Vikram Samvat (Nepali: विक्रम सम्वत्) (abbreviated as V.S. (or VS) or B.S. (or BS)); Listen (help·info)) is the historical and official Hindu calendar of Nepal. It uses lunar months and solar sidereal year (see: Vedic time keeping).
The Vikram Samvat has two alternative systems, one in Nepal, and the other in western and south India. It started in 56 BCE in southern (purnimanta) and 57–56 BCE in northern (amanta) systems of Hindu calendar. The Shukla Paksha in both systems coincides, most festivals occur in the Shukla Paksha. The era is named after King Vikramaditya of India.
The lunisolar Vikram Samvat calendar is 56.7 years ahead (in count) of the solar Gregorian calendar. For example, the year 2074 VS began in 2017 CE and will end in 2018 CE.
The Rana rulers of Nepal made Vikram Samvat the official Hindu calendar in 1901 CE, which started as Samvat 1958. In Nepal, the new year begins with the first day of the month of Baishakh, which usually falls within the months of April–May in the Gregorian calendar. The first day of the new year is passionately celebrated in a historical carnival that takes place every year in Bhaktapur, called Bisket Jatra.As before, from 2007 AD Nepal Sambat is recognized as the national calender.
In India, the reformulated Saka Calendar is officially used (although not for computing the dates of the traditional festivals), although in the Hindi version of the Preamble of the Constitution of India, the date of adoption of the constitution, 26 November 1949, is presented in Vikram Samvat (Margsheersh Shukla Saptami Samvat 2006). There have been calls for the Vikram Samvat to replace Saka as India's official calendar.
Divisions of a year
The classical Vikram Samvat uses lunar months and solar sidereal years. Because 12 months do not match a sidereal year exactly, correctional months (adhika māsa) are added, or occasionally subtracted (kshaya masa).
- A Tithi or lunar day is defined as the time it takes for the longitudinal angle between the moon and the Sun to increase by 12°. Tithis begin at varying times of day and vary in duration from approximately 19 to approximately 26 hours.
- A Paksa (also Pakṣa) or lunar fortnight consists of 15 tithis.
- A Māsa or lunar month (approximately 29.5 days) is divided into 2 Pakṣas: the one between new moon and full moon (waxing) is called gaura (bright) or Śukla Pakṣa; the one between full moon and new moon (waning) Kṛiṣhṇa (dark) or Vadhya Pakṣa
- A Ṛitu (or season) is 2 Māsa
- An Ayana is 3 Ṛitus
- A year is two Ayanas 
Months of the Nepali Bikram Samvat: In North India India the Vikram samvat starts from Chaitra.
|No.||Name||Nepali||Hindi||Days||Corresponding Gregorian months|
|1||Baishakh||बैशाख||बैशाख||30 / 31(30.950 exactly)||mid-April to mid-May|
|2||Jestha||जेठ||जेष्ठ||31 / 32(31.429 exactly)||mid-May to mid-June|
|3||Ashadh||असार||आषाढ़||31 / 32(31.638 exactly)||mid-June to mid-July|
|4||Shrawan||साउन||श्रावण or सावन||31 / 32(31.463 exactly)||mid-July to mid-August|
|5||Bhadra||भदौ||भाद्र or भादो||31 / 32(31.012 exactly)||mid-August to mid-September|
|6||Ashwin||असोज||आश्विन or कुआर/क्वार||30 / 31(30.428 exactly)||mid-September to mid-October|
|7||Kartik||कार्तिक||कार्तिक||29 / 30(29.879 exactly)||mid-October to mid-November|
|8||Mangsir||मंसिर||मार्ग or मंसिर/अगहन||29 / 30(29.475 exactly)||mid-November to mid-December|
|9||Poush||पुष||पौष or पुष/पूस||29 / 30(29.310 exactly)||mid-December to mid-January|
|10||Magh||माघ||माघ||29 / 30(29.457 exactly)||mid-January to mid-February|
|11||Falgun||फागुन||फाल्गुन||29 / 30(29.841 exactly)||mid-February to mid-March|
|12||Chaitra||चैत||चैत्र||30 / 31(30.377 exactly)||mid-March to mid-April|
The exact length of each month is the time taken by the Sun to move through a full zodiac sign.
