purewal’s responses to Interview with Indian Express|Gurmit Singh |Mr. Lamba|Tara Singh|Harcharan Singh

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