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Regarding the Origin of the Malayalam calendar - the Kolla Varsham there are many theories. Some of the major theories are as follows.
- The start of the Malayalam era (ME) is associated with Kollam. It is believed that the era was started by the East Syrian saints Mar Sabor and Mar Proth who settled in Korukeni Kollam, near to the present Kollam. The ME is also referred as Kollavarsham. The origin of Kollam Era has been dated to 825 AD, when the great convention in Kollam was held at the behest of King Kulashekhara. Kollam was an important town in that period, and the Malayalam Era is called 'Kolla Varsham,' possibly as a result of the Tharisapalli plates. It also signified the independence of Malabar from the Cheraman Perumals. King Kulashekhara granted the copper plate grants in 849 AD to Mar Sabor whom he invited to Kollam from Persia.
- According to Herman Gundert Kolla Varsham started as part of erecting a new Shiva Temple in Kollam and because of the strictly local and religious background, the other regions did not follow this system at first. Then once the Kollam port emerged as an important trade center the other countries were also started to follow the new system of calendar. This theory backs the remarks of Ibn Battuta as well.
The Malayalam months are named after the Signs of the Zodiac. Thus Cingam (from Simham or Lion) is named after the constellation Leo and so on. The following are the months of the astronomical Malayalam calendar:
|Months in Malayalam Era||In Malayalam||Gregorian Calendar||Tulu calendar||Tamil calendar||Saka era||Sign of Zodiac|
The days of the week in the Malayalam calendar are suffixed with Aazhcha (ആഴ്ച - week).
Like the months above, there are twenty seven stars starting from Aswati (Ashvinī in Sanskrit) and ending in Revatī. The 365 days of the year are divided into groups of fourteen days called Ñattuvela (ഞാറ്റുവേല), each one bearing the name of a star.
Vishu വിഷുcelebrated on the 1st of Metam, and Onam (ഓണം), celebrated on the star Thiruvonam [t̪iruʋoːɳəm] in the month of Chingam, are two of the major festivals, the greatest of them being Onam (ഓണം). Chingan (ചിങ്ങം) 1st is celebrated as the Kerala New Year replacing Vishu വിഷു, which was till then considered the beginning of an year..
The Makaravilakku festival is celebrated in the Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala on the 1st day of month Makaram. This marks the grand finale of the two-month period to the Sabarimala pilgrimage. The 1st of Makaram marks the Winter Solstice (Uttarayanan) and the 1st of Karkadakam marks the summer solstice (Dakshinayanam) according to the Malayalam calendar. (According to the astronomical calendar the summer solstice is on June 21, and the winter solstice on December 21)
Formerly the New Year in the Malabar region was on the 1st of Kanni and that in the Travancore region was on the 1st of Chingam. When the Government of Kerala adopted Kolla Varsham as the regional calendar the 1st of Chingam was accepted as the Malayalam New Year. Metam is the first month according to the astronomical calendar; it is identical with Chaitram of the Saka Varsha. The first of these months are supposed to mark the vernal equinox. Astronomically the calendars need to be corrected to coincide with actual vernal equinox which falls on the 21st of March. (Chaitram 1 usually falls on March 20, and Metam 1 falls on April 14.)
Many events in Kerala are related to the dates in the Malayalam calendar.
The agricultural activities of Kerala are centred on the seasons. The southwest monsoon which starts around June 1 is known as Etavappathi, meaning mid-Etavam. The northeast monsoon which starts during mid October is called thulavarsham (rain in the month of thulam). The two harvests of paddy are called Kannikkoythu and Makarakkoythu (harvests in the months kanni and makaram) respectively.
- "Kollam Era" (PDF). Indian Journal History of Science. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
- Broughton Richmond (1956), Time measurement and calendar construction, p. 218
- R. Leela Devi (1986). History of Kerala. Vidyarthi Mithram Press & Book Depot. p. 408.
- Kerala government website
- In the Travancore State Manual, Ch:XIII,pages 49-50, by Sri. T.K. Velu Pillai according to keralainfoservice
- A. Sreedhara Menon (2007) . "CHAPTER VIII - THE KOLLAM ERA". A Survey Of Kerala History. DC Books, Kottayam. pp. 104–110. ISBN 81-264-1578-9. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
- "Kollam - Short History". Statistical Data. kerala.gov.in. Archived from the original (Short History) on 2007-11-21. Retrieved 8 October 2014.