Kalakacharya Kathanaka ("An account of the monk Kalakacharya") by the Jain sage Mahesarasuri gives the following account: Gandharvasena, the then-powerful king of Ujjain, abducted a nun called Sarasvati, who was the sister of the monk(citation missing). The enraged monk sought the help of the Śaka ruler King Sahi in Sistan. Despite heavy odds but aided by miracles, the Śaka king defeated Gandharvasena and made him a captive. Sarasvati was repatriated, although Gandharvasena himself was forgiven. 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 (modern Paithan in Maharashtra). Later on, Vikramaditya invaded Ujjain and drove away the Śakas. To commemorate this event, he started a new era called the "Vikrama era". The Ujjain calendar started around 58–56 BCE, and the subsequent Shaka era calendar was started in 78 CE at Pratishthana.
Historicity of the legends
The association of the era beginning in 57 BCE with Vikramaditya is not found in any source before the 9th century CE. The earlier sources call this era by various names, including Kṛṭa (343 CE and 371 CE), Kritaa (404 CE), the era of the Malava tribe (424 CE), or simply, Samvat.
The earliest known inscription that calls the era "Vikrama" is from 842 CE. This inscription of Chauhana ruler Chandamahasena was found at Dholpur, and is dated Vikrama Samvat 898, Vaishakha Shukla 2, Chanda (16 April 842 CE). The earliest known inscription that associates this era with a king called Vikramaditya is dated 971 CE. The earliest literary work that connects the era to Vikramaditya is Subhashita-Ratna-Sandoha (993-994 CE) by the Jain author Amitagati.
For this reason, multiple authors believe that the Vikram Samvat was not started by Vikramaditya, who might be a purely legendary king or the title adopted by a later king who renamed the era after himself. V. A. Smith and D. R. Bhandarkar believed that Chandragupta II adopted the title Vikramaditya, and changed the name of the era to "Vikrama Samvat". According to Rudolf Hoernlé, the king responsible for this change was Yashodharman: Hoernlé also believed that he conquered Kashmir, and is same person as the "Harsha Vikramaditya" mentioned in Kalhana's Rajatarangini.
Earlier, some scholars believed that the Vikrama Samavat corresponded to the Azes era of the Indo-Scythian (Śaka) king King Azes. However, this was disputed by Robert Bracey following discovery of an inscription of Vijayamitra, which is dated in two eras. The theory seems to be now thoroughly discredited by Falk and Bennett, who place the inception of the Azes era in 47–46 BCE.
The traditional New Year of Vikram Samvat 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, Kashmir, Manipur, Odisha, Punjab, Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu and Thailand.
In addition to Nepal, the Vikram Samvat calendar is also recognized in North and East India, and in Gujarat among Hindus. In Buddhist communities, the month of Baishakh is associated with Vesak or Buddha's Birthday. It commemorates the birth, Enlightenment and passing of Gautama Buddha on 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.
Converting Vikram Samvat to CE
While an approximate conversion can be made by subtracting 56 or 57, a precise computation requires identification of the version of Vikam Samvat that was used:
- Year expired (default) or current
- Kartikadi (older or western India) or Chaitradi (modern Northern India). Kartikadi starts 7 months later in Kartika. Until 12th century Kartikadi year was common even in North India.
- Months Amanta (south) or Purminata (North). Amanta Chaitra Krishna Paksha is Purminata Vaishakh Krishna Paksha. For the Shukla Paksh, the month is the same.
Software named Pancanga is available to make the calculations.
Thus the date Vikram 1208 (Kartikadi, expired), Vaishakh Krishna 5 (Purnimanta), Thursday, is equivalent to Vikram 1209 (Chaitradi, expired), Chaitra Krishna 5 (Amanta), and to Thursday March 27, 1152.
- Richard Salomon (1398). Indian Epigraphy: A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the other Indo-Aryan Languages. Oxford University Press. pp. 181–183. ISBN 978-0-19-535666-3.
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- Encyclopedia of New Year's Holidays Worldwide, William D. Crump, Publisher McFarland, 2014 p.38
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- Burgess, Ebenezer Translation of the Sûrya-Siddhânta: A text-book of Hindu astronomy, with notes and an appendix Originally published: Journal of the American Oriental Society 6 (1860) 141–498 Chapter 14, Verse 12
- Burgess, Chapter 14, Verse 10
- Burgess, Ebenezer Translation of the Sûrya-Siddhânta: A text-book of Hindu astronomy, with notes and an appendix Originally published: Journal of the American Oriental Society 6 (1860) 141–498, Chapter 14, Verse 9
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- Pancanga (version 3.14)
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|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Vikramaditya.|
- Harry Falk and Chris Bennett (2009). "Macedonian Intercalary Months and the Era of Azes." Acta Orientalia 70, pp. 197–215.
- "The Dynastic Art of the Kushan", John Rosenfield.
- "Samvat". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.