Sunday, April 3, 2011

Vikram Samvat, a calendar established by Indian emperor Vikramaditya, a popularly used calendar in India and the official calendar of Nepal, the Kalakacharya Kathanaka

Kalakacharya and the Saka King (Kalakacharya Katha-Manuscript,Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai

Vikram Samvat (Bikram Sambat, Vikram Samvat or Vikram Samwat,) is the calendar established by Indian emperor Vikramaditya. It is a popularly used calendar in India and the official calendar of Nepal.

The Vikrama Samvat was founded by the emperor Vikramaditya of Ujjain following his victory over the Sakas in 56 BCE, although it is popularly (and incorrectly) associated with the subsequent king Chandragupta Vikramaditya. It is a lunar calendar based on ancient Hindu tradition (see Hindu calendar and Vedic time keeping). The Vikram Samvat calendar is 56.7 years ahead (in count) of the solar Gregorian calendar. For example, the year 2056 BS began in CE 1999 and ended in CE 2000. In Northern India the calendar starts with the first day after the new moon in the month Chaitra, which usually falls in March/April in the Gregorian calendar. Again in Western India the same era begins with the first day after the new moon in the month of Kartika which usually falls in October and November in the Gregorian calendar. In Nepal, it begins in mid-April and marks the start of the solar new year.

In India, Saka Calendar is officially used but interestingly in the Hindi version of Preamble of The Constitution of India, the date of adoption of constitution 26 Nov 1950 is presented in Vikram Samvat (Margsheersh Shukla Saptami Samvat 2006 ).

This calendar derives its name from the original king Vikramaditya of Ujjain. After the rise of the Rana oligarchs in Nepal, Vikram Sambat came into unofficial use along with the official Shaka Sambat for quite some time. They discontinued Shaka Sambat in its 1823rd year and replaced it with Vikram Samwat for official use since then to date. Vikram Sambat came into official use in its 1958th year. The calendar is widely in use in western India, where it is known as the Vikram Samvat.

The date is supposed to mark the victory of king Vikramaditya over the Sakas, who had invaded Ujjain. To the new era was established to commemorate this event. Alternatively, it is thought to correspond to the Azes era, of the Indo-Scythian king Azes I.

The story is described in "Kalakacharya Kathanaka", a much later work by a Jain sage called Mahesara Suri (Probably circa 12th century CE). The Kathanaka (meaning, "an account") tells the story of a famed Jain monk Kalakacharya. It mentions that Gardabhilla, the then powerful king of Ujjain, abducted a nun called Sarasvati who was the sister of the monk. The enraged monk sought help of the Saka ruler, a "Sahi", in Sakasthana. Despite heavy odds (but aided by miracles) the Saka king defeated Gardabhilla and made him a captive. Sarasvati was repatriated. Gardabhilla himself was forgiven though. The defeated king retired to the forest where he was killed by a tiger. His son, Vikramaditya, being brought up in the forest, had to rule from Pratishthana (in modern Maharashtra). Later on Vikramaditya invaded Ujjain and drove away the Sakas. To commemorate this event he started a new era called the Vikrama era. This story seems to be a jumbled one, as the original Vikramaditya began his rule from Ujjain and not from Pratishthana. The Ujjain calendar started around 56 BCE to 58 BCE, and the subsequent Shalivahan Saka calendar was started in 78 A.D. at Pratishthan.

The traditional New Year of Bikram Samwat is one of the many festivals of Nepal, marked by parties, family gatherings, the exchange of good wishes and participation in rituals to ensure good fortune in the coming year. It occurs in mid-April each year and coincides with the traditional new year in Assam, Bengal, Burma, Cambodia, Kerala, Manipur, Orissa, Punjab, Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu and Thailand.

In addition to Nepal, the Bikram Sambat calendar are also recognized in northern India, eastern India, and in Gujarat and Maharashtra among Hindus. In Buddhist communities, the month of Baishakh is associated with Vesak, known as Visakah Puja or Buddha Purnima in Nepal, India and Bangladesh, Visakha Bucha in Thailand, Waisak in Indonesia and Wesak in Sri Lanka and Malaysia. It commemorates the birth, Enlightenment and passing of Gautama Buddha on the one historical day, the first full moon day in May, except in a leap year when the festival is held in June. Although this festival is not held on the same day as Pahela Baishakh, the holidays typically fall in the same month (Baishakh) of the Bengali, Hindu, and Theravada Buddhist calendars, and are related historically through the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism in South Asia.

No. Name            North Indian languages    Days
1     Vaishakh        वैशाख or बैसाख             30 / 31
2     Jyeshtha          ज्येष्ठ or जेठ                31 / 32
3     Aashadh         आषाढ़                           31 / 32
4     Shraawan        श्रावण or सावन            31 / 32
5     Bhadrapad      भाद्रपद or भादो             31 / 32
6     Ashvin             आश्विन                       30 / 31
7     Kartik             कार्तिक                         29 / 30
8     Aghrahaayan   अग्रहायण or अगहन     29 / 30
9     Paush              पौष or पुष/पूस             29 / 30
10   Margsheersh    मार्गशीर्ष or माघ          29 / 30
11   Phalgun           फाल्गुन or फागुन         29 / 30
12   Chaitra           चैत्र or चैत                     30 / 31
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